Once in awhile, I get invited to participate in programs or events that I would never be able to participate in if I didn't volunteer so much. This week has given me two of those opportunities.
When I returned from Watervale last week, I received an email from Grace Groner's attorney. You remember Grace Groner. She left Lake Forest College $7million and her cottage earlier this year. Back in March, when I wrote about Grace's generosity and how much I was touched by it, Grace's attorney, Bill Marlatt commented on my post. In his email last week, he invited me to tour Grace's Cottage, as it is now known. Mr. Marlatt has updated Grace's Cottage and it will be lived in by two Groner Fellows each year.
Upon entering Grace's Cottage, I was completely humbled. As Bill and I walked through the modest (by any standards, not just Lake Forest standards) home, I could feel Grace's love and spirit in every nook and cranny. I was struck by just how modestly she lived, yet what a truly rich life she had. Although Grace never married or had children, her generosity will not only affect generations of Foresters, but her legacy will pass to the thousands (millions?) of people they will help along the way. Grace Groner is literally changing the world.
Bill shared many stories about Grace with me in the short time we were together and I was struck by how much she and I share similar values of giving back to those who helped us along the way, a love for Lake Forest College and leaving the world better than we found it. Bill told me she even had a strong interest in politics! I wish I had known Grace because I'm certain I would have loved her and she could have taught me a lot. Simply knowing about her and seeing the lives she has changed, makes me want to be a better person.
Tonight I had the opportunity to represent the Alumni Board and speak at Matriculation. It was quite a moving ceremony with numerous awards presented for student leadership, academic achievement, and faculty excellence, in addition to officially inducting the first year and transfer students into the College. It was especially honoring for me to have been asked to be the Alumni Board speaker because my cousin was sitting in the audience, as the third Gardner to attend the College. Lake Forest is truly a family affair.
Here's the text of my remarks written for me by my good friend Tim.
Greetings to the Class of 2014 from the Lake Forest College Alumni Association. My name is Jessica Gardner, and I'm a member of the Class of 1993. On behalf of the some 13,500 alumni of the College, I welcome you to our family. We take great pride in Lake Forest and the personal and academic experiences gained here. I made life-long friends during my four years here and sitting amongst you are likely to be yours, as well.I am so honored and humbled to have the opportunity to have these experiences this week because in my wildest imagination when I was a student, I never imagined this amazing path with the College I'd still be on almost 20 years later.
Alumni support the College with their time, talents, and gifts. You will meet many of us as you participate in Homecoming, Reunion, & Family Weekend, the Mentor Program, and the many other events in which Alumni play a crucial role. It is my hope that you will view this evening as the beginning of your life-long relationship with Lake Forest College. The Alumni will be watching your progress and cheering you on every step of the way.