Remarks to the Shimer College Community
Edward Noonan, Interim President
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Dear Students, Faculty, Alumni & Trustees,
I love being with Shimer people here in Chicago, in Waukegan, and out in Mt. Carroll – I have been associated with Shimer on all three campuses. Why? Because I always feel safe at Shimer. I hear things I don’t hear elsewhere. There are discussions which have a serious topic, a passionate intensity, and a civility with a certain edge to it. Today is no exception. In Shimer there is enough energy and intellectual prowess and achievement to challenge and inspire any gathering of scholars – other than when Mortimer Adler and Robert Hutchins met for coffee.
Why am I here, hoping to have the shortest presidency in Shimer’s 150+ years? Because the safety of Shimer is at risk and I think I can help. I am a Great Lakes Midwesterner influenced by life along Lake Michigan with its beauty, its open horizon, its strength, and its dangers. When trouble comes in squalls, sailors know that not far away are harbors of refuge to protect them. Shimer needs a safe harbor now.
So, I see my work as a helmsman to steer us into safe harbor. To do so I will need your trust, your help, your skills, and of course your financial support whether large or small. My architecture work has been to design for community life. I can’t make community, but I can encourage it. I can’t make you sit down, but we know where to place the bench so you feel safe, comfortable, and at ease.
Help me now and we can settle things down and get on with the community life of scholarship with renewed good spirits toward each other. My plan, your plan, is simple to state and hard to do.
Reconfirm and Maintain the Hutchins Plan
I recently pulled out a volume of my Great Books collection. In Book 43 I read about a need for “a decent regard for the opinions of mankind.” I hope you believe in me and each other. The book also includes the names of scholars and donors to the great books idea. St John’s College is heavily represented in scholarship, and the donors listed ranged from Armour to Williams, my wife’s grandparents. I want to reconfirm and maintain the Hutchins Plan for reading the Great Books. Support it and fund it. It is our common bond of community.
The Fund for the Faculty
Everywhere I go good professors say, “I’d love to be at Shimer but I can’t afford it.” Shimer professors also tell me that if they are not learning in the classroom then they would stop. Let’s make the good fellowship of Shimer faculty safer by renewing faculty contracts immediately, which I did earlier today, and by starting a fund to make their salaries safer, fairer, and decent!
Perhaps this is the place where the Anonymous Donor of recent years past can help. Let’s have a new fund of anonymous donors for faculty so they won’t think we are trying to influence them, just support their work.
The Fund for the Future
The third leg of this stool (sorry for my mixed metaphors that keep popping up) is the “Fund for the Future.” This is for all the builders among us – the alumni, trustees, and friends. We must build toward the future of 300-400 students and a space at the Illinois Institute of Technology that reflects the round table, the long civilized traditions of our discussions, and the endless renewal that Shimer entails. I’ve got my eyes on the old red brick Armour Institute Building. It’s historic, it looks toward Chicago’s skyline, and it’s waiting to be renewed with green technology. My firm is good enough at green technology to get it started.
Why not join the trustees who want to join us with faculty, students, and alumni in the next adventure at Shimer. A long time ago, at a difficult time, Robert Frost wrote in The Black Cottage, “Most of the change we think we see in life is due to truths being in and out of favour.”
We have the eternal truths of the Great Conversation to guide us now. I welcome you all and hope you welcome me to this noble work.