Dear Transylvania Community,
Over the weekend, I followed the events in Minneapolis and Louisville and the demonstrations in Lexington and other cities in response to the tragic deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd with a mixture of sadness, frustration, anger and disappointment. My soul aches for the families and friends of those who have lost their lives. I also feel for those who have suffered loss and damage to property and businesses. It is so difficult for me to comprehend these events and to find a right message to share with members of the African American community.
At Transylvania, we have a unique opportunity to ensure our campus community is a place where differences of all kinds — race, ethnicity or belief — are respected, valued and protected, and where hatred, bigotry and intolerance are inappropriate. That we are all God’s children is my belief, a lesson imparted through my upbringing in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the denomination with which Transylvania is historically aligned. We should respect one another in all things regardless of race, culture, creed, sexual orientation, political affiliation or religion.
Our mission states: Through an engagement with the liberal arts, Transylvania University prepares its students for a humane and fulfilling personal and public life by cultivating independent thinking, open-mindedness, creative expression and commitment to lifelong learning and social responsibility in a diverse world.
As members of the liberal arts educational community, we study, listen to and discuss the ideas and arguments that come from global and historical perspectives, other traditions, other disciplines and other beliefs, as we pursue our fundamental mission of searching for knowledge and truth. In a like manner, we cannot afford to ignore the lessons we will draw from the serious study of present-day racism and intolerance and their connections with centuries-old traditions of distrust and hatred.
As I begin my final month as president, my hope for our future is that we strongly reaffirm Transylvania’s fundamental commitment to diversity and equity both on our campus and within our broader world. Our intent as an institution should be to continue our value of lifelong learning as we continue to strive for independent thought and open-mindedness in considering our social responsibility in the world in which we live.
Simply, we must walk the talk.
Transylvania’s motto, crafted in 1908, gives us a deep responsibility to others, In Lumine illo Tradimus Lumen, or “In That Light, We Pass On the Light.” The university seal bears the heraldic symbols of a torch, hand, book and globe, which represent truth, faithfulness, learning and service to the world. In this time of division, destruction and unrest, we must reaffirm our personal commitment to respect all people in our diverse America and in our diverse world.
With deep concern and hope for the future,
Dr. John N. Williams ’74