A beacon of liberal arts and relationships

issue 01 | summer 2024
Adam Weinberg

This issue of the magazine celebrates Swasey Chapel, because Swasey is turning 100!

For over 100 years, some of our most important events have taken place at Swasey. Over the last 11 years, Anne and I have enjoyed a wide array of lectures, concerts, ceremonies, and other events. As I reflect on the range of events that take place at Swasey during a normal year, I am reminded of two of the many reasons I love our college.

First, Swasey plays an important role in the liberal arts education we provide our students. For me, the essence of a liberal arts education is to develop within students the capacity and commitment to be critical thinkers and creative problem solvers who can effectively communicate with others and have the intellectual humility needed to successfully navigate the world around them.

There are four parts to this definition.

  1. The liberal arts educate us to be critical thinkers who have the ability to explore problems and issues in their complexity. They teach us to use reason, rationality, and data to better understand the world around us and always search for truth.
  2. The liberal arts educate us to be creative problem solvers who have the capacity to innovate. It’s one thing to be able to critique, and it’s another to build on that critique by imagining paths forward and seeing beyond old solutions to build the future.
  3. The liberal arts educate us to be effective communicators who have the ability to speak and write in ways that others can hear. Anyone can shout, but liberal arts students are taught how to weave words together to help others understand our points of view and to listen to and hear the views of others so we can engage and learn from each other.
  4. All of this matters far less if we don’t also exercise intellectual humility, which instills within us the habit of walking through life aware that we might be wrong. Hence, we might also want to be lifelong learners who are always seeking out alternative views, facts, and experiences. We should always be challenging orthodoxy, starting with our own.

The liberal arts also instills important values and habits, including a commitment to hard work, ethics, empathy, curiosity, perseverance, humor, and an appreciation that we are part of things larger than ourselves. The concerts, lectures, ceremonies, and other events we hold in Swasey all serve to provide this kind of education for our students.

Second, one of the other aspects of Denison that I respect and admire is the deep relationships that are forged between our students. Denison is defined by the people who come here, the relationships we form with each other, and the way those relationships shape our lives. This extends to the wonderful tradition of Denisonians marrying each other in front of their Denison friends at Swasey. For decades, Swasey has been a site for Denison weddings!

If you have pictures of a Denison wedding that has taken place inside Swasey, please send them to denmag@denison.edu. We will try to include some in the next edition as we continue to celebrate Swasey’s 100th birthday.

As I finish my 11th year at Denison, I am deeply proud and grateful to be a Denisonian. This is a great college and I feel fortunate to serve it. Thank you for all the ways you support the college.

Published May 2024
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