Discourse / Letters / September 3, 2009

Welcome letter from the president

Welcome and welcome back to all Knox Students!

Thanks to the editors of The Knox Student for giving me the chance to say, “Welcome,” to the new students and, “Welcome Back,” to the returning students. Welcome to another academic year of teaching and learning at our storied college on our prairie campus.

For a glimpse of Knox’s story, I encourage you to look at the walls of the first floor of Old Main. Outside the office of the dean of the college hangs the original circular and plan drafted in the early 1830s by the founders of Knox and Galesburg. Their plan contemplates a college accessible to students regardless of their financial means or race. Evidence of the founders’ commitment to those principles hangs on the opposite wall, outside the Alumni Room. There you can see a photograph of one of the first black graduates of an Illinois college, Barnabas Root, Knox Class of 1879, and the photograph of Senator Hiram Revels, who attended Knox in the 1850s before becoming the first African American to serve in the United States Senate. Knox continues the founders’ commitment to access and diversity.

On the east outside wall of Old Main, you can see the bas reliefs that commemorate the fifth debate that took place there between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas on October 7, 1858. Nearly 150 years after that debate, a new chapter in Knox’s story was written. On July 4, 2005, then Senator Barack Obama wrote in Time magazine about standing at the debate site near the east wall of Old Main earlier that summer before addressing the Class of 2005 at commencement. Mr. Obama recalled that as he waited for the soon-to-be Knox graduates to assemble, he reflected on how the arguments that Lincoln made at Knox in 1858 led to Mr. Obama’s election nearly 150 years later to the senate seat that Lincoln coveted but lost.

During your time on campus, you will study, consider, and discuss fundamental questions like those with which Lincoln, Douglas, and Obama have wrested. One such issue that now receives attention, thanks in great measure to the interest of many in your generation, is sustainability. This summer, members of the Knox faculty spent time during a workshop considering how to incorporate sustainability into the courses they teach and how to teach those courses using more sustainable techniques. This term, many of you will experience the fruits of their work, as sustainability becomes a part of the storied history of Knox.

Outside the classroom, I hope that you will take advantage of the opportunities to enrich your education by participating in student clubs and organizations, by volunteering in the community, and by competing on Prairie Fire athletic teams ─ and that you will strengthen existing friendships and make new ones.

Welcome to another exciting year!

Roger L. Taylor ‘63

Roger Taylor

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