Founder's Day Letter from the President
Dr. David Chard
February 1, 2017
As the new president of Wheelock College, it is with great pleasure that I continue the tradition of writing a letter to you on Founder's Day in honor of Lucy Wheelock's birthday. Our beloved founder once said, "The one thing that makes life worth living is to serve a cause." To serve a cause ... a powerful phrase to which Wheelock College alumni, faculty, students, and staff hold themselves accountable. By serving a cause, you are - and they are - "tough enough to inspire a world of good."
Miss Wheelock's legacy as a formidable advocate of kindergarten and agent of change inspires me. A forward thinker during a time when it was challenging for a woman to be bold, she promoted social justice and teaching the art of human possibility across borders, cultures, and economic statuses. She had faith in her students whom she trained to become kindergarten teachers, telling them: "You will be better than those before you to protect childhood, to defend the oppressed, to further justice."
When I think about serving a cause, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu also inspires me. In October of 2007, Wheelock College welcomed him to its campus to receive an honorary degree and lead the Wheelock College Youth Symposium, a two-day event called "Bridges to Hope and Understanding: Exploring Truth and Reconciliation." Eager students from middle and high schools across Boston gathered to participate in the event, in which the South African Nobel Peace Prize recipient introduced to them and the College community the meaning of "Ubuntu," a concept that would become interwoven into the Wheelock College experience.
Archbishop Tutu, who earned countless humanitarian awards in his crusade for social justice, is guided by his faith and the concept of Ubuntu, which originates from the Bantu languages of South Africa and acknowledges human interdependence and connectedness in the statement "I am because you are." It is a traditional African philosophy that offers us an understanding of ourselves in relation to a world undivided by race, culture, or creed.
I have learned, however, that what one personally derives from serving a cause can often be more profound than the actual service. I served in the Peace Corps in Lesotho, Southern Africa for four years. The Peace Corps has three specific goals. The first two include service, and the third consists of learning from and embracing different cultures. To my surprise - while in South Africa - I learned the fundamentals of teaching.
In Lesotho, we taught in communities with limited resources. In the U.S., we are reliant on technology, and the technology often takes precedence over what students are learning; they miss underlying concepts. For example, we teach plant biology using videos to show time-lapsed photography. In Lesotho, we did not have access to such technology. We actually planted the seedlings and watched them grow. Of course, we needed to be sure we planted seedlings during the respective times of year in which they would thrive. I was immersed in a culture that necessitated hands-on lessons.
I have also learned that service takes many forms. Miss Wheelock said, "Many causes will solicit your interest and aid," and then asked, "Which will you serve?" She acknowledged the plethora of ways in which a person can better the lives of children and families. I have served on several boards, one of my favorites being a board for an organization I currently serve: On the Road Motors. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded in 2013, On the Road Motors offers vehicle selection assistance; long-term financial mentoring; and affordable, low-risk loans to low-income individuals who need transportation to work, buy groceries, visit doctors, properly care for their children, and more. The program facilitates healthier lifestyles for low-income individuals while they avoid becoming victims of predatory lending. Lack of crucial transportation is a little-known - but significant - problem for single mothers, people who have experienced domestic violence, former felons, and more.
As the Wheelock College community moves further into the year 2017, members of the community will continue to serve causes, for doing so is woven into our fabric. Whether it is alumni teaching locally or globally, practicing social work, pursuing child life, simply imparting their wisdom, or supporting the College in a way that makes student scholarships possible; a faculty member awakening students to social justice across borders and guiding them not only toward leadership but also toward humility; or a student finding his or her own life changed while changing the lives of others in service learning or in his or her field placement, Wheelock College will continue to leave footprints in the path of progress.
Thank you all for your personal commitment to service and your unwavering dedication to and support of Wheelock College.
David Chard, Ph.D.