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Director's Message

  • Author:
    W. Scott Westerman III
  • Published:
    Winter 2015

In the Stillness of a Winter Walk, Gratitude and Purpose Warm the Spirit

            Winter at Michigan State University tests the constitution. For students living in South Campus, it’s a daily fight against the Arctic winds as they cross the tundra, inadequately protected by the gossamer layers some call winter clothing. At night, even the lights of the Capital City can’t prevent Orion from marching across the sky, his belt reflected like a dancing diamond necklace in the waters of the Red Cedar as it tumbles over the rocks near the library complex.

            Such is the scene that greets me as I leave my office. It’s cold and the car beckons. But in the quiet silence of a winter evening, I can’t resist another walk across campus.

            Spartan Stadium looks taller, bigger and even more majestic than it did when I first saw her. Hospitality suites now take her elevation even higher into the night and I think about the many Spartan Fund supporters who made it possible.

            I walk along the river and up past Farm Lane to the banks beside the Auditorium. Looking to the right, I remember the exquisite experience that is summer school, when everybody sat on the banks, textbooks in one hand, something cool to drink in the other, wondering how anyone could concentrate on studying in a green paradise like this.

            I salute Hubbard Hall in the east, the spontaneous red light in her top floor still burning four decades later. Nobody knew why it was installed, and even now I’m not sure we know why it still glows.

            I cross the river again at Bogue Street and turn toward Circle Drive, passing some of the first structures that rose on the ground when MSC, the nation’s premiere land-grant college, first started educating Michigan youth. 

            From the beginning, MSU taught self-sufficiency, work ethic and the sciences of how to get more from the land while protecting the environment. These were the lessons that provided our great-grandparents food, clothing and shelter, and that continue to sustain our state, our nation and our world.

            Circling back toward the parking lot, I stop to consider Sparty, the statue that symbolizes all that was, is and will be Michigan State University. And I ponder the challenges ahead.

            Our evolving economy can no longer provide as firm a foundation for a state-sponsored education as it did when I was first a Spartan. The mantle must further shift to men and women of vision who are willing to invest in future generations. 

            This is the essence of the capital campaign for MSU. If we are to Empower Extraordinary achievements and produce the next generation of leaders, lifesavers and world changers, we must do what the last generation did for us.

            And invest.

            At every crucial turn in our lives, someone has invested in us. People who came before us made it possible for us to become Spartans. Considering the magnitude of the return we have enjoyed as a result of our relationship with Michigan State University, contributing to her sustainable future is the natural thing to do.

            The campus is virtually deserted as I walk her paths this wintry evening. But the presence of tens of thousands of students who have been inspired by MSU’s teachers, who have found passion, a mission, friendship and love on these very grounds, is still profoundly palpable. They may have left her ivy-covered halls, but MSU is still with them, wherever they may be—and they with her.

            Look back over your Spartan life and ponder the miracle of philanthropy that made it possible. And consider the wisdom of Sherronia Dorsey-Walker, a junior who is studying social work at MSU thanks to the Steve Smith/Pershing High/MSU Scholarship for Academic Achievement.

            “No matter what your current situation may be,” she says, “you can be a philanthropist. My goal is to start my own scholarship program so others can have the same opportunity that Steve Smith gave to me.”

            Sherronia has discovered the real secret of Spartan success. Each of us has the power to be a contributor to the greater good.

            This is the essence of a Spartan’s Will: gratitude for those who made our success possible and a dedication to sustaining the Spartan experience for generations to come.