“Good Morning, And Welcome To West Point.”
The students knew they had finally arrived when an Army Colonel in dark green uniform sprang up the stairs of the bus and with a smile announced, “Good morning, and welcome to West Point.”
It all began during a lecture for a class called Leadership and Ethics. This class is co-taught by Presidents Schlesinger, Miller, and Bottomly from Babson, Olin, and Wellesley. While the class predates the three college consortium by several years, it is a great example of the benefits of collaboration between these institutions. Students from each school come together to share experiences, learn from the Presidents teaching team, and hear lectures from renowned speakers who have dealt with issues of leadership and ethics in their careers.
One such speaker was Francis Hesselbein, CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA from 1976 to 1990 and winner of the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her leadership and service to people and communities the world over. Mrs. Hesselbein has also been deeply involved with developing management capability in the US Army and her lecture concluded with a generous offer to the students: come to West Point, take part in the Special Olympics events, and interact with cadets at that storied academy.
So on April 24th Len and Phyllis Schlesinger joined a dozen students from class for the 26th Annual Hudson River Valley Special Olympics at West Point. Colonel Tom Hiebert was the officer in charge of the games but took the time to give our students a tour of the campus, including the parade grounds and the Battle Monument, commemorating the officers lost in the Civil War.
The games took place in West Point’s Shay Stadium, not to be confused with Shea Stadium of Mets and Jets fame. Students were paired with athletes and cheered them on in events such as the long jump, the 100 yard dash, and the softball throw. Amanda Black of Wellesley was particularly proud of her athlete, Michael Comache, who won the Haughton Award for showing exemplary spirit. Over 1,000 cadets were also on hand to help the 624 athletes, and students were able to get a glimpse into the life of a West Point cadet. One particularly interesting revelation: First year cadets must always walk at attention when outside, which means no talking! Luckily this rule was overlooked for the duration of the games.
Though it was a long day and the surprisingly powerful spring sun had reddened some arms, it was agreed that the day was extremely insightful and that the memories would stay with the students for a long time.