by President George Bridges
Since last October, I’ve had the privilege of speaking with hundreds of students, staff, faculty, alumni, and many members of our Olympia and Tacoma communities.
I’ve learned about the many ways our college transforms the lives of individuals, contributes to the region, and sustains its strong national reputation for rigorous interdisciplinary study.
I’ve enjoyed meeting some of the college’s founders, the impressive individuals who envisioned an education centered on innovative approaches to teaching and learning. Among the first with whom I spoke was former Governor, U.S. Senator, and the college’s second president, Dan Evans. In Evergreen he imagined a school that would model learning across traditional disciplinary boundaries while abandoning many of the lockstep academic requirements revered by most colleges and universities.
I also spoke with founding faculty member Rudy Martin (who, sadly, recently passed away) and discussed how the college retained its commitment to interdisciplinary learning through coordinated study and to preserving the personal nature of an Evergreen education.
Evergreen alumni are among the most accomplished and inspiring individuals I’ve met in my career. Impressive accomplishments beget impressive advice and I have learned tremendous insights from graduates from every decade. Lynda Weinman ’76, well known for her company, lynda.com, told me about the college’s commitment to cultivating creativity among our students and the critical influence that faculty and her classmates had on her career successes. Retaining our passion for creative thinking and relational learning is essential to Evergreen’s future.
Matt Groening ’77 described his Evergreen education to me and it was as inspiring as it was hilarious, particularly his description of his tenure as editor of the Cooper Point Journal. He and others, including Evergreen Trustee Anne Proffitt ’76, dedicated an issue to a satirical critique of The Olympian, Olympia’s daily newspaper, referring to it irreverently as The 0 (as in zero). Apparently, Dan Evans—who was serving as Evergreen’s president at the time and who had little love for The Olympian’s editorials when he was governor—gave Groening a congratulatory thumbs-up over the piece. He is hilarious and brilliant—no wonder The Simpsons has captured the attention and imagination of generations of TV viewers.
A few weeks ago I had the privilege of working with Bre Pettis ’95 (pictured) and his father, Chuck Pettis. Bre urged us to develop a new narrative for Evergreen that builds our image beyond “four noes and hippies” (no grades, no majors, no requirements, no faculty rank, and hippie-like students everywhere) and to stress the many positives of an Evergreen education.
Here in Olympia I’ve met grads in almost every branch of state government. Pam MacEwan ’76 is the CEO of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. In visits to Seattle, I’ve met with Tim Girvin ’75, Ed Zuckerman ’77, Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner ’91, Dean Katz ’75, and Paul Goldberg ’91. Each told their own unique Evergreen story, praising the individual faculty members who inspired their thinking and describing how their experiences at Evergreen enabled them to create pathways for pursuing impressive careers in design, politics, environmental advocacy, activism, journalism, and music.
Among all of the alumni I’ve met, one of the most outspoken supporters of Evergreen is Denny Heck ’73, U.S. Representative to Congress for the 10th congressional district. I was fascinated to learn how Evergreen played a central role in his emergence as a political leader. I felt pride and amusement as he described to me a recent meeting he had with fellow congressional leaders and a national figure in higher education. They were discussing a “new vision” for undergraduate studies in America’s colleges and universities called “interdisciplinary learning.” Denny’s response: “It’s not new. Evergreen’s being doing that for 40 years!”
Witnessing everyone’s passion for the college reaffirms my belief that Evergreen’s future is bright. If we have not yet connected, please feel free to email me with your thoughts and advice. Your stories are important and will inform and guide me as we imagine Evergreen’s future together.