Thoughts on Recent Events

November 18, 2015

Dear Colby Community,

As we look toward a holiday week, my thoughts are very much on the tragic events taking place around the world, on the unrest at many American campuses, and on the strengths and challenges of our community here on Mayflower Hill. This week alone we have had many community gatherings and honest discussions that have illuminated for me the important work we must undertake together as a community and reminded me that Colby is filled with so much good will and promise.

Those of us who were able to come together on Sunday for the Theater of War event witnessed the lasting, devastating effects of armed conflict on individuals, families, and nations. The veterans and their families in attendance spoke poignantly of the price we pay for our inability to solve conflicts peacefully.

The Pugh Center program Monday afternoon on diversity and student activism offered us an opportunity for deep reflection on what we are seeing unfold on other campuses and what we need to do here at Colby to create a fully inclusive community. And last night’s program on the transgender experience at Colby was filled with insights, openness, and candor that give me hope that we can move toward a campus culture where no one has to be on the outside looking in.

As we think about our own community, we can never ignore the injustices and tragedies that impact the broader world. The horrific acts of violence in Beirut and Paris last week are not detached from our lives here on campus. I was deeply relieved that members of the Colby community were not harmed in those attacks, yet our good fortune should not lead to complacency. We must recognize and fight the human propensity for inflicting harm on others. Our care for one another is an antidote to this most devastating of human failings. I certainly saw that as our community rallied last week to ensure that friends, colleagues, and family were safe from the attacks. Parents of a current student studying in Europe wrote to me about the concern they had for their son’s safety when news broke of the attacks in Paris. The Colby staff who worked day and night to make sure our students, faculty, and staff were safe brought real comfort to this family. As the parents wrote to me, the timely actions of our staff helped them to truly understand “what it meant to be part of the Colby family.”

The fragility of life was also apparent on our campus last week when we learned that three members of our staff had passed on due to unrelated illnesses. One of those staff members was Eva Adams, who died unexpectedly of a cardiac event. Below I share an excerpt from her obituary, which demonstrates our potential for bringing joy and fulfillment to one another through our daily interactions and the generous spirit that animates our community.

“Eva went on to apply for a food service position with Sodexo at Colby College and worked in Dana Dining Hall for close to 15 years. While Eva certainly could have explored other opportunities over the years, her source of enjoyment came from the countless Colby students, faculty and dining hall coworkers she interacted with daily. It was not unusual for Eva to memorize not only the names of the students who went through her deli line, but she also learned where they were from, their likes and dislikes and their dietary preferences and restrictions. Eva was, in many ways, like a second mom to some of the students. She never tired from sharing stories about them with her family and friends. She was especially honored when a Colby student asked her to wear his jersey at a recent football game, despite her not being an avid sports fan.”

In this time of giving thanks, I have endless gratitude for being part of this community that has the capacity and will to work together to live to our highest values and ideals. We recognize our imperfections and share a commitment to strengthening ourselves as individuals and as a community.

Many of you will be traveling from campus next week, and some, like my family, will be enjoying the holidays on this beautiful campus. I wish you a safe, peaceful, and rewarding break.

David A. Greene

Office of the President
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