Karen Linehan Mroz, honorary EastWest Institute alumna, member of the Mroz Global Leadership Institute Steering Committee and LCWA Advisory Board, with President Andrew T. Hsu at the Mroz Institute’s inaugural convening reception in March. (Photo by Mike Ledford)
What makes a university campus so special is that it serves as the setting for a wide range of intellectual and cultural events, both for its students and for the greater community. These moments span the gamut of the human experience, highlighting every academic discipline from anthropology to zoology.
The pandemic, of course, suspended many of these activities on campus, and the College, like most every other organization in the world, worked furiously to shift its events online. These moments were a much-needed point of connection, a light during a dark time and an important avenue for mental stimulation, but these cyber-performances could not, in my opinion, fully replace in-person gatherings.
One of the greatest lessons to come out of the pandemic is that humans need humans. Perhaps I am just stating the obvious: We, as people, need to be around each other … near each other. That’s why movies, concerts and live theater seem so much more powerful when we view them together. In so many positive ways, we feed off each other’s energy and emotions.
These thoughts, among many others, kept coming to me at different times and places as the College emerged from the restrictions of our COVID-19 mitigation protocols and we began hosting our first in-person events this spring.
Another thought at the forefront of my mind at these events was the power of philanthropy to drive our university’s margin of excellence – meaning, how the generosity of our campus community helps the College make something great even greater.
In March, the College of Charleston Orchestra performed with Grammy Award-winning violinist Augustin Hadelich, one of the finest musicians of our time. He is a true virtuoso, and our students had the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn and play with him because two of our current CofC parents, Frank and Peggy Oldham, provided the philanthropy to bring him to campus in partnership with our Department of Music in the School of the Arts.
Also that month, the College’s School of Languages, Cultures, and World Affairs hosted the inaugural convening of the John Edwin Mroz Global Leadership Institute, a new internationally focused program on campus that coalesced around a gift from the former EastWest Institute and its network of influential members. For three days, our campus felt like the nerve center of the world as business leaders, diplomats and scholars rubbed shoulders with our students, faculty and staff at various keynote addresses, discussion panels and breakout sessions.
In April, the College – through the Friends of the Library – held its latest iteration of the Winthrop Roundtable, a signature lecture series made possible by longtime supporter John Winthrop. Over the years, the Winthrop Roundtable has hosted several big names, such as GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt, journalist Cokie Roberts and U.S. Sen. John Kerry, to name a few. This year, Damon Wilson, president and CEO of the National Endowment for Democracy, gave a riveting lecture on the current status of democracy in the world and shared insights into the conflict in Ukraine. I am proud that the College was able to honor John Winthrop with an honorary doctorate this past May in recognition of his long partnership with the College.
Philanthropy made all of these events happen on campus, and it also does so much more – by providing much-needed assistance to our students and our faculty through scholarships, endowed chairs/programs and other areas of support. The College of Charleston is blessed to have so many people willing to share their time, talent and treasure with our institution. The generosity of our donors adds to our collective intelligence and our university’s capability to deliver on our academic mission, thus making the College of Charleston a world-class institution where the extraordinary happens every day. – President Andrew T. Hsu