Last events of year capture Campbell spirit
As the school year comes to a close, the air of conclusion and retrospection is greater this year due to the retirement of our own President F. Gregory Campbell and thus the ending of an era here at Carthage College. Over the past two weeks a number of events have featured President Campbell, two of which were the Hannibal Lecture he gave on April 12 and the naming of the Campbell Student Union after him.
The spirit of these events can be summarized by an anecdote of Campbell’s that he shared at the honors convocation and alluded to in his Hannibal lecture. He spoke of his alma mater where the mascot was a bull dog. He related the experience of a bull dog biting the leg of a professor and not letting go while the professor flung him back and forth. He concluded by stating, “and if you didn’t fly off, they gave you a degree.”
However, if there is one thing any student attending these events can say distinguishes President Campbell from a bull dog, it is his poise. During the “Top 10 Campbell moments” Carthage Student Government President Josh Baker, ’12, related to us a tale of Campbell climbing to the top of Mt. Everest and then enjoying a glass of Pinot Noir. Though we can all laugh at the prospect of anyone sipping wine at the highest peak on earth, the image captures a certain spirit of Campbell’s.
During the Hannibal lecture, Campbell told of his journey to becoming the president of our college, striving through his undergraduate and Goethe’s work “Faust,” to being told by a professor he respected harshly critiquing his writing, into his studies in Harvard and the writing of his book. Each of these events shows what appears to be an insatiable ambition to cultivate knowledge for himself and in others.
What is most striking is that through Campbell’s numerous speeches it was clear that he did not only desire to cultivate learning in himself and his peers, but that he was constantly looking towards the future. Campbell stated emphatically in his Hannibal lecture that, “I think humans are capable of improvement.” Though the statement seems simple, or even obvious on the surface it is an incredibly profound statement that can be seen to be indicative of Campbell’s time here at Carthage.
Everyone knows the cliché “history repeats itself.” However, Campbell’s statement contradicts that, showing essentially that change is constant and it is within our hands whether we progress. Campbell stressed that such progress is slow and difficult.
To emphasize such a statement, Campbell brought printed bound sets of Carthage’s 5-year plans which demonstrate the fact that for one to be successful they must not only make it through the daily grind, but must be working constantly for a greater goal. As throughout the speech Campbell also stressed the importance of history, stating that to “think historically breeds realism and progress long-term.”
Considering all the emphasis on dedication and long-term goals, the fact that our union now bears the name of President Campbell seems extremely appropriate. At the naming of the building, Campbell asked us all not to refer to the building as “Campbell” as we may “Lentz” or “Clausen” but rather to continue to call it the Union, and relate to it as such a name implies, as a place where students can come together.
As he referred to college as a “hot house experience,” we can all now look to our Union as a place where the determination, relentless efforts for improvement and dignified nature of President Campbell can live on.