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ISSUE 119 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 9/30/2005

Presidential appreciation

By Executive Editors
Executive Editor

Friday, September 30, 2005

Everyone's talking about it, but no one's writing about it. An ambiguous e-mail sent to the student body last summer, a somewhat informative but mostly vague article in the Messenger this fall - these are few details students have received about one of the biggest changes that will happen to our campus since the addition of new buildings. We're talking about President Thomforde leaving at the end of this year, and we want to write about it.

We don't want to discuss why - because clearly the Board of the Regents doesn't want to tell us the real reason - and we don't want to point fingers and blame certain people or certain decisions. Instead, we want properly appreciate the only president the current student body has ever known.

We debated about when to write this editorial. At the beginning of the year, it didn't seem so newsworthy. At the end of the year, something important and scandalous always comes up. We chose Homecoming, probably the second-biggest weekend of the school year, when students and families and alumna are scoping out the changes inside Buntrock Commons, wielding giant foam fingers on the football field and ambling down St. Olaf Avenue on their way to town.

This spring, when it starts to sink in that President Thomforde is leaving, there will undoubtedly be laundry lists of his accomplishments - increasing St. Olaf's endowment, improving the first-year retention rate, advocating campus sustainability and implementing strategic and marketing plans. We’re impressed, but not surprised; Thomforde has always been dedicated to advancing the mission of the College. What we want to focus on, however, is why we're pretty sure that the president with the shortest tenure is going to leave the longest legacy.

Thomforde has been the most visible administrator on this campus in our four years attending St. Olaf. He is frequently seen strolling past Fireside, waving and smiling, stopping along the way to (bend down) and chat with students and faculty. His presence contributes to the "feel" we all link with leaves changing colors and the sweet scent of Malt-o-Meal - the sense of living at Olaf and knowing we're home.

Thomforde encouraged student views - and wasn't afraid to make his own heard as well. When the war in Iraq began in 2001, Thomforde put up an anti-war sign on his front lawn and subsequently sat with students on the stairs leading up to the Caf as part of an anti-war protest. It was refreshing and inspiring to see an administrator voice his own beliefs and truly live out the values the College espouses.

Thomforde made us part of his life. He, quite literally, let us into his home on multiple occasions. Just a few weeks ago he e-mailed us about his upcoming wedding this December. Whether or not most college presidents send out e-mails about their personal lives, it makes us feel like we're part of the Olaf family - everyone expecting him to tear up at the opening convocation or knowing that he's one-foot and five-inches taller than our dean.

Even if Thomforde has to serve out this year knowing it's his last as our president, he has accepted the decision with class and isn't dwelling on the negative. In the Sept. 16 issue of the Messenger he expressed his goal of putting the focus on the College community. Since right now we can't bear the thought of walking into the reference room of the library next year and seeing his shiny bald held and red bowtie in a portrait on the wall, let's focus on making this year just as productive and memorable as the last five.

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