Thursday, June 5, 2008

Haverford College

I recently attended my college reunion at Haverford College. That got me thinking about what Haverford means to me.
  1. The things I thought in high school when I was applying to colleges are pretty much still true.
    • I was a Quaker, so I liked the fact that that Haverford was founded by Quakers and maintained a Quaker identity.
    • I liked the fact that they did not have a football team or fraternities and sororites.
    • My interview at Haverford was memorable because the interviewer asked so many thought-provoking questions that I was still thinking about them for days afterwards. My classes at Haverford were not all as thought-provoking as that interview, but there were intellectually stimulating moments. I think what I generally found more intellectually stimulating than my classes was talking about my classes with my friends. In particular, I talked to Kevin about sociology and to Tom about history.
    • What impressed me about the campus tour was the humble, humorous attitude of the student leading the tour. I remember that the tour guide was good naturedly making fun of Haverford by saying we don't have a football team but we have a cricket team. At my reunion, 25 years after my campus tour, I still found Haverford to be humble and humorous.
    • My feeling was that I liked Haverford in all respects except location. I wanted to be in New England. I thought Williams College had a good location. I still feel that I belong in New England, somewhere north of Connecticut.
  2. Haverford values peace, justice, equality, community, treating people with respect, and listening to others. A typical article in the alumni magazine might be about an alumnus working at health clinics in Africa. I share Haverford's values, and it really means something to me to be from a college that shares my values, even though the things people do in the alumni magazine aren't my path.
  3. My experience at Haverford was an experience of being part of an open and welcoming community. If I wanted to be among friends, all I had to do was step out to a public area, and people would start talking to me. Even with people I did not know, there was a sense of community and common culture, and it was normal to talk to strangers. I was part of a large circle of friends and had a handful of close friends. After feeling like a misfit without social skills in high school, suddenly I was a normal person with plenty of friends. I felt like I belonged at Haverford. Haverford was my home and my community. I still feel that way. I refer to the Haverford community as "us," and I feel a sense of connection to others who went to Haverford.
  4. In a class of about 310 students, a college of about 1200 students, and a bi-college community of about 3,000 students, my circle of friends had maybe thirty people in it. Who were the rest of the people? My sense is that they were not my type. They were from rich families and planning to go on to be rich grownups. They became investment bankers, lawyers, and doctors. But how can it be that I had such a strong sense of community if the majority of people there were so different from me? Were the other people closer to my values than I thought? Or was the identity of Haverford something separate from the individuals who were there? Certainly I think that people joining the Peace Corps is part of the identity of Haverford and that means something in my sense of what college I come from, even though it's not really what my friends or I are about. (I tend to be drawn to geek types rather than activist or Peace Corps types.) Could that also be the case for those who were not in my circle of friends? That even though they didn't fit the mold of what Haverford was about, it meant something to them and was part of who they are?
  5. I don't like the way the rich kids' attitude rubbed off on me. The attitude seemed to be "We are at one of the best schools in the country, so we must be smart. We should have fulfilling careers. Being a housewife or farmer is too boring for us." I sometimes feel that my ambitions are supposed to be more ambitious than they are.
I still feel as I did in high school: I like Haverford's values, humility, humor, and sense of community. However, I also feel more at home in New England, and in a more rustic environment (such as Marlboro College).