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Proud to Wear Purple

President Schapiro's message to the Northwestern community regarding the recent controversy

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March 7, 2011

During the controversy over the recent incident connected with a psychology class, someone shared with me the following quote from Robert Frost: "Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence." As we deal with last week's events, we should keep that in mind while also remembering all that makes us Northwestern. 

On Saturday at Dance Marathon I got to watch more than a thousand sweaty, happy and very tired students raise more than a million dollars to benefit the Children's Heart Foundation and the Evanston Community Foundation. I had the honor of speaking to them and pointed out that they personify some of the finest values of our University -- dedication, perseverance and service. 

I met Friday with a recent graduate, Samir Mayekar, who just received a prestigious Soros Fellowship, making him the latest of our students to win a highly competitive national scholarship. 

I also learned of the significant research breakthrough by Jack Kessler, the Davee Professor of Stem Cell Biology, that transforms stem cells into a type of neuron that dies early in Alzheimer's, one of the most horrific diseases of our time.   

Today, we will welcome Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor to speak at the Law School. 

Those activities, and the many other wonderful things that occur each and every day at Northwestern, aren't likely to attract the same amount of media coverage that the recent incident has. But they define who we are. 

Our University is one of the finest in the world. That's a fact. Controversy attends all universities, including ours.  That, alas, is another fact.  And when it does occur, there will be disagreement on how the University should respond, even among the most thoughtful of our more than 250,000 students, parents, faculty, staff and alumni. I'm confident, however, in our ability to work through this situation, guided, as we must be, by the light of reason.   

Some 150 years ago, Abraham Lincoln was inaugurated as president after winning an election in which he was backed by John Evans and other Northwestern founders. In his inaugural address, he said, "Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection." I've learned quickly the deep affection that members of the Northwestern community have for the University and why it is so well-deserved. 

I share that affection. Today, I am as proud as ever to wear Northwestern purple, and I thank all of you who care so deeply about our University.

Morton Schapiro

President and Professor
Northwestern University