Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Standing Back

“You have to stand back in order to get close. it was only when my experience on this campus was put up against my post-Bluffton ‘life journey’ that I could really start to appreciate what I had learned here, what I had been given here, the people who cared about me here...”

Can I get an Amen?

Bluffton alumnus Dr. Robert Hewitt spoke these words in one of the most engaging commencement addresses in recent memory – in my humble opinion. (graduation news release)

He got an appreciative laugh from the graduates when he recalled his feelings upon his Bluffton graduation in 1969, “Free at last. Free at last. Thank God Almighty I’m free at last.”

How many of us can relate?

How ironic is it that 25 years ago I was so ready to leave Bluffton in the rear view, but six short years later I came back in a staff role? Not so sure that six years was enough time ‘standing back’ to allow me to ‘get close.’ To be honest, at the time it was more of a career decision.

From my experience, upon entering any new long-term “relationship” - whether it be marriage, a new job, going to college, whatever - at first we enjoy the blissful honeymoon stage. Sure, nobody or no place is perfect. But at first we choose to only see the good. And it is so good.

In time, the imperfections become visible. And sometimes we become so focused on those imperfections that we no longer see any good. We might even begin to question whether we made a terrible mistake.

But in Dr. Hewitt’s words, “You have to stand back in order to get close.” Don’t ask me for a defining moment, but in time I have come to a point where I can look at my years as a Bluffton student and acknowledge both the good and not-so-good, thus gaining a more complete appreciation for this institution.

It takes a day like May Day to bring that appreciation into focus. It’s strolling across campus while visiting with classmates, climbing to the top of College Hall while sharing stories about professors, talking about challenging courses which opened our minds to new ideas.

If you didn’t make it back to campus for May Day last weekend, there are several opportunities to gather with fellow alumni in the next few months. Get in touch with your friends and together renew your “relationship” with your alma mater.

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