A Passage to China

March 29th, 2010

Humen—Mouth of the Tiger—is where the Pearl River flows into the South China Sea. This is also where the Confucian commissioner of the Qing court, Lin Zexu, tried to turn back the barbarians—the private merchants importing opium from Britain—by dumping two and a half million pounds of opium into the sea. This story never ceases to animate the Chinese; the driver of the mini-van carrying our small delegation of three from the College, pointed to the sea and shouted, “aa-pin!,” Chinese for opium.

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In Loco Parentis

March 14th, 2010

Last week, as the Class of 2010 prepared to graduate and join the ranks of some one hundred thousand alumni of the College, they received a letter from me that adumbrated an aspect of their new life that our alumni know all too well: I asked them to consider making a gift to the College. There would be no amount too small, for the point of the fourth-year gift is in the act of giving itself, a rite of passage marking an exchange of roles between student and teacher. As students, they were supported by their teachers, receiving instruction and advice that will direct the course of their lives. As alumni, they become the patrons of their teachers, providing the opportunity for others to receive the same education, while offering support and counsel to their teachers. I offered to match a portion of their giving from my own funds under a program the students call “Make the Dean Pay”; if more than 2,010 members of the Class of 2010 (which numbers 2,968) participated, I promised to commit more.

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