By Thomas J. Minar

In the Franklin College community, an expression resonates across generations and encompasses alumni, students, employees, friends and community partners. The adage is “Grizzlies are forever.”

As college president, I have the privilege of observing pride and loyalty among our various constituents every day, but our annual homecoming tradition is a time that amplifies the gold and blue and the bold and true spirit that defines us.

Homecoming is a time for reflection and renewal. Some folks travel thousands of miles to return to Franklin, and others trek only a short distance, but they share the desire to remember and celebrate connections forged at Franklin College.

The college’s liberal arts and sciences culture permeates how we live, work and study. Our programs intertwine experience and education, emphasizing community engagement throughout Johnson County. For example, through our 2017 FOCUS Day program, 385 employees and student volunteers gave 1,773 hours of service to 26 social service agencies, nonprofit organizations and schools.

These Grizzly volunteers organized food donations at the Interchurch Food Pantry of Johnson County, painted bleachers at the Johnson County fairgrounds and raked leaves and cleared weeds around tombstones at Greenlawn Cemetery.

At Franklin College, we believe that pursuing the best in ourselves enables our doing good for others in the community, whether it’s a single project or a collaborative program such as Leadership Johnson County at Franklin College.

When you think about Franklin College, you may think of it as a “liberal arts college,” but we have begun using the broader term “liberal arts and sciences” to better articulate how we bring together a wide range of diverse perspectives in the humanities and the sciences. In fact, the term “liberal” is derived from the Latin liberalis, associated with the meaning of freedom, not of political preference. To put it simply, a freeing, liberating learning environment is one in which students thrive and develop as critical thinkers, problem-solvers and effective communicators.

We connect these skills to the arts and sciences because they are foundations for progress. One needs to look no further than the Franklin College archives for an example of the integral role science plays on our campus, in the surrounding community and in the Hoosier state. Before Colonel Eli Lilly formed his company, the college’s second president, Silas Bailey, Ph.D., in 1852 led the effort to develop science classes that would enable Franklin graduates to impact Indiana’s agriculture and industry.

Today, more than one-third of the student body is pursuing majors in the sciences, which is critical to our role in the growing $63 billion life-sciences economy in Indiana.

As a result of our groundbreaking science tradition, the college is known for producing well-prepared graduates who have benefited from a “learn science by doing science” curriculum. Soon, these budding scientists will gain valuable experience in a new facility where engaged learning opportunities will multiply.

Construction recently began on the new Franklin College Science Center, a makeover and expansion project that includes Barnes Hall. Once completed, the $17 million center will engage students in project-based learning, cross-functional collaboration and research opportunities as early as their freshman year. Beyond constructing this center, we will continue to partner with Eli Lilly and Company, Johnson Memorial Health, B2S Life Sciences and others to expand learning and serve the community.

Ultimately, a Franklin liberal arts and sciences education connects classroom learning with real-world application. Thus, our students graduate with a sharpened skill set that prepares them for their first jobs, and they have skills that will transfer across multiple professional fields. This is extremely important given that the average person is likely to have five, six or even seven different jobs over a lifetime. In our rapidly changing world, students need to be prepared for future roles that don’t even exist today.

As nimble thinkers, our alumni figure out how to address challenges and forge ways forward. They are capable of more than just completing a task, or a job, but of reinventing themselves to be personally successful and to be professionally accomplished.

Homecoming this weekend gives us a chance to recognize some of these exemplary individuals, as we do each year. We will recognize alumni who graduated 50 or more years ago at the Old Gold Luncheon and celebrate other milestones with special gatherings for affinity groups. The annual Hail to Franklin Dinner will honor attorney John C. Duffey ’79 with a Lifetime Achievement Award and sports medicine researcher Gregory D. Myer ’96, Ph.D., with a Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Additionally, Joe Chester ’83, Kelly (Vance) Eckman ’04 and Tim Fish ’07 will be recognized for their past achievements as student-athletes with induction into the Franklin College Athletic Hall of Fame.

This tremendous group of Grizzlies embodies the integrity, intellectual curiosity, innovation, inclusivity and community spirit we cherish.

Franklin College from its founding has valued and relentlessly pursued the intersection between the classroom and real-world work to prepare students for lifetimes of significant contributions.

Join us in recognizing and celebrating the many ways that liberal arts and sciences will continue to benefit students and our community for generations to come.

Thomas J. Minar is the president of Franklin College. Send comments to letters@dailyjournal.net.