The start of the semester is a time when we are bound to notice, examine and reflect on the effects of change: the leaves change color, the temperature drops, daylight hours slip away, different classes dictate the course of our day-to-day and entirely new faces start to seem like familiar ones.
Some of these adjustments are easier than others, but few can be made without some measure of effort. It is often those that are most trying that lead to the greatest wisdom and personal growth. In a backwards way, struggle is what leads to strength, and that strength can serve to help one find some element of the struggle to appreciate. And the recent death of the dean of the University of Maine Honors College Charlie Slavin has made for a difficult transition, not to mention is a tragedy in and of itself, in the face of which students, faculty, and the university community at large are united in grief, as well as in determination to preserve his legacy.
The UMaine community has keenly felt the loss of Slavin since he died unexpectedly on July 30. First the director of the honors program and, as the program grew under his care, later named dean of the eventual Honors College, Slavin was clearly a man whose efforts toward promoting the value of liberal education had a profound effect on the studies and the lives of the students whose paths he crossed. And as members of the university where he worked and invested so much of his time and energy, where so many were deeply affected by his presence and are struggling to adjust to his absence, the question is: How can we hope to sufficiently honor his memory? How can we preserve our personal memories of the man, and how can we work to perpetuate his mission?
A memorial fund has been established in Slavin’s name, so that people who knew him and want to express their appreciation for his contributions to UMaine, or people who simply share his passion for promoting liberal arts studies, can make donations in his memory. It is our hope that these donations will be routed toward a direct benefit to the Honors College, which Slavin captained for 15 years, and to which he was truly and astoundingly dedicated.
As further testament to his vast influence, a tree will be planted in Slavin’s honor by the Class of 2012 in their class garden, next to the New Balance Student Recreation Center. The Honors College, largely the product of Slavin’s vision and determination, will dedicate to him its 2012 publication of their magazine, MINERVA. And the National Collegiate Honors Council will dedicate its 2012 journal to Slavin as well, in addition to recognizing him at its national conference in Boston this November. The shared enthusiasm for the intrinsic value of learning, and for the part Slavin played in its promotion, is evident in the scope of the celebration of his life, and his accomplishments.
Slavin was many things — he was a crusader for the cause of knowledge for its own sake, a mentor, a teacher, a colleague, a father, a friend. He will forever be remembered as a fundamental facet of the success of this school, its students and their studies. It is the continuation of their success through which his legacy will live on. Honor his memory by being excellent, continuing to strive for enlightenment through scholarship, and inspiring others to do the same.