President, Denison University Alumni Council

Twelve years ago I pulled my last all-nighter at Denison.  I wasn’t writing a final paper in a computer lab, getting an issue of The Denisonian to print or embracing a late night drum circle at the Homestead.  All of that was behind me.  Instead, I was with my closest friends, my senior roommates, sitting on the south quad in the very chairs we would sit in at our graduation ceremony the next day.

We were a sappy lot and the night was more bitter than sweet.  Heading to different cities after graduation, so much of our future was uncertain.  What was certain was that we weren’t going to be at Denison in the fall and we weren’t going to be together.  The empty chairs and quiet stage were an ominous setting in which to finally share our mutual angst.

I’ll never forget that night and I was reminded of it when I picked up a copy of The Denisonian, last fall, and read an editorial by Elaine Cashy on all of the “last” things she would experience at Denison during this, her senior year (“The Season of Nostalgia,” October 6, 2015).

My friends and I felt that same sense of parting, that night: that our Denison experience was coming to an end, that it was time to say ‘goodbye,’ and, to borrow Ms. Cashy’s word, that we were “outgrowing” the home we loved so well.

Hello from the other side.

As this academic year wraps up and Ms. Cashy and other seniors reflect on these final days, you’ve had to experience many “lasts,” this year, yes, but you also have many firsts coming your way.  Soon, many of you will experience your your first Denison weddings (spoiler alert: Denison people have a good time), your first Denison children, your first time representing Denison at a college fair for high school students, your first chance to make an annual fund gift back to the college as an alumnus, your first chance to host a Denison extern or intern and your first reunions, on and off campus.

There will also be new Denison relationships.  As my friend and Denison Trustee Jeff Masten ’86 recently reminded a group during the spring Board of Trustees meeting, you expect that you will stop forging new Denison relationships when you graduate, but in fact they continue to sprout up in surprising ways.  Jeff and I missed one another by 14 years at Denison, but he has become just as much of a Denison friend to me as some of my classmates. 

The relational nature of Denison persists well after graduation.  On the extreme end of this, I’ve met Denisonians who didn’t date in college but married later on.  So look around you one last time for good measure.

Seniors, it’s true that you have had many “lasts,” this year and it is equally true that your Denison experience will never be the same.  So, yes, savor this moment as Ms. Cashy has.  But, please also know that — if you want it — your relationship with Denison and Denisonians can grow richer and broader with each passing year.  You still have many Denison firsts ahead.