“I Love This Place”
Lauding the liberal arts and sciences for its role in providing students with a strong moral compass so necessary in modern American society, newly-installed President Kurt M. Landgraf pledged to do everything in his power to make sure Washington College endures for generations to come.
On a picture-perfect fall morning, Larry Culp ’85, chairman of the College’s Board of Visitors and Governors, spoke to the crowd of well-wishers gathered on Martha Washington Square: “Today, we inaugurate a new president who not only recognizes the enormous value of a liberal arts education, but who is absolutely smitten with Washington College and the student-centric approach that is our hallmark. In Kurt Landgraf we have found someone of determination, optimism, and good humor, who comes with a clear understanding of the business of higher education and its competitive environment. I believe that this institution will benefit enormously from Kurt’s practical vision for navigating this difficult terrain, even as we chart new paths of distinction.”
Speaking on behalf of the staff, Joseph L. Holt said that all 477 members share in common “the honor of serving Washington College by supporting our students as they pursue a superlative liberal arts education in our little part of the world.… Our wish to you is: great strength of perseverance, and abundant good spirit, as you enter this most important age in the history of Washington College.”
And James Allen Hall, the 2017 winner of the College’s Distinguished Teaching Award, offered a poem for the occasion (read it here.)
In his inaugural address, Kurt M. Landgraf recounted how his own liberal arts education at Wagner College changed his life, and spoke of the enormity of responsibility educators hold to safeguard the future of our country. Teaching personal and social responsibility and the difference between right and wrong are imperative to upholding the pillars upon which our country is based: capitalism, democracy, and rule of law.
Speaking directly to the faculty, Landgraf remarked: “You hold the future of America in your hands. The students we educate here are the future. The students we educate here are going to be making decisions that will affect all of us, our children, our grandchildren, and this country for centuries to come. The role of those of you who instruct our students is much more serious and much more important than you realize.”
Landgraf said that a strong foundation in the liberal arts helps students “understand the intrinsic human value of people and understand how all people are connected”—traits that can help them realize their full potential and make the right choices. He also commended Washington College’s “very real emphasis on creating a strong moral compass” and noted how critical that would be in rebuilding the nation’s moral character. As this generation inherits a society marred by social and financial inequities, a failing K-12 educational system, and unethical business practices, a strong moral compass “is not incidental, it is imperative,” Landgraf said. “Whether our undergraduates go on to hold public office or whether they go about building lives of purpose in other ways, without a liberal arts and sciences education as our foundation, we will make decisions based upon narrow partisan criteria, rather than work toward a common good.”
Landgraf described how his own undergraduate training informed tough choices in his career and inspired him to give back—traits he is happy to see in Washington College students.
“I’m amazed here at this College how our young students recognize their personal responsibility to take care of people around them in Chestertown and elsewhere. I love this place. I love this place … I promise you this, I will give you my heart and my soul. I will do everything that I can to make sure … this place will be sustainable for generations to come, because I love this place.”