Skip navigation
Return to Issue

Director's Message



  • Author:
    By W. Scott Westerman III
  • Published:
    Spring 2015

In 1968, Don McMillan took on a plum assignment: managing one of the tallest residence halls in the world. Hubbard Hall was just two year’s old and there were more rules about living on campus in those days. Title IX was still four years away.
Women lived exclusively in the south tower and had to be inside by 10:30 p.m. weeknights: it was hoped that would encourage men to do the same.

Management also required students to follow strict protocols. There was even a standard length to which window blinds could be raised to give the building a pleasing, uniform appearance from the outside.

So it was a highly unusual request when two young men who lived on the 12th floor approached Don with a request to install a bright red light in their west-facing window. Then, as now, Hubbard was East Lansing’s most prominent edifice.

The idea of creating a beacon to symbolize MSU’s centrality in the community and in the lives of students was appealing.

Don blessed the notion and thus began a tradition. Over the years, various accounts of the origin and purpose of Hubbard Hall’s red light became the stuff of urban legend. But one fundamental fact remained: future generations came to rely on its glow just as ancient mariners depended on the stars to guide them safely into port. 

For many of us, the things we learned, the experiences we had and the people we met at Michigan State continue to be our beacons. They form the foundation of our character and are reassuring dimensions we can always turn to, in good times and in bad.

The rules are a little different today. It is not uncommon for men and women to share a floor in a residence hall.  Gone are the landline telephones that hung on the wall of every room. We record matriculation data in gigabytes and not on typewritten pages.

The classroom lecture still opens new vistas of thought, in parallel with state-of- the-art educational technology. The MSU LiveOn campus experience is still just as appealing, if not more so. This generation of Spartans enjoys the finest residential dining in the world in a neighborhood atmosphere that brings every important resource within easy reach.

Big feels small at Michigan State. Our nationally recognized overseas study program turns the world into a classroom. And the diversity of our student population exposes today’s young women and men to a microcosm of the environment in which they will make their indelible mark.

After graduation, Spartans enter the fray with the knowledge that there are 500,000 fellow Spartans around the world. We’ll catch them when they stumble, pull them back down to earth when the trappings of material success seduce them and celebrate the inevitable successes that will be theirs, wherever they apply what they learned at MSU.

They understand that “to whom much is given, much is expected.” Their inculcated desire to keep listening, learning and serving is the philanthropic essence that has always defined the Spartan Spirit.

Such is the alchemy of experience that today’s Spartans enjoy. Times change. Traditions evolve. But our commitment to the values we learned at Michigan State University still shines as a beacon of hope and opportunity.

Wherever there may be darkness, we will shine the light of knowledge. Wherever there are challenges, we will employ commitment and tenacity. Wherever there may be ignorance, illness or poverty, we are dedicated to transforming lives and opening new horizons.

As only Spartans can. As only Spartans Will. ?