As our country emerges from a historic, albeit fractious, election season, I have thought many times in recent months about unity.
And I am always reminded how our University blends the unique gifts and talents of students, faculty and staff from all corners of the globe to our mutual benefit. We call it unity in diversity.
For many of our students through the years, especially the last half century, the Richmond campus was their first substantial exposure to others of a different race, nationality or faith. Maybe it was a professor, a classmate or perhaps even a roommate. Whatever the context, fear soon gave way to acceptance and deep-seated suspicion to a once unimaginable trust, and all came to understand that unity didn’t mean conformity but, rather, our common bonds as human beings and a shared purpose.
Have Colonels always seen eye to eye? Of course not. They didn’t in the turbulent 1960s, and they don’t today. But I know many readers of this magazine could tell heart-warming accounts about how their exposure to different cultures opened not only their minds but their hearts. I know because you have shared with me many such stories. Two articles in this magazine tell how some of our students’ lives were changed forever as they shared a love of music or served others in international settings. Another tells of a social work graduate who used her Eastern education to change lives all around the world.Back home, we have all come to see that our community is at its best when it focuses on what unites us, rather than divides us; fosters a spirit of inclusion that celebrates individuals and their ideas; and honors the value of service. Among those uniting forces are the campus traditions that have linked generations of Colonels, such as rubbing Daniel Boone’s toe for good luck. Other traditions, such as freshman beanies, have not survived, but remain vivid memories for thousands of alumni. You can read about some of our most cherished traditions, past and present, in another article in this issue.A recent addition to our Campus Beautiful was the setting in August for what I hope will be a new campus tradition: the passage of each freshman class, in its entirety, through Turner Gate. Our newest landmark, on the west side of campus, is distinguished by four simple but profound words — Wisdom and Knowledge on the side facing Lancaster Avenue, Purpose and Passion on the other — that describe what students come here seeking and what they acquire during their studies to use for the betterment of society.Then, for our many “legacy” students, Eastern is a family tradition. It’s not unusual at all to meet current students who are the latest of several generations of their families to attend. What better testament to the enduring value of the Eastern Experience!Through any period of change, whether on a national scale or in higher education, we can all take great comfort in the fact that Eastern continues, as it always has, to change the world, one mind and one heart at a time.And that, friends, is our best campus tradition of all.Michael T. Benson
President, Eastern Kentucky University