This issue of Denison Magazine celebrates the relationships and connections that are an integral part of the college and the lives of our alums. Denison is defined by the people who come here, the relationships we form with each other, and the ways those relationships shape the college and our lives.
It starts with the friendships that our students develop with each other. At the end of each academic year, Anne and I host a dinner for graduating seniors who have lived together for at least six semesters. This year, that number represented 22% of our graduates! Our students are good friends to each other. And much of the learning and growth at Denison comes from peer-to-peer learning.
Those relationships extend to those that students create with faculty and staff. A graduating senior articulated the impact of faculty and staff relationships on her in the following way: “I am walking away knowing more about what I am capable of, and what I am passionate about, with a team of cheerleaders and mentors who see more in me than I am able to see in myself.”
What’s so inspiring about Denison is the way those relationships endure. Denison friends often remain best friends for decades. Alums often talk to me about the way their Denison friends have continued to anchor their lives.
And then there are the new connections — Denisonians who did not know each other but met after graduation. This includes the alums I met with a few weeks ago who connected at their 25th reunion and are now married.
It also includes so many Denisonians who meet through professional interests and help each other grow and expand their careers.
This issue celebrates a few of the many ways relationships and connections between Denisonians take place and continue to add meaning to our lives.
You will find stories about the Denison friends who continue to get together annually (or more often), the alums who have helped each other get jobs and build careers, and the alums who share a love of Denison when their children attend Denison as college students.
We also celebrate the way alumni reach back to connect with current students through philanthropy. We recognize Don and Teckie Shackelford and all the ways they are reaching back to keep Denison affordable for current students. They go beyond supporting students to connecting with them during their time at Denison and beyond.
You will find a story about the library renovations made possible by Sue Douthit O’Donnell ’67, who wanted to ensure this generation enjoyed and benefited from the library like she did as a student. And there is an inspiring story about Ed McNew and the Delta Upsilon Class of ’54 Memorial Award.
When I accepted the honor of becoming president of Denison, I knew that I would love the job, but I did not expect to develop so many deep relationships that have shaped my life. This includes a few faculty and staff friends, who have taught me how to play golf, and many alums who I have come to consider friends and who have enriched my life, sometimes in unexpected ways.
It also includes the two recent graduates who allowed me to preside over their wedding last fall. I will never forget the incredible joy and pride of standing on the platform with two people I knew as first-year college students as they exchanged wedding vows. As you would expect, they read their vows in front of a large audience of Denison alumni and parents.
A few weeks ago, I reached out to an alum about meeting during a trip to the East Coast and she wrote back, “I am actually on my way to a Denison wedding this weekend, both the bride and groom graduated with me in 2016! We also just purchased a home and the owner and listing agent both went to Denison! Denison is everywhere!”
We decided to dedicate this issue to relationships and connections because we have embarked on a new effort to rethink alumni and family engagement at Denison. As many of you know, a year ago we surveyed alumni to gauge how they want to stay connected to each other and the college. We are working to refresh alumni and family engagement programs.
Our goal is simple — we want to add meaning and value to the lives of our alums. Our efforts build on the strong foundation of relationships and connections that have long been a tradition and defining feature of the college.