Dr. Charles "Chuck" Lindsay

On Sunday, June 4, 2017, following the conferring of degrees at the 162nd Elmira College Commencement, Dr. Charles “Chuck” Lindsay was presented to graduates and the audience as the Fifteenth President of Elmira College. Dr. Lindsay, who was announced as the next president of the College in February 2017, began his term on July 1, 2017. 

Following is an excerpt from Dr. Lindsay’s inauguration remarks:

Over the last five years, my wife Janna and I have not only been impressed by the beauty of this special corner of the world, but have received a warm welcome from the EC community and the city of Elmira. You have welcomed us with enthusiasm and with a sense of pride and optimism about the future of this college.

In talking with students and alumni, I have also been struck by their fierce loyalty and dedication to the College and its traditions. Candlelight, Mountain Day, beanies, and singing are all part of this cherished legacy. What I want to suggest is that to truly honor the traditions of the past requires us to infill them with new meaning.

Gustav Mahler, the noted Austrian composer is credited with saying that “Tradition is not to preserve the ashes but to pass on the flame.” So, what is the flame that animates the spirit of this College?

Elmira College was founded at a time when ideas about human rights and opportunity permeated much of the thinking in Upstate New York.

In fact, the first gathering devoted to women’s rights in this country was held just up the road in Seneca Falls, NY in 1848 with almost 200 women in attendance. This event was significant, particularly in light of the fact that it took about three-quarters of a Century for the 19th Amendment, which gives women the right to vote, to be ratified. 

A few years later, in 1855, this same spirit inspired the founders of Elmira College to “establish a real college for women” meaning, an institution whose educational standards would be on a par with those for men. “Female seminaries” as they were called at the time, were really glorified high schools. In contrast, from its very inception, Elmira College offered a rigorous academic program designed to expand the horizons of young women. The College began admitting men in 1969 and has continued the tradition of offering a strong, high-quality academic experience for students to this day. In fact, I’m delighted to report that Elmira has the distinction of being recognized by US News & World Report as a national ‘top-tier’ institution.

It is dedication to academic rigor and providing students from all walks of life with the opportunity to reach their full potential that is the flame at the heart of the EC experience.

Elmira provides students with the life-altering experience of working closely with dedicated faculty members and of living in community with other students. They learn in the classrooms, studios, and laboratories; they learn from those with different life and cultural experiences; they learn through athletics, performance, and other student life activities; they learn through community service and internships; and they learn by developing the habits of reflection and critical thinking.

Of course, this kind of education requires students to stretch and challenge themselves, which is what makes it so worthwhile.

For it is change, not permanence, that is the fundamental fact of the universe. It is the struggle that makes life worthwhile; that helps us discover who we are, both as individuals and as a college. And while we won’t always agree, it is the effort and the clash of ideas that moves civilization inexorably forward. (Based on ideas from the documentary film Barnes the Collector.)

As we begin the next chapter in the history of this great college, let us continue to build an Elmira that provides a rich and vibrant community experience for students, faculty, and staff. Let us continue to build an Elmira that offers academic and co-curricular programs that inspire imagination, creativity, discovery and a spirit of collaboration. Let us continue to build an Elmira that is deeply connected to the city of Elmira, the Southern Tier and the world, so that we can impact the world in positive and meaningful ways.