From the President department heading
Illustration of John C. Bravman, President
Illustration: Joel Kimmel

Embracing the Uncertainty of Opportunity

Like many academics, I love books. It’s a love that began early in my childhood, and one that drove my ambition to become the first in my family to go away to college. Some of the books I first encountered as a boy left such a lasting impression that I’ve sought them out as an adult. Reading is a joy I like to share with friends and colleagues, to whom I often give books that have made a particular impact on my thinking.
The process of reading — self-education, really — has been a constant throughout my life. So when a journalist recently asked me to describe the role of education in the lives of students, my response was simple and immediate: Education is the best friend who is with you even when you are alone; a North Star that guides the journey. It builds individuals who, in turn, build their communities, nations and the world.

I see this transformation in action every day in my role as Bucknell’s president. Our students choose Bucknell because they prize the value and versatility of the liberal arts education we offer, and they commit themselves to intellectual growth. In fact, I believe their dedication to this ideal helped them navigate the challenges of the pandemic’s most uncertain days. Their coursework and their quest to earn their degree remained constant, even as they were unsure what to expect as COVID-19 swept the globe.

At its core, all education is preparation for an uncertain future. We all face two types of uncertainty throughout our lives. The first is the uncertainty of crisis — a negative situation such as an illness, a job loss or even a pandemic. The other is the uncertainty of opportunity — the positive and, if we are fortunate, more prevalent type of uncertainty, such as getting an unexpected job offer or invitation to travel, or discovering your academic passion.

Successfully managing both kinds of uncertainty requires the same set of skills — critical thinking, flexibility, resilience and the confidence to make decisions and act on them — which we strive to instill here every day, in and out of the classroom. Our students can’t predict the future, but a Bucknell education prepares them to adapt and thrive in any situation.

In this issue, you’ll find just a few examples of alumni who deftly maneuver junctures of uncertainty, starting with our cover story. Matthew Bogdanos ’80 is a first-generation college student whose colorful career path began at Bucknell, where he studied classics and philosophy. He’s an Army colonel and Manhattan prosecutor who works to recover stolen antiquities from around the world.

On the frontiers of science, Bartley Griffith ’70 seeks opportunities to change the outcomes of medical crises, making headlines last winter for performing the world’s first successful transplant of a pig heart to a human. His interest in transplant science began as a biology major and was nurtured by faculty who supported his research.

Kendy Alvarez ’06, featured in our last issue, was recently elected as Lewisburg’s first female mayor of color. It’s a position that marries her passion for Bucknell with her love of the town to which she immigrated from Trinidad as a child, and one that allows her to devote her talents to cultivating our fruitful town-gown partnership.

These three leaders chose very different paths but share two key advantages: a Bucknell education and an appetite for embracing opportunity. I hope you’re as inspired by their stories as I am. Keep forging your own path — one that excites you, makes an impact, and above all, always keeps you learning.

Copy of John C. Bravman signature

John C. Bravman