Dear DePauw Students, Faculty, Staff, Alumni, Parents and Guardians,
It is with a joyous heart that I write to you today, on my first official day as DePauw’s president and a new member of the DePauw family.
I offer my thanks to so many of you, both on campus and off, who have shared well wishes, along with your hopes and dreams for this remarkable institution. Your aspiration is an inspiration and has reinforced a belief that first drew me to DePauw: that even in the midst of challenges the opportunities before us are boundless.
I have long known DePauw as one of America’s great liberal arts colleges, and I accepted the appointment to serve as president with a deep respect for its history and legacy of student transformation. I also see great potential for DePauw, with all of us working together – students, faculty, staff, alumni, friends and our Greencastle community – to ensure this legacy grows and evolves not only to meet the needs of the students we serve today, but those we will serve in the years and decades to come. The foundations of this institution are as strong as any in the country. I am deeply committed to collaborative, values-based leadership and creating a sense of renewal that taps our historic strengths while positioning DePauw for an even brighter future.
Transitioning to a presidency in a time of social distancing and mask-wearing certainly presents challenges. I am undeterred; my work has begun in earnest and with great enthusiasm and I’m focused intently on listening and engaging with each of you in the coming weeks and months – virtually and in person (safely!). It is an honor to be in this community of faculty, whose teaching and scholarship is at the heart of our mission; staff, whose expertise, resilience and dedication deliver an unsurpassed student experience; alumni, who exemplify the leadership qualities we seek for our graduates and whose love and energy for DePauw are critical to its success; and most important, students, who are the reason we all are here. DePauw is not DePauw without the culture and vibrancy of its student body. My career has been devoted to championing empowered and diverse students and their voices; students must always be at the center of who we are and what we seek to accomplish together.
In my conversations with many of you, I have strived to convey that I will be guided by a belief that DePauw must be an institution that leads – first and foremost – with its values, and with the conviction that DePauw will be at its best when we put our values to action in our scholarship, teaching, campus culture and daily work. Part of our work together will be to determine what those values mean for DePauw’s future and in this current moment – one in which issues of inequity, injustice and systemic racism are paramount even as we continue to wrestle with the unprecedented public health challenges of a global pandemic. Our institutional voice on these critical issues is an important reflection of our values and our heritage.
Though their precise origin is debated, words often attributed to John Wesley are worth remembering as we consider the intersection of our values and the role of the university in the years to come:
Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can.
As a liberal arts institution, we seek to find truth and provide our students with the intellectual tools to understand, examine and develop solutions to the problems affecting our society and the human condition. We must model and help them develop skills to lead in a rapidly changing world, in times of crisis and calm, and above all demonstrate that our differences should not divide us, but are a source of knowledge and inspiration. Again, I am inspired by John Wesley: Though we cannot think alike, may we not love alike? May we not be of one heart, though we are not of one opinion?
In the time since I was announced as president, I have seen how you poured your DePauw spirit into your work, studies and support for one another and adapted amid turmoil and uncertainty. It has provided me great insight into what makes this community so special and is among the many reasons I am uplifted by the opportunity before all of us to reimagine DePauw together.
Since we cannot gather in person, I invite you to join me today at 4 p.m. for a short virtual gathering, in the spirit of rejuvenation and renewal, as we begin a new chapter in DePauw’s history. During that time, I will welcome your comments about what you most love about DePauw and what you most hope for its future.
With my sincerest respect and admiration, and in anticipation of our journey together,
Lori S. White, Ph.D.