Alumni Council Column: Institutional Tradition

Betsy Levine Brown, Class of 2001

Tradition. A word we consider with great reverence and respect, however, often one that inhabits our daily lives. We have holiday traditions, family gathering traditions and for us, we have Colgate traditions. When my father, ’71, shared many of these Colgate traditions with me as a young girl, I often tuned him out, laughed or begrudgingly listened with a slight smirk. However, once I lived those traditions, I recognized the power and unity they created for all of us who are Colgate. Whether it be move in traditions such as my grandparents walking with my dad on Willow Path and up to the quad into KED (now Curtis) Hall or my parents doing the same walk into Andrews or the graduation experiences of Torchlight when my ’01 class walked in unity down from the quad to Taylor Lake – whereupon seeing my Dad I burst into tears knowing this was an experience we shared. Although 30 years apart, it was so meaningful and momentous for our love of this institution. Whatever the tradition may be, traditions are pivotal in deepening your experiences in life – and for many of us deepening of love and commitment to Colgate.  

Traditions have been fundamental to Colgate’s life-long vision of learning for students and alumni. They have long connected us across generations and steeped us in the privilege of being a part of Colgate. They have long linked us to faculty and leaders who have stayed or left the institution but still feel connected in some way to Colgate. They have long defined us as Colgate. 

This is not to say that traditions cannot evolve and evoke a new understanding and purpose that continues to connect all of us who are a part of Colgate. As our world changes, as we grow as people, as we connect with Colgate in new and other collective ways, our responses to traditions also shift. What remains paramount though is how we maintain the legacy of these traditions and how they continue to empower our relationship to Colgate. 

You see, the pride many of us have for Colgate (at least I can speak for my dad and myself) doesn’t only come from our individual experiences during our four years on campus. It extends to how our experiences connect across generations. It is the ways we engage as alumni, the ways we communicate as Colgate students, faculty, leaders and community, and the ways we bond over Colgate. Those are the traditions of the institution that bind us.