Thursday, June 21, 2018

A Letter to Marylhurst University Employees & Students

I can't believe it's over. Well, truth be known, one's education should never be something that is exactly over--until we are, at least. Last weekend, on June 17th, I received my B.A. with Honors, in English Literature and New Media from Marylhurst University. My first university course was in September of 1987 at Seattle Pacific University, and I finished more than three decades later. The last few years have been particularly challenging, since, in addition to my studies, I have been working full-time for the state and also serving as a busy husband and father. Despite all of the hard work (and injured feet in Europe), it has been a truly rewarding experience. My study abroad to London and Rome was probably the most memorable part of my academic journey, but writing my senior thesis on Harper Lee's Atticus was memorable too--in an entirely different sort of way. The bittersweet part of my passage to graduation is that my loved school is closing.

I've decided to share an open letter to faculty, staff, and my fellow students. This is the same letter that was recently anonymously quoted within a recent Inside Higher Ed article by Doug Lederman. I hope it begins to express how I feel about this loss.

When I heard the sad news on Marylhurst this past week, I felt stunned. Other emotions have come and gone in their respective pageantry over the past few days, and the overwhelming feeling now is one simply of great loss. Yet, I am just a student who briefly felt at home in this special place. My heart goes out to the staff and wonderful faculty—especially the ones who must strive to put on a happy face and continue their important work in the coming stressful months. I am so sorry that this took place. It seems a particularly tragic end when one considers the rich history of more than a century and the associated legacy of learning that Marylhurst has come to represent.

It’s been a long journey. I first attended college classes at Seattle Pacific University in the fall of 1987. When I finally graduate next month, the experience will seem particularly bittersweet now. I was briefly considering pursuing a graduate degree, but that’s almost certainly impossible at this point in my life. The flexibility that Marylhurst offered this twenty-year plus Oregon State employee was critical in my academic success; I don’t think I would have had the energy to make a traditional college work. Marylhurst brought me a great deal. In the end, though, one of the greatest things the school brought me was a relatively simple (yet elusive) item called hope. I fear that Marylhurst’s departure is going to slowly erode viable options for so many like myself, and, sadly, this ultimately means a loss of hope in people who can’t stand to remain in their current occupations for a minute longer than necessary. (Each day, my job feels more like a glorified data entry assembly line, and the antics of some of those in upper management in terms of open, transparent, and ethical promotional processes…leaves credibility too often in a shattered heap along the wayside.)

While I don’t understand all of the complexities of Marylhurst’s decline, I have a suspicion that this was avoidable. Could we have done something? I, for example, helped raise many thousands of dollars for the state’s Charitable Fund Drive in 2007. If I had known of the dire situation…I might have joined with others to try to create some realistic options for MU. Sadly, though, none of us seem to have known the truth before it was too late to likely effect any substantive good out of this situation.

From early morning and late evening classes on this beautiful campus to the amazing study abroad experiences in London and Rome, the rich experiences and fine education I have taken from Marylhurst will infuse my life with a greater depth; they will be forever treasured.

Karl Bjorn Erickson
Monmouth, Oregon

Marylhurst University Graduation

University of Kansas (1989)

Seattle Pacific University Photos (1987-1989)

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