I strolled the measure of the campus that is closest to Main Street on Monday. It was a solitary walk, accompanied only by the faint accents of lapping water from the fountain in Durand Park and Leesburg’s ever-present jazzy street Muzak.
On this day, April 27 at 12:30 p.m., I should have been awash in the beehive of closing semester activity enveloping Beacon’s growing collegiate footprint. Had not the COVID-19 emergency disrupted all, my attention would have been drawn to the people who inhabit, shape, and animate the community — not to structures and spaces that, when empty, are drained of their very purpose and energy. (It dawned on me as well that, at the time for what should have been the post-Bikefest Monday, it was especially silent. It was devoid of the familiar strains of the dismantling of tents nearby campus and the occasional engine bursts of late-departing bikers from the weekend’s festivities).
Much has changed in two months. On Monday, I took a walk that I had never imagined. Had you joined me I believe that you would have felt the same. Predictably, even surrounded by the beauty that has become Beacon’s campus, my emotions defaulted to a sense of loss and a yearning for what should have been.
At the conclusion of each Commencement celebration, I leave our graduates with Henry David Thoreau’s well-parsed commendation, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams and live a life that you have imagined.” It is as sound counsel for emerging adults as it is for the colleges and universities that educate them. If there is to be a “new normal” through which Beacon must navigate — as appears to be the current prevailing social consensus — the College must imagine and define it. Not in the shadow of “what is lost.” But rather by what is gained in thinking and acting anew, together — in union with a singular, uncompromised mission.
Beacon’s fidelity to mission has been unwavering over its soon to be 31 years. So, too, in a time of growing enrollments, sustained and robust student outcomes, and our recent place atop respected national surveys and rankings, the community refuses to be self-satisfied.
Institutions that endure in good times and in bad do so because their mission and culture align with sound educational practice and the embrace of common keystone habits around which all facets of the learning community orbit. For Beacon, these indelible core habits are: (1) for our personnel, scholarship and service, and (2) for our students, these are the keystones of safety and wellness. These are foundations that have served our students and families well and must be integral and undiluted in navigating any “new normal” that may unfold before us.
In the days and months ahead, you will be updated and apprised of the steps that the College is and will be taking to ease ourselves into the “new normal” as comfortably and safely as possible. We will share this “walk” together. It is a journey worth taking and imagining because it is your future, one with the promise of leading you “confidently in the direction of your dreams.”