Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pitching In is Another Centre Virtue

Each year I join other members of the Centre College faculty and staff, as well as the student Orientation Committee, in helping first-year students move in. We get to meet the new students, and their parents are wonderfully grateful.

When I took my eldest to Swarthmore, my alma mater, there was also an Orientation Committee. They saw us pull up with a van full of stuff. They did not move to help. We later learned that the tee shirts they were wearing said "I am not your mother or your father."

Moving daughter in to her dorm sophomore year, I saw a young man sitting in the dorm lobby, reading. I pointed out to him, in a friendly spirit, that there were young ladies who could use his assistance moving their heavy things in. He gave me an odd look, picked up his book, and left the building.

This reaction would be unthinkable at Centre. The Centre ethos is to pitch in, especially if someone asks for help. Centre students are overwhelmingly involved in service. The Greek organizations, to which most students belong, sell themselves to the world not on their academics, or parties, or friendliness, though they do all those things well, but on their distinctive service projects.

In the big world, Centre alumni are famous, sometimes national leaders, in how many of them pitch in to help Centre itself. In projects great and small, you can count on old Colonels the help.

Service is a Centre virtue.


Anonymous said...

I wonder if it has something to do with southern hospitality? Say what you will about the south, the people are the friendliest you'll meet. I'm from that part of the country but have now lived in California for 25 years. Although people here are nice, when I go back home to visit I'm always amazed by how congenial everyone is.

Centre sounds great. I'm curious why your daughter chose Swarthmore over Centre?

Gruntled said...

Swarthmore was a great choice for our eldest. And I always thought it was reasonable for the kids to go away to college. Even if Centre had been the right school otherwise, the fact that it was a block away and they knew a great deal about the faculty was a reason not to go there. Though many of my colleague's children do end up here.

Rachel said...

I don't believe that it is Southern Hospitality. While most Centre Students are from the South, a great many in our Centre community (including staff, faculty, and students) are from the North, Midwest, West, and abroad. I do not know why Centre's culture is this way, but it is one thing that I love about my campus.

randy said...

i can vouch for this; everyone at centre was pretty helpful and friendly when i first arrived there as a freshman in fall '81.

but yeah...centre IS full of 'hicks', looking back on it. that's part of why they're nice. they've been raised like that. they don't have an urban polish and coldness.

swarthmore? well, what did you expect? you WENT THERE, right?

Lisa said...

That surprises me, actually, because when I came to Swarthmore as a freshman (in 2004), I got a lot of help from several of the Orientation Committee members. It was a great deal of work on their part, because I was moving onto the fourth floor of Parrish, and that was before there was an elevator! You may well be right that the helping spirit is stronger at Centre, though.

Kerri said...


Even among faculty and staff, I have noticed a tremendous ethos of "oh I can help you with that" even if it's not in someone's official job description.