Whether you are a senior in hopeless denial that graduation is less than a month away or a frosh clinging to the last days of tumultuous year, we are quickly approaching the end of an era. And Wesleyan is too. Come September we will have a new President, a new University Center, and a new dining service. Before we move forward, we should all pause to evaluate where we are and what we’ve accomplished. Not just our own experiences, but also the importance of two Wesleyan staples, the Bennets and Mocon.
We all have our own Mocon memories, the first time we entered the strange building as wide-eyed prefrosh or freshpeople, discovering its odd traditions, culture and smell. We remember, for some of us with horror, the first time we that we would be eating the majority of our meals there for the better part of a year. We had our own traditions, be they dressing up and blasting classical music or attempting to sneak the ten-gallon containers of ice cream out on Sundae Sundays. Although we may still have Mocon-smell in our clothes for several years, it was a very important part of our Wesleyan experience.
As were the Bennets. Many students may have mixed feelings about the Bennets, but I hope in these last few weeks of their time at Wes we will all look at what they have done and appreciate all the great things they have accomplished.
When Doug arrived here twelve years ago, Wesleyan was a fixer-upper: we had barely ever fundraised and didn’t know how to, need-blind admissions, and financial aid generally, were in great danger, we could not afford the faculty we had, and many buildings were in disrepair. Doug’s leadership has taken Wesleyan to where it is today, allowing us all to look to Wesleyan’s future with eagerness, rather than fear and uncertainty. Doug set the tone for his tenure in Wesleyan’s strategic plan issued in 1999, Strategy for Wesleyan. In this document, Wesleyan’s top two priorities were strengthening the academic core of the University and improving student aid.
Today, Wesleyan is once again recognized nationally as an institution that exemplifies intellectual pursuit. Additionally, Doug doubled Wesleyan’s endowment, with an emphasis that that money would be used primarily on financial assistance for students, rather than buying into the arms race of other higher education institutions. Additionally, Doug has drastically improved Wesleyan’s relationship with Middletown. In just the four years I have been at Wesleyan, I have seen the vast improvements in Middletown, from the opening of the Green Street Art Center to the general increased liveliness of Main Street on a Friday night. None of those improvements would have been possible without Doug’s willingness to work with the community, while being careful not to overpower or patronize them.
No discussion of the Bennet years is complete without also recognizing the contributions of Midge Bennet. Midge has eagerly become a member of the Wesleyan community, taking on jobs ranging from working with the Middletown residents, to fundraising, to meeting with students. And she was always willing to open the doors to her home. Her warmth and sincerity will be greatly missed.
And so, as we move forward on to the Usdan University Center and Michael Roth, let’s remember the foundations they were built on and who made their accomplishments possible. I encourage you all to bring this era to an end with a celebration.
Go to: http://www.wesleyan.edu/alumni/mocon/ to reserve your ticket to the Say Goodbye to Mocon event on next Friday (May 11th) to honor the Bennets and enjoy the last days of Mocon. And don’t forget that your contribution goes directly to supporting financial aid and ensuring that Wesleyan continues to fulfill its commitment to admitting and educating the most qualified and passionate individuals, regardless of their financial background.