After taking part this past Sunday in this semester’s Interfaith Service Day, I was reminded that serving the community has been part of Oberlin’s ethos since our founding in 1833.
The events on Sunday were sponsored by the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Bonner Center for Service and Learning and the Interfaith Student Council. They organize an Interfaith Service Day each semester. This spring’s edition was a great way to highlight all the wonderful things our students, faculty, staff, and alumni are doing in our community. Their commitment extends far beyond the one day per semester designated to celebrate service.
Almost every day of the year, with little or no fanfare, men and women affiliated with the College are volunteering in Oberlin. Whether they are local residents working at Oberlin Community Services, college students teaching Spanish in the elementary Schools, or Kendal at Oberlin residents tutoring Oberlin High School students, they contribute their time and expertise to helping make Oberlin a better place for everyone.
Working to building a better community for all has been part of Oberlin’s ethos since the Reverend John Jay Shipherd and the missionary Philo P. Stewart founded Oberlin. They created a utopian, Christian community centered on a “collegiate institute” where students supported themselves through manual labor and were trained as teachers and preachers. The community was named for John Frederic Oberlin (1740-1826), an Alsatian pastor, who created the first kindergarten and developed innovative, educational techniques to battle the poverty, ignorance, and disease which plagued his isolated, hardscrabble parish in the Vosges mountains.
Oberlin College and the Conservatory of Music have changed greatly over the years. But I’m proud to say that the spirit of serving one’s community and working to make the world a better place for all, is alive and well. In our Oberlin, every day is a day of interfaith service. Many thanks to the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, the Bonner Center for Service and Learning and the Interfaith Student Council for carrying forward our great tradition of learning, labor and service forward.
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