From Students to Alumni: Celebrating The Journey

Interim President Jane Monnig Atkinson shares her thoughts this spring.

To celebrate her 40th birthday, Paula Hayes BS ’92 decided to run her first long-distance race: the Los Angeles Marathon. She trained for months, logging about 600 practice miles. But on the day of the race, facing a monumental traffic jam, Paula and hundreds of other runners decided to abandon their cars and sprint down the freeway to the staging area. Stuck in a crowd of 20,000 people, she and her cohorts had to dismantle a fence to reach the starting line. Once in the race, Paula experienced severe leg cramps at mile 7 and began to doubt whether she could finish.

The race had definitely not gone as planned; however, by managing her fears, maintaining her focus, and taking strength from encouraging onlookers, she made it to the finish line.

Paula, a member of the Board of Alumni and the owner of her own company, shared what she had learned from her marathon experience in her keynote address at this year’s Multicultural Affairs dinner on March 31. Her message to our students: adapt to unforeseen circumstances, keep moving forward, and above all, enjoy the journey.

That is good advice at any time, but especially during commencement season. As members of the class of 2010 complete their academic journeys in our undergraduate college, graduate school, and law school, I hope they will take Paula’s story to heart. They have had the benefit of a remarkable education, the full import of which they may not yet fully realize. In successfully completing the requirements for graduation, they have become intrepid explorers, well practiced in the art of entering new fields of knowledge, finding their footing, and making their own discoveries.

As many of today’s jobs become tomorrow’s artifacts, those who succeed will need the intellectual depth and flexibility not just to adapt to change but to shape it. Thanks to their experiences on Palatine Hill, our students are adept at learning how to learn and at finding paths through unfamiliar realms. Building on our liberal arts tradition, they will make their way in a world that demands ingenuity, imagination, and adaptability to succeed in careers—and lives—not yet envisioned.

Our students do not undertake their journeys alone. They draw upon the guidance and wisdom of dedicated teachers and mentors along the way. They also benefit from another crucial partnership: with donors and volunteers who contribute in vital ways to their education. All of our students from each of our three schools receive generous support from those who have gone before—alumni who serve as admissions recruiters, alumni who provide internships and career advice, and alumni who contribute financially to enable others to benefit from a Lewis & Clark education.

It is important for all of us to recognize that every gift to Lewis & Clark is a vote of confidence in our students and an investment in preparing them for life’s journeys.

During commencement ceremonies in May and June, many of our students in the undergraduate college, the law school, and the graduate school will assume a new and shared identity as Lewis & Clark alumni. Shortly after they leave campus, we will celebrate the return of hundreds of College of Arts and Sciences alumni for Reunion Weekend, June 24 to 27.

Whether they served in student government or on special task forces; ventured overseas; performed in Evans Auditorium or on the athletic fields; worked in schools, clinics, and other community organizations; or invested their energies in still other arenas, our students and alumni hold one thing in common: they all prepared here for their distinctive and uncommon journeys.

From orientation activities to commencement to Reunion Weekend and beyond, experiences that start here do not stop here. However you are connected to Lewis & Clark and wherever your journey has taken you, remember that our campus—your campus—is welcoming in every season. We invite you to visit soon and often and, like Paula Hayes, share your story with those who are in the early stages of composing theirs. Jane Monnig Atkinson Interim President