Interim President Ellis reflects on LC’s past, present, and future

Congratulations, Pioneer Log, on 75 years of blazing your  own trail.

And thank you for inviting me to share my thoughts as we double-down on significant milestones: 150 years since our founding as Albany Collegiate Institute, 75 years since our renewal on Palatine Hill.

The lawyer in me requires that I stipulate a couple of things at the outset: First, I love this place, its people and the work we do together. That’s why I still look forward to showing up every day after almost 20 years—that, along with access to the tennis courts.  My deep feelings reinforce my commitment to work with all of you to make Lewis & Clark even stronger. And second, I plan to take advantage of this sesquicentennial year to motivate every member of our community with the sense of belonging, hope, and love for LC that I have.

 

People and institutions are always evolving, right? When I was an undergraduate majoring in biology, I never imagined that I would one day teach in a law school or a graduate school of education and counseling, or help start our entrepreneurship program. And serving as president of this great college was certainly not on my radar.

Often we look at a timeline, and progress appears to be systematic, one event leading to another, almost with a certain kind of inevitability. But as we know from our own experience, things are never as simple as they appear. Building and sustaining the life of an individual or any institution — let alone a college with many constituencies, each with its own ideas, plans, and agenda — can be messy at times.

It takes dedicated people working together to launch any enterprise, especially one that endures through 75 or 150 years of challenges. It takes fierce confidence and optimism. And, when we do it right, a significant measure of joy.

 

Our archival photos from the 1860s depict women and men in formal poses, wearing stiff collars and determined expressions. Something is missing from these pictures, but I am certain it was as present then as it is today: the joy that comes from teaching, learning and working hard together.

 

Indeed, collaboration has been one of our hallmarks from the very start. After all, the deep desire of the citizens of Albany, Ore., for their children to have access to higher learning led to the idea for a college. And, when funds to establish the college were running short, women and men donated the money needed to ensure that their hope would become real. They made it happen.

 

This pattern of perseverance in the face of adversity, the overcoming of obstacles, has repeated itself many times over the past 15 decades, so often in fact that “we make things happen” could almost be a corollary to our motto, Explorare, Discere, Sociare (to explore, to learn, to work together).

 

We see it in 1938 with the permanent move of the campus from Albany to Portland. We see it again a few years later when a Jewish business and civic leader joins an ordained Methodist minister and widely respected scholar to lead a struggling Presbyterian college into a bold new era of growth (if you don’t yet know about Aaron Frank and Morgan Odell, now is a great time to learn more about our history).

The era following World War II brought the launch of innovative programs in overseas and off-campus studies, the formal separation of LC from the Presbyterian church, merger with the law school, the consolidation of graduate programs, the acquisition of a south campus, and the creation of a distinctive culture: Academic leadership in a place of conscience and a challenging, supportive environment for students.

 

Now, as in many times in the past 150 years, we live in a world that often seems out of balance, one with seemingly perpetual conflict, political divisiveness, and racial and cultural inequities. I believe an education of the kind we provide is ever more relevant in addressing these challenges. Our graduates excel in their post-graduate careers and continued educational pursuits. Year in and year out, LC will continue to produce thinkers and leaders committed to addressing generation-spanning problems.

Along with you, I am joyfully and relentlessly dedicated to this pursuit. Together, we will continue to make things happen.

 

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