The “Goodbye and Hello” – Bruce Fort P’23

Nothing could have fully prepared me for the overwhelming feelings I experienced when dropping our daughter off at Bryn Mawr for the first time: excitement about all that lay ahead for her, and heartache about the departure of our child. Everything came together in a private emotional supernova: the birthdays, the long string of proud first moments, the many successes and frustrations over the last eighteen years, and the immeasurable love of parenthood.

 

After spending an hour or two helping my daughter settle into her room, it was time to say goodbye. She took a moment to pose for a quick snap of her walking through the front door of Rhoads Hall, her new home. When I settled in at the airport, I sent the photo to the rest of the family: “At this moment Evie said both goodbye and hello.” My caption was a little mawkish, but there was no denying that it was a huge moment for all of us: the beginning of college had arrived.

 

Our daughter’s arrival at Bryn Mawr marked the end of her long, thoughtful search for her dream college. When Evie started talking about the qualities she was looking for in a college, Bryn Mawr had been among a handful of obvious choices. We had long admired colleagues and classmates who attended Bryn Mawr, and Bryn Mawr seemed to fit our daughter’s vision of the ideal college. Non-negotiable for Evie was her decision to attend a small liberal arts college, which would offer small classes, professors who loved teaching undergraduates, and a chance to know many of the people she would study, work, and live with. She wanted to be in or near a big city with good public transportation, and on a campus where she could pursue her interests in politics, society, and women’s health. Her mom and I wanted her to find a school whose values would resonate with her and challenge her, and we envisioned an academically rigorous college with a national and international student body. All three of us wanted Evie to find a school where she would be surrounded by people who would challenge and support her as she grew from late adolescence into young adulthood.

 

Bryn Mawr ticked off all of these boxes in quick succession—but in the end, I believe a certain amount of alchemy brought Evie and Bryn Mawr together. When she first visited Bryn Mawr in high school, her student tour guide was brimming with good cheer and confidence, and she dazzled us with her deep knowledge of Bryn Mawr and its many programs. She emphasized the tradition of self-governance, and as we toured the dorms and the campus, I developed a sense that student leadership at Bryn Mawr was more than a wish outlined in a glossy brochure in the admissions office: the dorms are self-governed and the students make important decisions that help shape the community they live in. Everything about the school simply seemed to fit.

 

The fateful first drop-off at Bryn Mawr marked more of a beginning than an end for our whole family, and not just for our daughter. It has been such a pleasure to hear her excitement over everything that has unfolded since the day of that Rhoads dorm photo: new friends from Seattle! From D.C.! From London, Louisville, Cincinnati, New York, and Baton Rouge! During Evie’s first two years, we heard about her introductory courses and the advisors who helped her with course selections and mapping out her options, and about her decision to major in sociology. As junior year rolled around, we heard more about the piles of reading and writing expected of her each week, and about her plans for her senior thesis. We have heard about the early morning practices with her cross-country and track teams, the fun privilege of driving one of the cross-country and track vans, and the occasional classes and the less occasional weekend parties at Haverford.

 

As a junior, Evie decided to apply to study in one of Bryn Mawr’s 360° course cluster programs, “Europe from the Margins,” which has allowed her and other students to focus on European culture and politics this semester, with a trip to Berlin over spring break as a centerpiece of the experience. She learned about the program, decided which of the 360° offerings aligned with her interests, and then she applied and was admitted. She recently geared up for the long-awaited trip to Berlin with a dozen or so classmates and their three professors. The students arrived in Berlin at the same moment the city was welcoming its first Ukrainian refugees. One of the professors leading the trip arranged for the students to visit the home of a Berlin artist, and the German Minister of Finance happened by for a visit and spent time in informal conversation with the group. The trip offered the combination of discovery and circumstance that makes travel such an important part of learning to live in the world—and unexpectedly, all of the costs of the 360° program were included in our normal tuition and fees, and the college even provided each student a stipend for their meals and other out-of-pocket expenses.

 

Bryn Mawr has become home to our daughter, and her closest Bryn Mawr friends have become her chosen family. I predict with high hopes that forty years from now, Evie will treasure her closest college relationships as much as her mother and I have treasured ours: with her Bryn Mawr friends nearby or on speed dial, we know that she will be prepared to step into adulthood, and to share the many challenges and successes of the work, family, and life that await.

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