On December 1, 2010, an awards ceremony took place to honor some past and current members of the Board of Trustees of Shimer College for their effort to rescue the school from financial and academic ruin. That effort was unsuccessful, though time will tell if it was entirely for naught.
The event took place over dinner at the Union League Club in downtown Chicago. Seven trustees attended in person and two called in to send their greetings and share some thoughts on the occasion. (I had resigned on October 15. A copy of my resignation letter can be found here.) We were also honored by the presence of the former president of Shimer, Tom Lindsay, and the “anonymous donor.”
Despite having lost the battle to set a new direction for the college, the mood was positive and laughter was the rule rather than the exception. We celebrated the new friendships that had resulted from our shared experience. We listened as President Lindsay talked about the future of higher education, the need for changes of the sort we had hoped to bring to Shimer, and some of the promising developments underway.
As always, the anonymous donor was at turns thoughtful and entertaining, thanking us for taking on a task we all knew would be difficult, but explaining that all great achievements faced high risks of failure.
A highlight of the evening was the presentation of “distinguished service awards” to each trustee who was present. (Awards were sent to pro-reform trustees who were unable to attend the ceremony.) The beautiful crystal glass awards were engraved with each trustee’s name and the message: “For distinguished and courageous service on the Board of Trustees of Shimer College, with deepest thanks and gratitude from your fellow reformers.”
We parted with promises to stay in touch with one another and to pursue some of the exciting opportunities being created by distance learning technologies.