Parting With My Empire Sofa

In the summer of 1986, my husband Jack and I had been married for a little over a year, when we decided to go to an estate auction to buy much-needed furniture for our rented farmhouse, located on Route 12 in Oxford, N.Y. As we assessed another family’s belongings, I cautioned Jack that under no circumstance should he bid on the green vinyl LazyBoy™ or fake-wood end tables. Instead, I offered that we should buy the drop leaf cherry table and empire sofa with velvet maroon upholstery. These would be perfect additions to our new home.

Jack ignored me. He bid on, and purchased, the vinyl LazyBoy™ and end tables for $20. I glared at him as he held up his number and remained steadfast in my bid for the empire sofa. The vinyl lazy boy is long gone, and I broke the fake end tables on purpose so that I could find an excuse to throw them away. But the empire sofa has been moved from new home to new home more than a dozen times over the last thirty years. In 2005, its upholstery was replaced and its legs were repaired and reinforced. The sofa’s lovely, elegant frame has been an anchor during uncertain times: a hopeful reminder that there were brighter days ahead even when money was too tight to pay our bills or when time was too short to be better parents. 

As I prepare to leave Colgate and return to Boston, where we will be closer to our adult children, I’ve decided that I will not be taking the empire sofa.  Moving on to new opportunities sometimes requires that you part with some of the things that you love.  I love Colgate, and leaving this special place will also be difficult.

Much like Colgate’s new incoming class and graduating seniors, I am anxious about what lies ahead. But what I have learned is that with change, there is always opportunity – the opportunity to let go of past regrets and hardship, and the opportunity to become your best self. 

What has been the most valuable for me in my time at Colgate has been working with others to imagine the Commons Program for first-year and sophomore students, to pilot a first-generation initiative and to enhance sexual violence prevention and survivor support services.  These are important efforts that will make Colgate a better community for all.  What I have also come to know is that Colgate’s greatest asset is its people. This is a place where the people aim high, they expect the best of themselves and each other and they tackle problems head-on with humility and confidence. 

I’m grateful to have served as Dean for the last four years, and I hope that I will always be considered a member of the Colgate family.