Peter van Dijk '82:
President, Alumni Association

Peter van Dijk '82My job this morning is to officially welcome you to the Sarah Lawrence Alumni community.

So, welcome…and my job is done. But they did give me a minute, so I’d like to share a thought on what it means to be part of our community. And I think it has a lot to do with finding your own place within a greater legacy, a legacy built at critical moments over many decades.

Like in the 50’s, when 18 Sarah Lawrence professors were hauled to the McCarthy hearings and our entire community rallied to their defense. Or when our fellow alumni rode south to join the fight for civil rights, or each time a Sarah Lawrence alumna assumed a position of significant authority previously only held by men. It was built when President Lawrence and Chairman Goodman declared that we would be a sanctuary campus.

When I arrived at Sarah Lawrence, in 1978, it was illegal just to be gay in 46 states, including New York. But at Sarah Lawrence, LGBT students could live openly in a welcoming environment. That’s part of our legacy, too.

History marches on and some things actually do change for the better. But it’s important to remember that, at those times, the stances and the actions our college took were rare if not unique. And they took vision and they took courage.

So, when you think about all of the people who left here and went on to do interesting and important things with their lives, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Because, if you want to do something interesting and important with your life, it helps to have vision, and it’s essential to have courage.

So I would like to leave you with two simple wishes. The first is that you embrace the legacy that you have earned the right to claim…that whatever vision of a successful life might be, that you pursue it courageously. And my second wish is that you will all now join us in becoming stewards of that legacy and supporters of the institution from which it emanates. Let’s make sure that decades from now one of you will have the opportunity to stand here, and tell the next generation of Sarah Lawrence graduates what you think it means to be part of this community.