By Lori Bettison-Varga
Eighth President of Scripps College
Dear Scripps students,
I am grateful to The Scripps Voice for giving me the opportunity to write a letter to you on the eve of my departure from Scripps College. My time at Scripps has been immensely rewarding, and my departure in no way diminishes my sense of loyalty to the College. But, I have told students to pursue your passions with gusto! If I give that advice, then I must follow it as well.
I have always saved notes received from students and colleagues, literally jamming them into various crevices in my desk drawers! As I cleaned out my desk this summer I had the pleasure of reliving some of my experiences with students who have been impacted by Scripps and who have, in turn, impacted the College and me personally -- opening my mind, challenging me to work for a better Scripps for the next generation of students.
At the top of the pile is a series of sticky notes with translated Arabic words – a monthly lesson during my first semester from a student who reached out to get to know the new person on campus. We have since forged a friendship that will be life long, as your friendships with staff, faculty, and fellow students will prove to be. I discovered pictures of RAs in thank you cards, peer mentors and SAS notes, graduation notices, and postcards from students on study abroad – each a part of the Scripps quilt I carry with me on my journey. I found notes from recent graduates reflecting on their Scripps experience after a year or two away from campus, with appreciation and, as always, ideas for the College’s continued improvement. I reread letters from alumnae (mostly, but not all, positive!), messages from staff and faculty members, a wish of support on a card from a trustee that was delivered with flowers…and many more examples of thoughtful, heartfelt expressions from members of the community who share a deep and abiding love for Scripps.
I’m very grateful for this treasure trove of words that help me relive my years at the College. I think about the many letters I could write to all those who have influenced me during my time at Scripps – from students to faculty, staff to alumnae, friends to Board members, colleagues in the Consortium to community members. It takes so many people to make this College such a special community – imperfect, yes, but at its core, a community that seeks to help its students thrive, to find their voices and their agency as change makers, to support them as they pursue their passions.
Robert Louis Stevenson said “Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.” The College’s seal, La Semeuse, holds the image of the sower, sowing “the good seeds of thought, of action, of life.” These three seeds capture the hopes of a Scripps education, and the responsibility each of you has to plant those seeds with care - for your personal growth and the welfare of those close to you; for your community, wherever you may find yourself at each point in your life; for the world, because your actions have the power to make a difference. What I have found in my time at Scripps, knowing current students and those of the recent past, is that we – all of us at Scripps – may place confidently and firmly in your hands our hope for the future.
As I move from higher education into the work of broader education for public good at the Museum, I wish you all well and thank you for the privilege of knowing you, working with you, and serving you as president of Scripps College.