Letter from the president

Mullen addresses significance of Allegheny College’s bicentennial celebration 

James Mullen

Contributing Writer

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 With our first week of classes complete, the Allegheny campus community has begun an historic year.  Two centuries ago, Timothy Alden and the citizens of Meadville established a small community of learning in a wilderness village. That college would become of one of the great liberal arts institutions in the United States. From those early days as a college on the nation’s western frontier, Allegheny has remained true to its liberal arts mission and has graduated alumni who have made a profound difference for their country.

Over the next year, we will celebrate our Bicentennial and the remarkable role that our College has played in American history.

In my office, I keep a copy of a letter that Thomas Jefferson sent to President Alden from Monticello in 1824. It congratulates Allegheny on receipt of one of the nation’s most significant library collections. In that letter, President Jefferson writes, “We are just commencing the establishment of an University in Virginia but cannot flatter ourselves with the hope of such donations as have been bestowed on you.”

The University of Virginia has done quite well, but I believe that this letter is a reflection of your College’s place in the story of America.

Also in my office, I keep a replica of the College Company Flag, carried by college volunteers in the Civil War. Outside Bentley, one will find a monument to the soldiers and sailors of that war and in the Ravine there are monuments to those students who served bravely in other conflicts in the nation’s past.

We are all excited to dedicate the new Bicentennial Plaza in front of Schultz in October. Beginning in 2015, Allegheny seniors will cross  the Plaza to receive their degrees, continuing the tradition of Commencement ceremonies on Bentley lawn.

The pathway from Bentley to Schultz now includes historical markers that commemorate important moments in Allegheny’s history, beginning with the 1824 visit by the Marquis de Lafayette to our campus. To walk this path is to truly feel the history of Allegheny come alive.

Every corner of campus has some historical gem that brings our past to life. I hope that students take time to visit and learn more about these magical places. I would enjoy hearing from you about your favorite spot and what makes it special to you.

In the year ahead, we will also celebrate the extraordinary students who have made a difference in our community and beyond. We will acknowledge the famous who have studied here – from William McKinley to Clarence Darrow and Ida Tarbell. We will say thank you to every Alleghenian who has brought honor to our campus, whether as student, member of the faculty or staff, administration or trustee.

Each of us is heir to the traditions and the values built by remarkable people across two centuries.  As we celebrate what they have built, we also should challenge ourselves to establish our place in Allegheny’s history.

We will set the foundation for the College’s third century. No other generation will have that privilege, one that invites us to do something very special for Allegheny.

Our campus can show the nation what the best residential liberal arts experience looks like; an experience defined by integrity, respect and mutual support; an experience where service to community is a shared ethic; and an experience that animates us all with the sheer joy of learning for its own sake.

In this year of celebration, let’s challenge ourselves to write our chapter in Allegheny history; a chapter that affirms the College’s rightful place of national leadership in the liberal arts and earns a distinctive place in a proud two hundred year tradition. Let’s focus every day on making Allegheny better and stronger for those who will study here in decades to come – just like Timothy Alden, Ida Tarbell and so many others did for us.

These are promises for be a remarkable year and I can’t wait to write our chapter with you.