President's Office

Perspectives to Value

jack neuhauser

What an odd winter this has been. Here in northern Vermont we oscillate between brutal, gusty cold and thermometer readings more common for March than January, with snow, rain and subsequent ice thrown in for good measure. We ordered extra sand and gravel to keep our walkways and parking lots safe only to then need more pumps to keep interiors dry, followed by the need for more heat to keep pipes from freezing. We elders all know that the days of our youth were much worse, what with our daily three-mile trek each way to school with wolves waiting in every copse, yet there is now something more afoot it would appear.

And it is not just the weather, for much touted websites don't seem quite up to the task, our occasional economic recovery sputters at best, and what passes for dialogue, even conversation, in our nation's capital seems always caught on an ideological pinnacle while all the while a federal agency knows what we have ordered for breakfast. There is so much disagreement for its own sake that we seem unable to set a course as a people much less know what is the best route to take.

And to this comes a new "Papa," Pope Francis, a man of uncommon gentleness and wisdom, adhering to truths but willing to hear the truths of others, to listen, really, and not to judge, and sure of his end but apparently open to several paths to this end.

We can learn from his example, for it reflects what an educated mind and heart ought to do. It reflects what we are about at a liberal arts college where we first study the big ideas that have gained some permanence then move to more practical concerns, all the while remembering what we have learned, the beauty that we once came to see, the importance of listening carefully to others, to refining our own precious ideas in this light of what we learn and always keeping in mind the needs of others even as we daily experience the goodness that is this world. With luck, this great sorting hat of a college teaches us what to value for a lifetime, what to pass on to our children, but keeps us always open to the fact that there is always more to learn, to see, to treasure.

In the latest issue of Saint Michael's College Magazine you will be brought up to date on the comings and goings of the College's people and you will meet some students unexpectedly learning the language of goats, two others launched as fishy entrepreneurs in Maine, and read of a chance relocation that led to an ancestral encounter. You will also see that the structures in which we live and work can profoundly change the quality of that work, all the while continuing to engage our students with questions of living, questions large and small that we keep on the forefront. That is simply what we do and this year we do this with a new Pope. We wish him understanding, courage and love from this tiny outpost near the Arctic Circle.