Beloit College Magazine

Fall/Winter 2011 (October 28, 2011 at 12:00 am)

A desk that reminds us who we are

October 28, 2011 at 12:00 am

Chapin DeskI am writing you from atop President Aaron L. Chapin’s desk in President Chapin’s study in President Chapin’s house, and I will tell you that it is more than a little special.

When Irving Maurer, class of 1904, and his family moved into what is now the President’s House, it was 1938—a year after Ellen Chapin’s generous gift of the house to the college and after extensive remodeling. The only piece of furniture inside that dated back to President Chapin was his desk.

While the desk has been used and loved by such college luminaries as Professor Robert “Dickie” Richardson, Professor Bob Irrmann’39, and Chapin Society President Dave Threinen’56, it has not been in active duty over the last two years, and I very much wanted it returned to its home. So home it is, and these words are being penned (well, typed) on exactly the same desk, in exactly the same room, in exactly the same house where President Chapin wrote some of the most important letters and speeches that shaped and nurtured the college through its earliest formative days.

In this way, as in others, I continue to lean on and rely upon the history of Beloit College. More than mere nostalgia, the history of this frontier college informs, compels, and warns. It offers caution and gives cause. It notes and notates. Embracing our history empowers and engages us in the present.

At Reunion this fall I said, “…when Beloiters come together, particularly when we come together across generations, we have no choice but to let the 165-year history of this school wash over us. We embrace our past, in part, because it provides confidence in our future—unbridled confidence.”

If I am exceptionally proud of Beloit College today, and I am, it is because we have made this practice—this referencing—part of our process. It is the reason we are restoring our historical buildings and reviving the storied Beloit Relays. It is why, as I mentioned in my last letter, our new curriculum seems so familiar, yet so innovative.

In this issue, you will read more about a few of the Beloiters whose lives serve as the bedrock upon which the college’s reputation rests. There is the Civil War hero who went on to greater fame as a hero to Armenians in Turkey; a Beloiter who stood firm and forced a smile in the face of a cancer diagnosis; a 1921 grad whose politics and candor got him blacklisted during the Cold War; and one of Beloit’s oldest living graduates who told me this past spring about his own Beloit story and how his father’s Beloit years shaped them both.

They are Beloiters: men and women whose names rest quietly on monuments and placards around campus, or whose stories pass friend to friend, mentee to mentor, or surface in the class notes section of this magazine.

Their history is so important, personally and institutionally. Their stories provide the hard surface upon which we can, today, record the college’s next chapter and provide proof of our worth to potential students and families.

In this way, and in so many others, it is a great day to be a Beloiter.

From here at Chapin’s desk,

President Scott Bierman
presidentsoffice@beloit.edu

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