The following speech was given by alumna Mandy McDow Flemming ’00 at the Faculty Appreciation Reception on April 16 during the 2011 Alumni Reunion Weekend.
It is a joy and an honor to be with you all today at the Faculty Appreciation Reception, and I am so grateful for the invitation to address specifically the value of the faculty here at Oglethorpe. I speak from my experience, not just as a student of yours, but also as the spouse of a faculty member at a different institution.
What began for you as a long-suffering engagement with a subject near and dear to your hearts and led you through the at-times hellish process that is doctoral work, has led you to this place. Whatever your story or passion was before arriving at this institution, it has now been merged with the stories and passions of your colleagues and students. Faculty, you all have done something remarkable. You have said yes—to this job, this opportunity, this particular culture.
You, respected folks, are the soul of Oglethorpe.
We, as students, will come and go. Our time here is (typically) finite. We come, we memorize the names of the core courses, we go. You bring us in, tend to us, teach us what you love, and then bid us farewell, hoping beyond hope that what has mattered to you will matter a bit to us.
Faculty, you are the soul of this place that we all love because you are the lifeline that flows from generation to generation. You will outlast administrators, presidents, deans and students. So, we count on you to teach others with the same care and respect that you have taught us.
I know now, as the wife of a professor, what you have sacrificed to be here. You have honored the commitment to teach, pledged faithfulness to that vocation, and often times set aside your own intellectual pursuits that your students might have the chance to engage in their own. The stated mission of Oglethorpe University is to provide “a superior education in the liberal arts and sciences. Oglethorpe’s academically rigorous programs emphasize intellectual curiosity, individual attention and encouragement, close collaboration among faculty and students, and active learning in relevant field experiences.”
Without your commitment to engage us, this mission could not be accomplished.
Faculty, you have given us a gift. Not only have you pushed us in our pursuit of knowledge, but you have taught us how to THINK. Vicky Weiss, you whom we honor in particular tonight, held this as your highest priority. No matter the position you held—be it academic or administrative–you pushed the students to think well. You, with the help of the faculty and students, helped to craft a curriculum that would create thoughtful, intelligent, tolerant and inquisitive graduates. Vicky, you treated us as family, and allowed us to question and push with safety and encouragement.
I have spent 11 years ‘making a life and making a living,’ thanks to my Oglethorpe education. But, I do not credit my education to the books that were assigned or the papers that I wrote. I credit it to you, Faculty. When I sing anything in Latin, I think of Dr. Ray. When I win a point at trivia in music and culture, I say a quiet “thank you” to Prof. Bohart. When I argue a theological point, I am drawing upon the foundation laid by Dr. Knippenberg and Dr. Woolfolk. Every time I make a strategic parenting move, I think of Dr. Noyes. I remember Dr. Deppe’s infinite patience with me, and the ways in which Lee Knippenberg always advocated for me and the other theater students. When I struggle through a terribly common math problem, I think of Dr. Tiu and how I chose two semesters of Greek over one semester of “Great Ideas in Modern Mathematics.” I offer regular thanks to Dr. Rulison for bearing with my insistence that Cosmology have a relationship with music. I wrote a paper on the music of the spheres, which I’m fairly certain was an abomination to more than one discipline. Times have changed, as have some of the faces, but what remains constant is the Faculty’s commitment to teaching us how to think.
On behalf of my fellow alumni, I offer you a heartfelt thank you. The value of our degrees is not found in the frames in which they hang, but in the work you have done to make us thoughtful people who are engaged in the world, and seeking to make it better in all that we do.
Thank you, Faculty. Truly, you embody the motto: Nescit Cedere!