Dear Class of 2024,
It feels like every article or blog post I’ve read has started with a nod to COVID-19 and the word “uncertain.” I’m tired of hearing the word “uncertain,” but I can’t think of anything better right now. We can only estimate the scope, timeline, and myriad casualties of the COVID-19 pandemic. But some things are certain. For one, you are starting your college education at Knox.
If I could, I’d hug you. Now, you are a part of the Knox community, and many of you are now living in Galesburg, too. I can tell you with confidence that you are in good hands, even though the hands are virtual. The format of your classes might feel clunky, and definitely challenging. But the content will be interesting and engaging, and you will never be left behind.
I wanted to impart some guidance for the start of your college life:
Join too many student organizations—I’m sure plenty of student orgs will hold online events—and keep the ones you love. Or make a book club. A weekly movie night. Be the person who blows a kiss every time you log off of a video-called class.
If you are starting your fall term in Galesburg, take lots of walks. Learn the bus route to the grocery store. Become a regular somewhere. Find a spot on campus that can be just for you, where you stow away and clear your mind and watch the sunrise. And figure out your order at the Gizmo (wheat bagel, egg over easy, veggie sausage, hold the cheese), because there will be days when you need it.
You will stand on the overpass over the trainyard for the first time soon and feel it rumble as trains go by. You will see the water tower up close and personal. You’ll inexplicably have the cell phone number of one of your professors, or a few, for emergencies. And one day, you’ll stumble upon an experience in which you realize that you are a part of this small town, part of the fabric of this community. It’ll be something mundane—like realizing you know the names of every street downtown without having learned them, or being recognized by the dogs along your walking route—and you’ll feel home.
I’m sure Knox will change you, just as college must. But know that you will change Knox. This is the beauty of being a student here: the ability to improve where you are and to make yourself a part of this school, just as this school is a part of us.
I’ll come clean and say that we are all making everything up all the time. And this is especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic. So, my best advice to you is to let things happen. Take on your college experience in waves. This time, the wave might be moving away from home, enrolling in your first term of classes, or getting lost on your way to find Green Oaks. Let the waves come, settle yourself in, and then walk boldly into the water. College is not new. This college is not new. But everything else is.
Class of 2021
Photo at top of the page: Galesburg water tower. Photos above: Old Main, sunset over East South Street, a living room in Hamblin Hall featuring a print by Samuel Lisec '21, a quick dinner before a night workshop, fields near Galesburg as viewed from a train, a scenic view.