When you are among Friends

If someone says, “I went to UGA” or any large college or university, most people can readily identify something about that school (football, agriculture, technology, etc). When someone asks an alum of a Quaker school where they went to school, sometimes the person asking the question looks kind of lost if they follow-up and ask what type of school that is and the answer is a simple, “Quaker”. (I have on a few occasions extolled about one benefit of being an alum of a Quaker school is the lifetime supply of free oatmeal. I should not prey on the innocent.)

Quakers are not Shakers (but they can and do shake things up sometimes), or Mennonites, or Amish. Quakers are Quakers just like Methodists are Methodists. They come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and varieties. Flaming Liberals-yep. Middle of the Road-got plenty of those. Conservative- there are some of those too.

If you are wondering who Quakers are and what they do, The Huffington Post ran an article in June, “4 Things We Can All Learn from One of America’s Oldest Religious Communities” which does a good job of explaining some of the ways Quakers work together as a faith community (and as a result in their communities beyond their church).

There is a new family living in Ragsdale House, where the President lives at my Quaker college alma mater, Guilford College. The search to hire our ninth president was unusually transparent when compared to how many schools hire their administrative leaders. When the College announced that Jane K Fernandes had accepted the offer to join the Guilford community, there was a huge outpouring of genuine and heartfelt excitement. Jane said she truly felt called to Guilford, and her passion for the values of Quakers, a Quaker-based education, and Guilford are palpable.

Why am I calling Guilford’s Ninth President “Jane” instead of “Dr Fernandes” or “President Fernandes?” Rule 5 of  22 things only someone who went to a Quaker school would understand, written by a Guilford alum, explains it (slight NSFW language).

Rule 1 about bumper stickers? So true, as a Friday Photo from Rural and Progressive a few years ago demonstrates:

Guilford Alum, Class of 1961, leaves no doubt about her politics
Guilford Alum, Class of 1961, leaves no doubt about her politics






So many firsts

Yesterday the Guilford College community burst into celebration as the next President of the College, Dr. Jane Fernandes, was announced. After an inclusive and exceptionally open search effort, the campus community and far-flung alumni were anxious to know who would be living in Ragsdale House in July.

Jane FernandesJane will be Guilford’s first woman President, our ninth to serve  the campus since the College was chartered in 1837. She will join the Guilford community as we celebrate the 40th year of Women’s Studies on campus.

Much is being made of our first female President, and rightly so. Guilford isn’t immune to the common barriers in higher education.

The second sentence of the College’s long-awaited announcement read, “Jane, who is deaf, will become the first woman to hold the post on July 1 when she succeeds Kent Chabotar.”

Twitter and Facebook echoed with “It’s a woman and she’s deaf.”

Both firsts. Her gender and her deafness have surely shaped her experiences and ideas, all making her Jane Fernandes, Guilford’s ninth President.

When Guilford’s current President was announced 12 years ago, it was noteworthy that Kent would be the first non-Quaker to lead the College. I don’t remember anyone saying “and he’s single and he has no children.” Those were firsts too.

There have been many good firsts since Kent took up residence at Ragsdale House, and I am grateful.

Welcome, Jane. I am one of many holding you in The Light as you begin your many firsts at Guilford.




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