We have a New Year’s Day tradition in our house. We make dumpling soup. After lots of chopping of water chestnuts, garlic, ginger, and more, the wonton wrappers are ready to be filled and sealed. Everyone in the family fills dumplings, some with more artistic flair than others, and the good-natured controversies about the proper amount of filling and the desirability of kimchi have yet to be settled.
The hot, salty broth, redolent of soy and sesame, fills the house with inviting aromas on a cold New England day. It is wonderful comfort food, prepared together, that offers a moment to think about the year ahead and to be grateful for the good fortune of our family.
We adopted this practice from Carolyn’s family. My wife’s mother, Qui Soon, was born in Hawaii, one of a dozen children born to Korean immigrant parents. We have evocative photos of the family, living in a modest dirt-floored home, where traditional food was a sustaining presence. It is a long way from that ancestral home to Colby’s president’s house on Mayflower Hill. Yet carrying forward these traditions ties us to our past and reminds us of those whose hard work and sacrifices bettered our lives.
I worry, at times, that at Colby we are not as good as we should be at sharing our community’s stories and recognizing those who made this College one of the most admired in the country. Without those stories present in our lives, we can take for granted how Colby arrived at this place of offering such remarkable opportunities and strong programs.
It was for that reason that I recently named the president’s house for the Osborne family. Samuel and Maria Osborne were born into slavery in Virginia and moved to Waterville with their family following the Civil War. Here they reared their seven children, two of whom enrolled at Colby, including Marion, the first African-American woman to graduate from the College.
For 35 years Samuel was the sole janitor on campus and a truly extraordinary figure at Colby, in Waterville, and in the wider world, where he was active in the temperance movement. Living in a home named for the Osbornes, who overcame unimaginable adversity to help shape this College and strongly affected those who knew them, is a source of deep pride for my family and me. I hope everyone who enters this house will come to understand and appreciate how the Osborne family changed the trajectory of this College.
When I am in my office in Eustis, I have another reminder of a family who gave generously to Colby. On my windowsill sits a bronze sculpture of a pug. I admire it for several reasons, not least of which is that my family is now run by not one but two French bulldogs, who share the same stocky profile as this whimsical sculpture.
The pug sculpture is a gift of Elisabeth “Trophy” Frederick, widow of Halsey Frederick ’40. The couple was generous to the College over many years, supporting Colby’s efforts through various gifts, including a major commitment to financial aid for Maine students. The pug sculpture is a great conversation starter, and it allows me to tell the story of the Fredericks, who have made it possible for talented students, who might not otherwise have had this opportunity, to attend Colby.
Hard work, sacrifice, and generosity. That has been the recipe for Colby’s emergence as one of the world’s great centers for learning and discovery. And it is a tradition that will serve us well in the decades and centuries ahead if we continue to share our stories and recognize the contributions, in their many forms, made by this caring and extraordinary community.
David A. Greene