Alumni Column: Camelot and Expanded Horizons

Harry Horwitz, Class of 1976

This article is directed, primarily, to those nearing the end of their time as a Colgate student. If you are not one of them and can spare two more minutes, read on. I will share some thoughts about Colgate and liberal arts education, but maybe not in a way that you have already heard or read. During my senior week, after our last exams ended and before graduation, I stayed in Hamilton. Back then, many seniors did. We did not travel to Hilton Head or other places. There was enough to do in Hamilton, at the golf course, Lake Moraine, Lebanon Reservoir and other places. The lack of sleep and anxiety from final exams was over. I was with my friends and without pressing demands.  I was about to graduate and I should have been very happy. I was, but in another sense, I was not. 

I had had just spent four years in a beautiful place, with great people. Most of the people were around my age. We had similar and diverse interests. It didn’t matter. That’s what made the community. During senior week, I wasn’t thinking about the pressures of studying for exams; I was thinking that I experienced things in a fun, collegial, terrific atmosphere that I would never experience again. I thought that it was those people, at that time, in that place that made things so good. I thought I had been in Camelot and that after graduation, there would be no more Camelot. I was wrong.

When I return for reunions, I am back in Camelot. When I attend Homecoming, things are good. When I go to regional Colgate events, I have fun with classmates and make new Colgate friends. I see many of my old friends, though not as often as I would like, but life is full of competing demands for our time. Some of you may already be lamenting your impending departure from Hamilton. I have heard that before. Just realize that the ties that you develop at Colgate can last a lifetime, and you can return to Camelot.

When I was a Colgate student, I learned fencing in a gym class. I had no desire to be a competitive fencer, but I had a feeling if I didn’t try it, then I never would. I was glad I did. In my last semester, one of my friends encouraged some of us to audition for the spring musical theater production. I did. I had a small part with my friends. One of the cast members is pretty famous now. You are nearing your last chances to take advantage of a liberal arts education. There are probably some interesting physical education programs that you haven’t taken. Sign up for golf (or at least play a round on Seven Oaks after the snow melts), scuba fundamentals, trap shooting or skate skiing. Visit Chapel House. Do something different. You will have other chances after you graduate, but the opportunities may not be as diverse or as convenient. Some of you may not know what your post-Colgate career path will be. Most people don’t know what the future will bring, although lots of people have plans. Plans change. Regardless of what you do after Colgate, you may be surprised when you realize how much of your liberal arts education you use in “real life.” Even if you do not become a physicist, if you learned about the coefficient of friction, you may come to apply it in the real world if you work in the construction industry, law or interior design. I can’t recall all examples of things I learned at Colgate and later used at work, but two examples are the price elasticity of demand (economics) and cognitive dissonance (psychology). 

So, three points:  1. If you are sad about leaving Colgate, that’s understandable, but you can still enjoy Colgate after graduation. 2. It is not too late to expand your horizons, so learn something different. And 3. Regardless of how unusual those things are and maybe how impractical they appear, you may actually use them (many times) in the real world.