Transformations

Personal stories of growth at Eckerd College

Walter Enloe, PhD ('71), Professor of Human Studies: Education and Liberal Arts, Hamline University

Greetings on our 50th anniversary of Eckerd College. My sister Mary, who attended Eckerd and lives in our hometown of Sevierville, Tennessee, has asked me several times if I would write something about how I was transformed by my FPC/Eckerd experience some 37 years ago. I've thought about it and finally realized my dilemma on what to write was that I wasn't honoring the transformative experiences I had at Eckerd that my old friend Sterling Watson speaks of- the epiphany; I was TRANSFORMED THROUGH THE LIVING EXPERIENCES OF BEING AT FPC from 1967-71.

From being in "experimental Core", to creating the LOGOS yearbook, to being in the “create your own education” of Jefferson House, to beginning a service learning program, to being Director of Academic Affairs and then President (of the student body), it was growing in a collaborative, just, learning community fostered by wonderful teachers (from Billy Wireman to Bill Thomson to Peg Rigg). I left Eckerd impacted to become a teacher, so I followed Bob Detweiler to the Graduate Institute of Liberal Arts at Emory (there might have been 12-15 FPCers there!). Years later, I am responsible for a Masters and Doctor program at Hamline University (where two of my favorite FPC teachers, Jim Carlson and Peter Meinke, taught before joining FPC in the early 1960s).

So the transformation happened in those FPC days. I enclose the following from those days that capture the essence of the values and philosophy that was nurtured at that place named Florida Presbyterian College.

Peace.

Walter Enloe '71, Ph.D.
Professor of Human Studies:
Education & Liberal Arts
Hamline University

Graduation Address - Florida Presbyterian College (Eckerd College) - May, 1971 Walter Enloe, Student Association President (chosen by the Faculty)

Norman Cousins, the editor of the college’s Core Magazine, The Saturday Review, has made some interesting observations on youth that are appropriate for this graduation. Appropriate not only to this occasion but appropriate and important in relation to the mood of graduation last year. The events last May were marked by a dominant and visible mood of frustration and discontent. Hostility, both physical and verbal, was directed, not just toward the national government because of Vietnam, Cambodia, poverty and overt racism, but at established authority in general. And with the unnecessary and brutal murdering of students at Jackson State And Kent State, a severe and wide reaching protest from students rose from America’s college campuses, demonstrating for Cousins that students were on their way to becoming "the most” potent political force in the country. Today, it is a year later and another graduating class.

There is a strange quietness on American campuses, a quietness that has always encompassed this college place we call FPC. There has been little change--- the problems have magnified; there is still Vietnam. Cambodia has been substituted with Laos; the problems of pollution, poverty, and racism have multiplied and the interest in the solution of these foreign and domestic problems is larger than ever. Change has come in perspective, in approach. A reaction has set in against mindless violence. Hopefully this quietness, this new perspective, this new approach will persist, for it is an approach that strives to force change through non-violence and constructive action. The reality of this present situation of chaos demands that we work for change; we must work for a compassionate society that stresses the importance of women and men before weapons, machines, technology and even institutions; it would be tragic and dangerous to dismiss the actions of the college students of last year as nothing more than the memory of a bad dream. Little has changed except the approach. Because underneath the explosiveness of last May was a genuine and basic dissatisfaction with a country that mistakes action for wisdom, and that makes people less important than what people make.

The message is still here and hopefully will grow- the message is not that students are dissatisfied; the message lies in a number of questions—do the men at the controls of this country know how to operate the controls? Are people more important than monetary gains? Are lives more important than presidential pride? Are the qualitative aspects of life more important than the quantitative? The problem for all of us, regardless of age, is whether we are sensitive enough to know what is happening in our world, and are we intelligent enough to act constructively in order to save it and our fellow man? This is not idealistic rhetoric supported by pious platitudes. Not anymore- this is reality; we’re talking about survival. Having a nice job, a new house, a college education, kids, money, a color TV, 2 cars, a dog and picnics on Saturday will mean nothing, and in turn will not even be possible unless we act constructively; material well-being will be of little consequence, if any, unless we have a commitment to make this a place where people are the most important.

This change calls for a sensitivity, and a type of wisdom that must develop within each of us before effective change can be made. Knowing most of my fellow Seniors, I feel that we have within us is the maturity and sophistication and commitment to work for change; but to be effective we must continue to learn and grow with the faith and hope that no matter how many times we fail, no matter how many times we despair, our commitment to change this society will somehow benefit our fellow man and this planet.

And it is that call for continued growth and learning in order to change society that is the implicit suggestion in Erik Erickson’s Young Man Luther. His message is that every sensitive person experiences within himself the contradictions of his age. The great person, he suggests, is the person who articulates and resolves these conflicts himself and then within society.

And by resolving the common and shared conflicts within ourselves, we move together to change a larger US, our culture and society. For by resolving the hypocrisies and contradictions within ourselves and joining forces with others, that act in itself becomes the means by which our culture changes and thus qualitatively advances itself. And I call upon each of us to become great men and women who articulate and resolve. Each of us must learn to see ourselves as an extension and maker of culture, for that is change and that is learning, yet change derives from both. Learning is change because learning is an encounter with reality, and every encounter is simply the discovery in the world a part of one’s self that has been previously unacknowledged. Today sixteen years of formal education has been completed by us; and yet we are not completely free; we have not yet completely resolved the cultural contradictions within ourselves. And that is the goal of education—to set us free; a liberation from childhood and whatever holds us there, a kind of midwifery, as if our culture was in labor and wanted to save both the past and the future—for we are the present, a thin bridge swaying between both, and our failure to change this society will mean the destruction of all. So today, as we leave FPC, let us commit ourselves to continue to learn and to grow; not as an end but as a means to change ourselves and ourselves for a potential reality- a qualitative life.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, FPC’s theological hero, speaks effectively to what it means to say yes to one’s own time, the 20th century. Bonhoeffer displays a realization between a repressive society and a society that resolves its problems in freedom. And he makes us realize the difference between changing and living in love, and stagnating and existing in despair. He says, “It is wiser to be pessimistic; it is a way of avoiding disappointment and ridicule, and so wise people condemn optimism. The essence of optimism is not its view of the present, but the fact that is the inspiration of life and hope when others give in; it enables a man to hold his head high when everything is going wrong; it gives him strength to sustain reverses and yet claim the future for himself…It is true that there is a silly, cowardly kind of optimism, which we must condemn. But the optimism that is will for the future should never be despised, even if it is proven wrong a hundred times…There are people who regard (optimism) as frivolous…they think that the meaning of present events is chaos, disorder, and catastrophe; and in resignation or pious escapism they surrender all responsibility for reconstruction and for future generations.

It may be that the Day of Judgment will dawn tomorrow; and in that case, though not before, we shall gladly stop working for a better future. We have all been silent witnesses of evil deeds; we have been drenched by many storms; we have learned the arts of equivocation and pretence; experience has made us suspicious of others and kept us from being truthful and open; intolerable conflicts have worn us down and made us cynical. What we shall need is not geniuses, or cynics, or misanthropes or clever tacticians, but plain, honest, straightforward people. Will our inward power of resistance be strong enough, and our honesty with ourselves remorseless enough, for us to find our way back to simplicity and straightforwardness? FOR THAT IS THE QUALITATIVE LIFE.“

So how do we contribute, how do we make the world a better place my brothers and sisters? In the words of our beloved Dr. Martin Luther King days before his tragic death the sad spring of our freshman year, “The world is more and more a neighborhood. But is it any more of a brotherhood? If we don’t learn to live together as brothers and sisters, we shall perish together as fools.