My college is celebrating its 35th anniversary. Recently, the college hosted a gala celebration attended by faculty, staff, students, alumni, retirees, and community members. Unable to attend, the college’s founding president sent a congratulatory video. Two former presidents also attended, one of whom left the college in unpleasant circumstances. Surprised to see her, I was more surprised by the change in her physical appearance. She was smiling, cordial, greeted me warmly, and explained that the physical change is due to a significant weight loss. As I observed her throughout the evening, she appeared at home, interacting comfortably with everyone. Called upon to offer remarks in honor of the occasion, she did so with grace and sincerity.
A faculty colleague tells students that education is the process of reinventing oneself. It occurred to me that what I observed in our former president represented more than physical change; this was a courageous effort at reinvention. Considering personal commitment and the emotional risks involved in a decision to change, I realized that everyone is not only free to change, they have the right to reinvent themselves. More important, when one is willing to change, I have a responsibility to “allow” the change because acknowledging change in another person changes me. “The door to reformation is never closed,” my dad would tell me. As a kid, I had no idea what he meant, but I think I’m beginning to understand.