New Graduates Should Live Oberlin Values

Lorri Olan, Alumni Association President

To the Editors:

Congratulations to the Class of 2017! With commencement a few shorts weeks away, this is a joyous and exciting time that ought to be shared with those you love. Celebrate your achievements with friends and family, and thank those on the faculty and staff who have offered you support throughout these last four years. Savor this moment as you prepare to launch your next adventure.

This is an important moment in Oberlin’s history as we prepare to bid farewell to President Marvin Krislov and welcome his successor. I give my heartfelt thanks to the members of the Presidential Search Committee who have worked diligently to review the professional and personal qualifications of our incoming president as we continue our legacy. While these are challenging times for the institution and for liberal arts colleges in general, Oberlin holds a special place in our hearts. We want it to continue to develop the life of the mind, to hone critical thinking skills, to continue its commitment to diversity and access to education and to be a beacon of social justice in the landscape of higher education.

As President of the Alumni Association and the parent of three college-age children, I humbly offer you a few words of advice as you prepare to enter the world that beckons beyond Tappan Square.

No matter what you do or where you find yourself, remember to observe the values you’ve learned at Oberlin. Honor civility, respectful discourse and the pursuit of the life of the mind — never stop learning. Be kind to strangers and to each other. Explore and hone your talents and take responsibility to enact the change you want to see in the world. Commit to leaving your corner of the world a little better than you found it.

Be present. Use all your senses. Listen more than you speak. Ask questions until you understand. Smell the roses, dance in the rain and taste the flavors of the world. Enjoy the mountains, stare at sunsets, wonder at art and eat your fair share of chocolate. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, the ocean breeze in your hair, the touch of a loved one stroking your cheek. Live in the here and now, even while planning for the future. Be your best self. Work hard, be earnest and live life to the fullest. Be the person who others want to befriend, love, collaborate with, trust, honor and enjoy.

Be intentional and yet flexible. Discover what you enjoy and pursue it with gusto, but be open to change when the old ways don’t work anymore. Recognize the merits in unexpected opportunities, and do not be afraid to fail, for from failure comes growth and new understanding.

Give thanks, always, to those who have helped you along the way, to those who lifted your spirits, who made you laugh and held you when you were down.

Oberlin, you will come to realize more clearly with each passing year, is a special place with special people. Don’t forget those formative experiences and celebrate with joy the beginning of the fulfilling and exciting life that awaits you.

And, of course, know that you are a welcomed addition to the Oberlin College Alumni Association: We’re happy to have you on board.

– Lorri Olan
OC ’87
President, Alumni Association