Hiram College

Dear Hiram Friends,

I hope that you are still basking in the post-Thanksgiving bliss that lingers this time of year. As I gave thanks this season for gifts of many sizes and shapes, I was drawn to the common denominator that tied together those who contributed time or treasure. Alumni, friends, and donors of all types exude a genuine interest in paving a forward path that rests sturdily on a storied 170-year foundation.

Three course milestones in this forward path include the following:

A few weeks ago, James Thompson, Ph.D., associate professor of political science, led 22 Garfield Public Leadership Scholars on a trip to Washington, DC where they immersed themselves in a tour of the Pentagon, a trek to key monuments and agencies, and a public debate with a Cato Institute researcher on the Green New Deal. The Scholars represented at least half a dozen majors (political science, nursing, theater, biology, chemistry, and history) which catalyzed spirited and multidisciplinary discussions. You can read more about this important learning experience through Scholar Jeffrey Robb’s reflections.  

Meanwhile, in an interdisciplinary lab course, Creating Resilience, environmental studies professors Sarah Mabey, Ph.D., and Debbie Kasper, Ph.D., guided 12 students from five different majors (environmental studies, education, political science, management, and sport management) to forge their own set of connections. In this course, students examined how opportunities and threats to our social wellbeing relate to environmental opportunities and challenges. And they honed quite a few practical skills along the way as they designed and built, with their own hands, a functional cob oven at little cost. Who wouldn’t appreciate an assignment that builds personal and community resilience as it brings people together to prepare and share homemade pizza and other treats?

In another engaging and highly relevant class, psychology professor Michelle Nario-Redmond, Ph.D., prompted students to explore the concept of “normalcy” and what it means to be human, healthy, and valued. Her course, Freak, Gimpy, Crazy, Crip: Who is Normal focused on the enduring question of “who is normal.” To answer this question, students were required to examine the social determinants of disability and the dynamics at play for people who deviate from community norms.

Along with pedagogical innovations, fundraising milestones continue to mark the path forward.

In this area, Carly Arthur (assistant director of alumni relations & development) worked with 10 students during the recent evening calling program (from mid-September through early October) to raise $115,623 in cash gifts and pledges for the Hiram Fund and a few other funds. Student callers did a phenomenal job in connecting with our supporters to secure those gifts. If you made a pledge during that time, we thank you for sending in your contribution.

Another huge fundraising milestone came in the form a $3.4 million estate donation from the late Harlene Jones Lee ’51. As an educator and world-renowned ice skater, Lee dedicated herself passionately to her career and her calling, and saved and invested handsomely in earnings earmarked for her alma mater. You can learn details about Lee’s life and legacy here.

Some milestones sit prominently on the trail; others are tucked a bit behind the main path. Though less visible, the role that off-the-beaten-path milestones play in charting the future and keeping students on track is no less important. Let me end with three examples.

A colleague who habitually creates a meaningful and vibrant out-of-classroom environment is Bethani Burkhart, director of career and academic development. Most recently, she worked closely with Jackie Noall, Director of Alumni Relations, and team to roll out a Fall 2019 student-alumni connection program. Here, current students meet and talk with alums, trustees, and friends who come to campus to share not only professional and personal nuggets but also the contact information of others in the field who may be able open doors along the way.

Another behind-the-scenes person and team I’d like to recognize is Campus Safety Director Dan Fynes and the team that works diligently to keep our community safe. Whether it is conveying timely information, being proactively present on campus, or helping those in minor and major need, Dan and his team are “out there, on the spot.”

Lastly, Matthew McKenna, executive director of information technology, has done a remarkable job in spearheading Tech and Trek and helping disseminate emerging findings and successes to Apple, Inc. As a result, we have been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School for 2019-2022. According to Apple, these schools—some of the most innovative in the world—serve as tangible centers of excellence ​in education and technology. We’ll take that designation proudly!

The trek forward continues, and with your assistance we continue to move full speed ahead.

Your President,

President Varlotta Signature

Lori E. Varlotta