Welcome back for the spring semester. I hope you enjoyed your time off. I was very happy to see many of you on campus early in January to take classes in our first Winter Session. Thanks to the overwhelming response to Winter Session (it’s a great way to take care of some of your basic requirements courses), we will be offering even more classes next winter.
As always, the college will be offering some exciting lectures, exhibits, and concerts in the months ahead. I am looking forward to the events being presented in honor of African American Month, especially the February 8 presentation “The Scope of Freedom: Dr. King’s Civil Rights Movement.” This will feature Rabbi Moshe Shur, the head of our campus Hillel, Dean Savage from our Sociology Department, and graduate Peter Geffen, who will talk about their work registering voters in the south in 1965 as part of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s SCOPE project.
If you are not familiar with the college’s art spaces, now is the time to make their acquaintance. Beginning February 8, the Queens College Art Gallery in the Rosenthal Library will be showing How We Use Land, a remarkable exhibit of black-and-white photos of Queens County taken by award-winning photographer (and 1986 QC graduate) Paul Anthony Melhado. And beginning February 14, the Godwin-Ternbach Museum in Klapper Hall is offering The Fashion of Cultures, a colorful look at clothing with examples from ancient Peruvian textiles to the fashions of a contemporary Sardinian designer.
I have been fortunate in recent months to be able to spend time with some of the college’s earliest graduates. (We call them the Alumni Pioneers, these graduates of the classes of 1941 to 1955.) They are a remarkable group of men and women. I am amazed at how many of our first graduates went into the armed services right after graduation during World War II, and participated in such extraordinary efforts as the Manhattan Project and the cracking of the Germans’ secret code. I guess it is fair to say that these men and women received an education from Queens College that helped them to address the greatest challenges of their time.
And this is what the finest colleges always do: they give their students the knowledge and skills to be successful and move society forward. The excellent recommendations of our Task Force on General Education—which will be voted on by the Academic Senate this semester—will give our students the skills to address the challenges they will surely face when they graduate. This is the first major curriculum review the college has undertaken in almost a quarter century, a time that has witnessed an explosion of knowledge and a revolution in technology.
William Butler Yeats said “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” The recommendations of our Task Force will allow us to light that fire in our students for years to come. If we do not update our curriculum, we risk graduating students who are unprepared for the challenges of their time. It is a risk we cannot take.
I wish you much success in the coming semester.