Something New Under the Sun

October 26th, 2010

Last Friday, I shared my vision for the College with the members of the boards of the College Foundation and the Benefactors Society. Here is an excerpt from that speech, reflecting on the influences that have defined and guided the College. It is a story about the cultivation of character and virtue, the importance of relationship and place, and the value of cognitive diversity. -MW

Ernest Boots Mead, who taught Music in the College, once told me about a young man who wrote his final exam on Bach’s Goldberg Variations, a beautiful but elusive piece. It consists of thirty movements that explore, through a series of harmonic and rhythmic variations, a theme—but the theme is fleeting and discrete. At the end of the essay the student wrote this postscript: “Mr. Mead, I have experienced many variations in my life. Now, I am in search of a theme.”

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Virginia in Peking

November 3rd, 2009

Last week the College opened an office on the campus of Peking University.  It is located on the fifth floor of a state-of-the art building, overlooking a stately courtyard, surrounded by stunningly beautiful modern academic buildings that keep springing up, as the Chinese are wont to say, like bamboo shoots after the spring rain. We expect to put this office at Peking University to good use to facilitate research collaboration and faculty and student exchanges between the two universities.

Read the rest of this entry »