From President Veitch
The End Is Only the Beginning
Oxy’s 125th anniversary year has been filled with remarkable moments: Steve Hinchliffe ’55’s moving tribute to his professor, friend, and mentor, the late Laurence De Rycke, at Founders Day. Surprise and delight at seeing Oxy125 banners on Wilshire Boulevard and in other parts of the city far from Eagle Rock. (My mother, not coincidentally, happens to live near Wilshire.) A fascinating set of alumni and faculty interviews on the last 60 years of College history arranged through the Library’s OxyCorps program. And a series of distinguished alumni speakers—activists, artists, attorneys, authors, diplomats, scholars, and scientists—making the most compelling case possible for why Oxy has mattered and continues to matter.
Equally significant is the way that we have avoided turning our anniversary into a sterile exercise in nostalgia. Much has changed at Oxy: Anyone from the Class of 1953 or 1963 or 1973 will find many new buildings and programs on campus. Entire academic disciplines have emerged since then, particularly in the sciences. But anyone who remembers Crossroads Africa will recognize the emphasis on global citizenship that continues today at Oxy. Anyone who performed in or attended a Dance Concert will embrace the campuswide artistic phenomenon that is Dance Production today. Anyone who tutored local high school kids in the Upward Bound program will applaud the College’s continuing commitment to community service and a mutually rewarding collaboration with community partners. All of these elements—global culture, the arts, engagement with Los Angeles—can be found in the College’s year-old strategic plan.
As President John Willis Baer put it a century ago, Oxy is for new progress on old lines. Whether the issue is world affairs or experiential learning, the fundamental values that have sustained the College since 1887 are those that will sustain the College for another 125 years. It’s no coincidence that we are formally dedicating Oxy’s new 1-megawatt solar array at Founders Day on April 20. The array is not only an embodiment of Oxy’s liberal arts values—an innovative combination of art and engineering, designed to function as an aesthetic object as well as a source of renewable energy—but it is a potent symbol of Oxy’s institutional momentum and of our focus on the future.
The array is only one of several campus projects now underway that will play an important role in positioning Oxy for future success. The interior of Johnson Hall is being transformed to create a dynamic new home for Occidental’s international programs: the McKinnon Family Center for Politics and Global Affairs. When the McKinnon Center opens next year it will be the architecturally stunning and high-tech home to the departments of diplomacy and world affairs, politics, economics, and languages.
Also on tap for next year is the opening of the new student activities center on the remodeled ground floor of the Johnson Student Center. The Rose Hills Foundation’s generosity has made possible a one-stop location for every aspect of student involvement, including ASOC, the Office of Community Engagement, the Neighborhood Partnership Program, and satellite offices of the Career Development Center and the Intercultural Community Center. When the new suite makes its debut, it will be possible to walk through the door and get an instant idea of what student life at Oxy is all about. Planning—and fundraising—continue for the Mary Norton Clapp Library and the Academic Commons, our ongoing effort to reimagine the intellectual heart of campus for the 21st century. Our goal here is to keep alive the culture of the book while responding to today’s technological revolution and the evolving needs of our students and faculty.
One of the major threads that ties all these projects together is that none of them involve new construction. Instead, each takes advantage of Oxy’s existing Myron Hunt-designed buildings, in line with what Bob Winter has identified as Oxy’s traditional practice of “respect[ing] the work of our principal architect, recycling it when times change, but preserving its exteriors almost exactly as he drew them.” The beauty of our campus is one of our major assets, and the advent of the centennial of the Eagle Rock campus in 2014 presents us with the opportunity to celebrate that fact and refocus our attention on how to enhance its historic charm. The end of our 125th year is indeed only the beginning.
Jonathan Veitch, President
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