Macalester Today Winter 2012

Thank You for Stepping Forward

Here is the goal I have set for myself: to write a column about the successful conclusion of the Step Forward campaign without mentioning a single number.

Elsewhere in this magazine is detailed enough information about numbers of dollars, scholarships, professorships, donors, and buildings to satisfy even the most quantitatively minded among us. These are powerful numbers— inspiring numbers—and I don’t want in any sense to diminish their importance.

But for me Step Forward has always been less about numbers than about the fundamental question I ask of all our work at Macalester: how does it advance our central mission of educating young women and men to be smart, skilled, passionate, and socially responsible people? Every institution should have a job that matters, and Macalester’s job is to provide for local, national, and global communities the sorts of people those communities require to thrive. This matters.

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President Rosenberg at the June 2011 Wallace Society dinner

What do we need to do this job well? First, of course, we need students with the intelligence and motivation to succeed at the highest level; we need those students to be drawn from every background, belief system, and place so they can challenge and educate one another. We need to bring those students into the company of faculty and staff who are the best in their fields. We need to provide the tools and experiences— challenging classes, appropriate facilities, intensive research opportunities, immersive study abroad programs, meaningful civic engagement activities—that together comprise a great education.

And we need dedicated and generous stewardship from those who care about and have benefited from Macalester College: alumni first and foremost, but also parents and friends who have in various ways been touched by our work. Without such stewardship, it becomes dramatically more difficult to create and sustain the kind of educational community that fires our imaginations.

At its heart, the Step Forward campaign has been about posing this central question: Would the Macalester extended family rise to the stewardship challenge? Five years ago we couldn’t know that the answer to this question would be complicated by brutal economic circumstances that would test both the financial resiliency of the college and the philanthropic determination of our donors.

Yet despite these circumstances, the question has been answered with a definitive “yes.” You have stepped forward and put to rest the notion that the Macalester community lacked either the desire or the capacity to support a college that means so much to so many.

Macalester is now a sprightly 138 years old. During that institutional lifetime, each generation has done its part to make it a better place: from the Minnesota Presbyterian congregations that kept the college alive in its infancy, to President Charles Turck and his colleagues who placed the college on the world stage in the mid-20th century, to the faculty members who sacrificed deeply to keep the college afloat in the ’70s, to the staff and donors who carried out the groundbreaking Touch the Future campaign more than a decade ago. Now this generation has taken its place in that grand tradition of service by strengthening in countless ways life on the campus.

You have, through your determination and generosity, set the bar high for the years ahead. It has never been the Macalester way to settle or to strive for less tomorrow than we accomplished today. We reach for that which is just beyond our grasp. We step forward. The step we have taken in this campaign is a large one, but I am certain that it will be neither the last nor the largest in the ongoing life of the college.

So to all the generous donors and gifted faculty members and tireless staff members and remarkable students reading this column: thank you for what you have achieved and for what you will someday accomplish.

Raising over $156 million in five years is quite a feat.

(Rats. I almost made it.)