A reflection on 2019-20 from Dr. Tom Bogart

It wasn’t the year we expected. But it’s never the year we expect. We knew this would be a different year. After all, it was the Bicentennial. So we got to enjoy those celebrations, including the major activities around Homecoming and the culminating highlight of “Messiah.” 

I knew it was my last year here, so I tried to fully enjoy every first and last for the year. Every time I got to meet a new person, I appreciated that addition to my experience of community here. Every event and presentation was a chance to appreciate the skill and dedication–and exuberance–of our students. 

People have asked me what I most enjoyed about being president of Maryville College. It’s not presiding over major events, like convocation or commencement, although those are indeed wonderful occasions. But what is even more exciting is the chance to make a difference every day in the lives of people. I spent a lot of time in meetings or off campus, but my focus has always been on improving the environment for students here.

My entire adult life has been spent as an educator, and while I don’t have the privilege of being in the classroom every day, I still approach my work from the perspective of helping people learn. And not just learning to pass a test, but in order to discover and begin to achieve their full potential as a person.

Some days are better than others. What helps with the days that aren’t so good are the smiles and friendly greetings from students. You probably don’t realize how many times that wave or quick update on your day has given me the strength and energy to dive back into the work that needed to be done. As I would sit in Pearsons eating lunch and have people stop by and chat, it reminded me often of why Maryville College matters and what incredible people you are.

Now, of course, we don’t get to sit in Pearsons or walk across campus and say hello or gather together for events. So I miss those opportunities, but in order to feel a sense of loss there must be something real that has been lost. My ongoing reaction to COVID-19 has been to feel gratitude for the sense of community here.

As we use Zoom and other technology to maintain connections while keeping a safe physical distance, we remind ourselves that those connections are real and important, and that we will once again get to enjoy seeing each other in person at some point. And when we do, I am sure that we can be grateful for the luxury of shaking hands, sitting down together, cheering for the Scots, applauding the choir, and all those other luxuries that we didn’t realize were luxuries until they were taken away from us.

Thank you for giving me so many happy memories in the 2019-20 school year. Thank you for the chance to serve as your president for 10 years. Best wishes for a safe, happy, and successful summer, and for a fulfilling life in which you “do good on the largest possible scale” with scholarship, respect, and integrity. Go Scots!

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