Alumni Column – On Giving Thanks and Giving Back

Terry Egler '77

I first visited Colgate when I was 16 during Spring Party Weekend. It was 1972 and my big sister was a sophomore at Colgate. She invited our middle sister, a high school senior, and me, a high school junior, to spend the weekend with her. She even arranged “dates” for us (yes, we did that back then). I’m not sure what my parents were thinking when they let us go (although I’m pretty sure they didn’t know about our dates or much else about Spring Party Weekend for that matter).We had a great time. And I fell in love — although not with my date. It was Colgate that won my heart. I loved the beauty of Colgate, the people and the Colgate spirit. And so, when it came time to choose a college, there was not a lot of debate or discussion. I was going to Colgate.

At the time, I looked at college as the place where I would spend the next four years of my life — and while I understood that they would be four very important years and hoped that my Colgate education would serve as a springboard to the future — I did not consider that I would be forming a life-long relationship. I also focused on what Colgate had to offer me and didn’t give much thought to what I might offer to Colgate. After all, my part of the bargain (or more appropriately, my parents’) was to pay tuition which was a lot of money even back then. A fair trade, right?

Colgate delivered on its promise of all that it had to offer. I received an amazing education and loved my college experience. I majored in Anthropology (about which I knew nothing when I started), studied abroad in Scotland and England and grew up. I also met my husband, although I didn’t know it at the time. When my four years came to a close, I lamented the swift passage of time and prepared to leave Colgate behind.

Back then, I thought of Colgate as an institution – an entity separate and apart from me, the other students, the faculty and administration and the alumni. After all, Colgate had been around since 1819. And I trusted and believed that Colgate would endure – without me and without regard to what I did.

It was not until later that I realized that I would never leave Colgate behind — that her influence would not be limited to four important, formative years, but would continue throughout my life. I have been engaged with Colgate for more than 30 years and I continue to reap the benefits of my relationship with Colgate. The benefits are more than I can ever repay.

I also have learned that Colgate is not an institution that can or will endure without the dedication and benevolence of the people who comprise her. The premise that the tuition we pay is a fair trade and all that we owe for our Colgate education is simply wrong. Even at full tuition, our education is subsidized in substantial part by the generosity of Colgate alumni, parents and friends. The truth is that Colgate depends upon all of us to ensure that she remains vibrant and that her future is strong.

That includes all of you.

And so, as we contemplate all of the gifts in our lives and give thanks for all we have during this holiday season, remember Colgate. Participate and contribute in any way you can. Give your time and/or your money to support Colgate. Give back. Understand that it is your responsibility and privilege to sustain our college and to enhance her reputation. You will feel good about what you do and will receive so much more in return than you give.

P.S. My oldest daughter went to Colgate. When my youngest daughter wanted to visit her during her junior year in high school, my husband and I cringed but let her go. She too fell in love and is now a student at Colgate. And so, our debt to Colgate grows.