A student rides her bike across the Knox College campus. #


Peter Bailley

Associate Director of Communications

2 East South Street

Galesburg, IL 61401-4999



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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

2008 Senior Class Speaker

Matthew Cessna

June 07, 2008

I vaguely remember how nearly 5 years ago, I was swamped with multi-colored piles of post-cards, pamphlets, and in some cases entire magazines which outlined how in ?such and such city? some distinguished people got together and founded ?such and such college? with such remarkable foresight that it, coincidentally, was somehow founded exactly for me. That same literature insisted that if I choose to spend the next four years reading, writing, and paying them x amount of dollars, then all my ambitious childhood dreams for success would surely fall right into my lap. I also remember being told that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is.

Nevertheless, among all of that shiny parchment, I eventually stumbled upon a purple envelope. I still remember the gold writing on the face, it said, ?We are Knox, are you?? My first reaction to this thoughtful question: ?What is Knox?? You see, I had never once heard about ?Knox,? frankly, I didn?t even know what region of the country it was in! But soon enough as I tore into that envelope I learned that Knox was a small liberal arts college and that it was located in a small town named Galesburg, IL. And then I though to myself, ?Where the heck is Galesburg, Il??

As I further researched Knox I began uncovering little bits and pieces of information about these people who, without shame or reservation declared, ?We are Knox?, even though Knox was just ?some small liberal arts school in Galesburg, Il which was in the middle of nowhere?. What?s worse was that they weren?t just saying ?We are Knox? ? they were, metaphorically speaking, shouting it from rooftops. It was written on a bright purple envelope in bright gold. I?m thinking that millions of people must have seen these envelopes.

Needless to say, I was intrigued. So I continued to explore my inquiry, ?What is Knox??I learned that the people who first chose to enroll in this college weren?t concerned about whether or not people knew neither the size nor the location of Knox; but that they chose to enroll in Knox College because they sincerely wished to pursue scholarship and the development of one?s self ? a tradition which is carried on every year by the entering class. For some of our predecessors, the price to engage in that pursuit was literally, the sweat off their brow.

Founded by abolitionist in 1837 during a time of inexcusable intolerance, this progressive college served as a beacon for freedom, it was more than willing to trade an honest day?s work for a chance at a new and better life, regardless of one?s skin color. The Knox we know today holds firm the same principles it was founded on, mostly. There is one slight little change ? working in the fields is now, thankfully, referred to as ?Financial Aid.? As we know, Knox is continually acknowledged by the Princeton Review as one of the nation?s best values; furthermore, a steadfast dedication to financial aid continues to provide opportunities for those who otherwise might be left out.

A wise woman once told me that no selfless act goes unnoticed, and Knox College is the perfect example. I believe that as a direct result of the aforementioned policies, Knox is blessed by a tolerant, diverse, hard-working, and passionate community of students, faculty, staff, and yes, even an administration that continues to believe in the value of true education ? an education that teaches you how to think, not what to think.

These are the men and women who so brightly boast, ?We are Knox.? In the last four years, I have both asked and been asked, ?What is Knox?? I have been presented with many responses to this question, I believe I?ve somehow found a definition of Knox, that for me and I hope for you all as well will in some form, be my answer to the question that has been nagging us for 4 years.

Knox may still be a small liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois but it has always been much more than that- Knox is the founder of the honor code who later became the President of the UN General Assembly, Knox is the brave souls who took over Old Main, Knox is the candidate who took a stand against slavery, it?s the professor who without complaint agreed to teach you what you missed in class because your alarm didn?t go off, Knox is the mentor who never has time but always makes it, Knox is the staff member who genuinely cares about the community we share, the student club President who passionately fights for club funds, Knox is the student leader who, even in the face of great adversity sticks with their convictions, Knox is all the students who not only pour their heart out on the field, or court, or theatre; but engage in thoughtful intellectual discussions in and out of the classroom, Knox is the student that you?ve never met who compliments you after class on your presentation.

The truth is, this list is never ending. Every one of us, alongside those who came before us, has, given of ourselves in one way or another to this college. On behalf of the senior class I want to thank you all for making Knox College more than just a small liberal arts school in Galesburg, Illinois. Of course, the irony of all this is that nearly 5 years ago, when I asked the purple envelope, ?What is Knox?? the answer was written before me in bright gold: ?We are?In closing, I would like to add one thing.

Along with the claim ?We are Knox,? comes great responsibility; a responsibility to carry on the great traditions and principles on which this college was founded. I would encourage the graduating class of 2008 to reflect on these life lessons as you leave Knox and enter the ?real world.?

Matthew Cessna

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Printed on Tuesday, November 21, 2017

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