If there is a quintessential, New York experience, then surely it is to walk up the platform and find oneself in the concourse of Grand Central Terminal. Three quarters of a million people pass through Grand Central everyday — some experiencing the thrill of New York for the first time, others rushing through as part of a commute they undertake as a matter of routine. New York as it is today — the most dynamic city in the world — would be unthinkable without Grand Central and the imagination of William Wilgus, who conceived of the massive project, completed 100 years ago.
How uplifting it is for us that Dr. Kurt Schlichting, the E. Gerald Corrigan ’63 Chair in the Humanities and Social Sciences and professor of sociology, should explore the creation of Grand Central in his new book about William Wilgus, a taste of which you will experience inside these pages. For a small university, we are fortunate in having such talented scholars who make vital contributions to the sciences and the humanities, while simultaneously serving as teachers to generations of students. A distinguishing feature of a Fairfield education is that our undergraduates often engage in research alongside their professors — a privilege usually exclusively extended to graduate students in most universities. Those students who participate in research with Dr. Schlichting, or with other Fairfield faculty, are indeed fortunate.
New York is such a big part of Fairfield’s history that we sometimes take it for granted. Thousands of our graduates have built their lives and careers in New York over the decades, and Fairfield University is often a gateway for those careers. We are proximate enough to Manhattan to offer internship possibilities at some of the greatest institutions in the world— in banking, media, the arts, and sciences — helping students make the jump to New York after graduation. Our alumni network in New York is very strong. Certainly, one of our most critical fundraising efforts this year — as every year — will be the 2013 annual Fairfield Awards Dinner, to be held on Wednesday, April 10 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel. It will be a wonderful evening, where we celebrate the vitality of our community and raise significant funds for our scholarship programs, providing opportunities for young men and women to receive a Fairfield education.
While New York is key to what Fairfield is all about, we are also fortunate to be located in the beautiful shoreline community that you all know and love. The resulting intimacy of relationship that we forge with our friends and neighbors, is what makes us such a strong community, always ready to do what we can to respond authentically to the needs that arise around us.
We mourned with the nation in the weeks following the events in Sandy Hook, a community to which we have so many ties. Many of our faculty, staff, and students live in Newtown, or have family connections there. Counselors from our Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions made themselves available to the community to offer valuable support and comfort. Certainly, it is a tragedy that will be forever in our memory, and I pray that it will lead to meaningful change, and to a national effort to do what we can to ensure it never happens again.
And in the fall, our immediate neighborhood took a blow when we were hit with “Superstorm Sandy,” which shut down our operations for a few days and devastated the beach area. I am proud to say that we responded with our typical optimism and energy. As you will read inside, the campus community pulled together to find housing for those of our students who were washed out of their housing on the waterfront, and others pitched in to help with the cleanup efforts — here, and in other devastated communities. Certainly, the Class of 2013 will have had a senior year that they will never forget, and experiences that will unite them in fellowship for life.
As we say so often to our new applicants — and as of this writing, we have received more applications this year than ever before — when you come to Fairfield, you get the best of both worlds: We are a quiet, New England liberal arts university where close friendships are forged. Yet New York — its theaters, museums, galleries, and all that it has to offer is only a short journey — to Grand Central Terminal — away.