We have just returned from my college reunion at Swarthmore. The whole weekend was so jam-packed with people to catch up with that there was not a sensible moment to blog.
I loved Swarthmore when I was a student, an affection that has not diminished with the years. One of our many treasured memories occurred one night when my now-wife and I were walking by the library, and some guys in letter jackets, in a moment of high spirits, leaned out of a passing car to yell "Hey, its Mr. and Mrs. Swarthmore." The college shaped my character and understanding more than anything except my flesh-and-blood family. To be sure, much of my flesh-and-blood family were and are shaped by Swarthmore, as well. My parents met at a freshmen mixer dance. My aunt was there this weekend, celebrating her 50th. My eldest is a student there now. And, of course, Mrs. G. is alma mater's greatest gift to me.
I treasure the friends I made there, some of whom I saw for the first time in 25 years this weekend. My quad, the guys who are my primary reference group, reunited for the first time in a dozen years. So many people have had parallel lives to mine, especially those who married and had kids. We have similar tales of investing in our communities, returning to religious life, trying to build up the world. The panel discussion by four of our classmates centered on the question "did we change the world?" The main speaker at the all-alumni collection was a fellow who had created a successful mutual fund that has a mission to fight genocide. A popular tee-shirt of my day was "Swarthmore College: Guilt Without Sex." The guilt was over not doing enough to change the world. This is a good kind of prod of conscience to have.
Still, it was in the formal education -- what I learned in class, what I read and discussed, the informal study groups with professors, the conversations on street corners, and the long bull sessions about how the things we studied related to the world -- that shaped me the most.
Swarthmore is "mother of professors," and many of my classmates were teaching, including quite a few who had practiced law, medicine, or another profession for a time. Teaching is a way of giving back (as well as a lifestyle better suited to family life than most). I heard and had many conversations about teaching. I have to say, though, that as I passed one conversational group and another, the default topic seemed to be "software."
I hope that everyone reading this can love your alma mater as I do mine.