Shimer College

April 10, 2014

President’s Letter April 2014

I have met Shimerians by accident while renting a car, learned Shimerian tales from the Saks employee who told me, “My best friend went to Mount Carroll and I wanted to go there,” and more.

Dear Alumni and Friends of Shimer:

I recently read the following thought-provoking lines in a book of poetry:

Even while this war passes, stars stand still
Sophocles took in at the Aegean
and put down here, his wars; Antigone,
Creon, grappling over some dog chewed flesh
from which the spirit arises today
to welcome me my morning on earth.

Wind from the south circling about the house:
After Katrina…

How Shimerian, to connect classics to contemporary. This is, of course, not surprising, since the poem’s author, Peter Cooley, is a Shimerian.  His book, Night Bus to the Afterlife, is one of the many ways that life after Shimer continues to be Shimerian and continues to have an impact on the worlds in which we live.

I had the pleasure of dining with Peter and Jacki, both Shimerians, in New Orleans and of discovering hidden connections, like the fact that Peter attended Iowa Writer’s Workshop with colleagues of mine from a prior life. This kind of joy is also Shimerian: where the connections of alumni and friends of Shimer form a web that strengthens the Shimer of today and tomorrow. I have met Shimerians by accident while renting a car, learned Shimerian tales from the Saks employee who told me, “My best friend went to Mount Carroll and I wanted to go there,” and more. I know you have, too. 

The connection of our curriculum to the contemporary world also occurs in our comprehensive examinations. It occurs in our capacity to engage in civil discourse across a wide range of difference. It also occurs in the lives of students who are deeply engaged in Chicago as agents of change. We are, indeed, everywhere. Our impact ripples across the world: on Broadway and in the written word, in philanthropy and in entrepreneurial endeavors, in businesses and in higher education. In many ways, that is what it means to be a Shimerian.

On campus, this year, our work to enhance this connectivity has included strategic planning (headed by Board Member Chris Vaughan ‘87), preliminary discussions about a new group called “Friends of Shimer” that will acknowledge the many who are not graduates but who are deeply connected to what we do (e.g., parents, spouses, donors, people form partner institutions, and more), a strengthened commitment to visibility as we continue to improve our web presence, and more. We will be graduating an amazing class of Shimerians in May, a group of scholars who have shaped us all. And, we will be welcoming new Shimerians over the summer to our courses.

In all of this, we are acting to ensure that our mission is about access and excellence, that we welcome into the “great conversation” many voices, and that we connect that conversation to the world in which we live.  In all of this, we are arguing for the value of a liberal education in general and of Shimer in particular to ensure success in the work world as it rapidly changes and to help us lead a meaningful life of learning individually and together through agreement and disagreement.

Peter’s poetry, like the work of many Shimerians, reminds us to ask what Shimer has meant to us, and what it continues to mean to us, today and into the future. Today’s challenges whether in our own lives, in the lives of others, in the United States or beyond require critical thinking, and thoughtfulness in both senses of the term. They require Shimer.

These challenges include the many losses that the Shimer community has experienced in recent months. We mourn the passing of Paul Fjelstad, Alex Anderson, and Justin Cody Lockwood. Their lives – and deaths – remind us of the fragility of what we do, and our responsibility to remember that the life of the mind is also the life of the heart.

Please remind those around you why a liberal education matters to you and to the worlds in which we live. Please share your story by going to our website. Please Recommend students to Shimer (and thus make them eligible for a scholarship) here. Visit us when you are in Chicago.

Continue to Shimerize the world.