Friday, October 26, 2007

AU's President's Cirtcle Dinner

Last evening I attended American University’s “President’s Circle Dinner.” This annual event acknowledges individuals who have contributed more than $1,000 to American University in the preceding year and encourages them to give more. It is a rite of celebration and intensification, held at Washington DC’s Ritz Carlton Hotel.

This was third dinner at which AU’s newly designated President, Neil Kerwin officiated and the first at which he could claim the Presidential mantle, without qualification. In contrast to his predecessor, Benjamin Ladner, Kerwin’s style is low key. His humor is self deprecating. His affiliation with AU began when he matriculated as a first year student and, apart from graduate school, He has spent his entire professional life working at AU.

His talk celebrated AU’s achievements and spoke of “moving to the next level,” though he did not describe what that might look like. The audience didn’t care. This was a cadre of AU’s most loyal supporters and contributers. Many are graduates. They have stood with the University in bad times as well was good.

One speaker, recipient of the “President’s Award” for major contributions to the institution, reminded the audience that “the most important alumni are the next ones.” This Friday, Saturday and Sunday is both parents weekend and alumni weekend, an interesting juxtaposition. As the event-filled weekend unfolds, the speaker’s words should remind those of us who serve AU of our mission and what is fundamentally important about a university.

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