May 6, 2007
Shimer Graduates First Chicago Class; Hartfield urges Grads to Apply Great Books in Today's "Runaway World"
Chicago author and arts leader Ronne Hartfield today (Sunday May 6) told the first Shimer College class to graduate from the school's new Chicago campus that their education in the classics is the "raw material" for dealing with society's current problems. She spoke at 2:00 p.m. commencement ceremonies held at IIT's Hermann Hall 3241 S. Federal in Chicago.
Hartfield, a 1955 University of Chicago graduate who studied the classics, told the graduates, "You will be grateful -- and so will the world -- that you have actually read Darwin and can respond intelligently to concepts of intelligent design that might exclude his seminal research." She also noted that "Adam Smith may provide more understanding of the positive potential of humanistic capitalism than might the Director of the Federal Reserve. And Shakespeare may provide military insight and moral direction not readily available in televised reports from Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib."
Hartfield is author of Another Way Home, a 2004 memoir of her Chicago family. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Rhode Island School of Design and the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. She serves on the Executive Committee of the University of Chicago Women's Board; the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School; and the Dean's Leadership Council at the Harvard University Divinity School.
Hartfield told the students that they had learned from the Great Books the "importance of serious inquiry, the value of authentic attention, and the worth of reflecting on current ethical and moral problems in the context of the timeless questions inherent in all human experience." She also praised the Shimer curriculum for enlarging the canon to include newer classic works by writers such as Hannah Arendt and W.E.B. DuBois.
Hartfield urged students to engage a "runaway world" with "not only the right stuff, but with your best stuff, with grace and grit and gravitas." She quoted poet Gwendolyn Brook's directive not to retreat from complexity, but to "go down the street."