It probably wasn't enough to land us on Princeton Review's infamous annual list of party schools, but our Founders Day celebration on April 20 certainly showed that Oxy knows how to party.
The Ferris wheel that towered over the Quad signaled that the birthday celebration kicking off the College's 125th anniversary year was something special. Or maybe it was the screams from its riders, reacting to its unusual speed. But that did nothing to discourage the students and alumni, faculty, and staff who waited patiently in line for their turn, or tested their strength or skill on the old-fashioned games, snacked on popcorn, printed their own keepsake on a hand press, or posed in period garb in front of a huge photo backdrop of the original Boyle Heights campus. There was a genuinely festive atmosphere in the air that proved so seductive that some faculty were persuaded to let their Friday afternoon classes out early.
Some of the day's biggest draws had nothing to do with carnival rides; rather, it was the intellectual and professional firepower of some remarkable Oxy alumni—Todd Garner '88, Ian McKinnon '89 and Soroosh Shambayati '86, and Octavio Herrera '98 and Zaryn Dentzel '05—who drew standing-room-only crowds to a series of panel discussions on Hollywood, post-recession financial markets, and online entrepreneurship. It was only fitting that we opened the new Samuelson Alumni Center that day—the gorgeous new building prominently positioned at the main entrance to Oxy that provides a long-overdue campus headquarters for alumni.
For me, the emotional highlight of the day was Steve Hinchliffe '55's short but moving remarks at the 125th dinner in Hillside Theater. Steve's tribute to his late mentor, economics professor Laurence De Rycke, and the role his teacher played in his career, cut to the heart of the Oxy experience. As he reminded us, his is only one of many stories of students over the decades whose lives have been transformed by Oxy faculty.
That theme—of lives transformed and alumni who daily demonstrate the value of a liberal arts education—was carried through Commencement, where we presented honorary degrees to four distinguished alumni. Steve Cooper '68 and Patt Morrison '74 both took the opportunity to emphasize, with humor and affection, the lasting impact of their Oxy experience. The same was true at Reunion Weekend, where similar accounts were offered by this year's Alumni Seal Award recipients. Collectively, these stories are Oxy's story. And I can't think of a more compelling reason to party—or a greater source of inspiration as we work to create the stories of the next generation of Oxy alumni.
Jonathan Veitch, President