Be It Ever So

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All Sons and Daughter, hail to thee our Alma Mater! To my fellow Elmira College classmates, I am writing to you because I hear your pain. As an alumna, it feels as if that which unites us as Soaring Eagles – our traditions – was taken from us quietly, simply, quickly, unceremoniously. It hurts. I get it. I feel it, too. I miss singing the songs, waiting for the slip of paper under my door, the balloons, Simeon Benjamin playing over the clock tower, the purple rock salt. I miss it all. Elmira College was, and always will be, my home.

Sing loud her praises, ever laud her name.

Elmira College was my home for only four years, and I graduated over five years ago, but I felt like I have been a part of the family for lifetimes. EC gave me the opportunity to experience a life some could hardly dream of. I learned to write and to communicate effectively. Accurately. Freely. I studied the great works of the Western canon. I tested out of math (THANK HEAVENS). I lived in Paris and learned two foreign languages. I took a science class that, although it made me cry from the brain warping stress, fueled a passion in my career years later. Before Elmira, and even during Elmira, I was not a science student. Since graduation, since my second walk across the portico of Cowles Hall, I have traveled to three different countries, worked in schools, appreciated and supported the arts, and even performed in a musical. I’ve learned to lead and I’ve learned to follow. I work on a team of professionals hell bent on changing the world for the better. I lead a team of teenagers hell bent on doing the same. Elmira College gave me that. She took my passion and curiosity, she took my love for people and learning, and she taught me. She prepared me for the world and sent me out to love it and learn from it.

In thankfulness to her, oh what can we give?

I will admit that I was heartbroken when I heard that students would no longer be singing for a Mountain Day. Our songs! Our noisemakers! Our silly fun parade to the President’s Home with the women on our floor from the dorm. I remember the year that I got to lead Mountain Day singing as the Student Association President. I loved Mountain Day, and I love the songs. I love the songs, I love purple and gold. But even more than the traditions that Elmira College gave me, I am even more thankful for the world and future that she taught me love. The songs and the traditions might not be the first thing you experience when you step foot on campus anymore, but the heart of Elmira College is still thriving. She thrives in the teachers, doctors, writers, peace corps volunteers, artists, scientists, service men and women, lawyers, social workers, advertisers, actors, professors. They all know the songs. We are out in the world still singing the songs. We are doing that because we are thankful for Elmira College.

Keep her before us; by her example live.

Before Elmira was songs and purple, she was a leader and a revolutionary. As an Elmira College Alumni, we belong to a history of men and women who believed in the value of educating women. They “had a confidence in a rare ideal,” at a time when it was unpopular to do so, that “perfection would be designed if women and books combined.” Some of the first alumnae of Elmira College were suffragettes. It’s likely that they sang and stood along side the greats like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Because of that confidence in 1855, and the greatness of my alumnae, I have an entire world of experience behind me and a world of opportunity in front of me in 2013. Go ahead and sing. No one will stop you from gathering on a front lawn in the middle of October and singing every song you know. Sing in the hallways. Stand on chairs and ask for a standing ovation. Celebrate that 6-pack of water. Bleed purple and gold. You can even do it at Elmira College! But remember that it is for Elmira that we sing, “by her example live.” By her example, we should have confidence in rare ideas and inspire unpopular movements. We should educate women. We should research diseases and cures. We should be a voice for those with no voice. We should learn the language of people who speak differently than us. We should be the men and women that Simeon Benjamin set out to educate.

Here then Elmira, mem’ries that inspire

Elmira, my years with you were incredible. Orientation was a blast – all four times I did it. I still have my beanie and two candles. I staple my paper backwards when I’m feeling nostalgic. The two years I was an RA prepared me for the year I’ve had as a supervisor of 85 teenage employees (God help me). Blowing up 18gagillion balloons and pinning them down two octagonal pavers apart  all over campus taught me to take pride in where and with whom I spend my time. Waking up at 7:00 a.m. on a Saturday for an 8:00 a.m. writing class taught me to work diligently and purposefully outside of the 9:00 – 5:00.

Diane Maluso taught me to go to bed before 10:00 p.m. at least one night a week.

A lasting and loyal love and devotion to you.

We’re disappointed about Mountain Day. It’s okay to be disappointed, and hurt, and maybe even angry. It was a part of our experience and the songs were a sparkle in our memories of Elmira College. When we graduated and sang this song together for the last time as a community, we did not stipulate our loyal love and devotion. We did not say “lasting, only if you keep the College exactly the way we remember it.” We linked and swayed and promised a lasting and loyal love and devotion. Elmira College gave us songs and octagons, Midnight Breakfast and Final Countdown. She gave us RAs and Orientation, beanies and candlelight. She gave us an education, experience, opportunity, and a community. She gave us our memories and our futures. We owe her a lasting and loyal love and devotion.

When we leave your fair halls, untried paths to know,

Elmira College has seen 155 classes of students knock on her doors, learn everything they can from her, and leave her fair halls. I remember very clearly the April of my senior year. I called my father in a panic attack because I had no idea what I was going to be doing after I graduated. Leaving Elmira was going to be s-c-a-r-y and I didn’t think I would be ready. I had only carried an aught at the end of my name for four years, but I felt like I couldn’t imagine my life without Elmira. Without the purple stains on my shoes, without my professors, without 8:00 a.m. writing class, without the songs. But Elmira prepared me for more than frightening uncertainty (although, you couldn’t have convinced me of that in April of my senior year). I was prepared for more school, more experiences, more people, more world. I moved across the country and studied in the heartland. I traveled to Paris again. I fell in love. I got a Masters degree. I got a full time job at a non-profit and my only job is to make my community better. My untried path to know is to change the world.

As you have taught us, BE IT EVER SO.

Elmira College, thank you. I’m sad that I can’t sing with you every October on the President’s Lawn. But I will do as you taught me. I will represent your name and your legacy. I will take the education you gave me – the education that was inspired by a rare idea – and keep learning. I will support the education of women and girls globally. I will always vote. And I will vote for social justice and civil rights. I will love math and science, social science and history. I will stand up for and along side people.

I will change the world and sing your songs.

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