Editorial: A Call to Create the Janet Morgan Riggs Center for Global Citizenship

Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs (Photo Mary Frasier/The Gettysburgian)

Gettysburg College President Janet Morgan Riggs (Photo Mary Frasier/The Gettysburgian)

By The Gettysburgian Editorial Board

In Gettysburg College’s 186-year history, its campus has benefitted from the indelible impact of thousands of distinguished individuals, but it is difficult to imagine one whose influence has been as outsized as Janet Morgan Riggs. She will retire in May after 11 years as our president, which were preceded by a 27-year stint on the faculty that culminated in her appointment as provost and four years as an undergraduate student.

President Riggs has brought new meaning to the “Gettysburg Great” ideal through her large-scale efforts in leading a prolific fundraising campaign that yielded more than $160 million to support the college, promoting diversity and inclusion through a landmark climate study and appointment of a chief diversity officer, and advocating for the liberal arts through leadership at both the state and national levels, as well as her small-scale efforts in being available to students, faculty, and employees alike and in being a frequent face at events across campus.

“She is the archetype of what it means to be a Gettysburgian, and, for that reason, we urge the Board of Trustees to eternalize her massive contributions to the campus community over more than four decades by renaming a building on campus in her honor.” – The Gettysburgian Editorial Board

She is the archetype of what it means to be a Gettysburgian, and, for that reason, we urge the Board of Trustees to eternalize her massive contributions to the campus community over more than four decades by renaming a building on campus in her honor.

One component of the recent campaign that did not reach its target was a plan to refashion Plank Gym into a global center focused on providing a physical space for the campus community to engage in dialogue and action on global issues. Given President Riggs’ relentless leadership in the areas of inclusion and internationalization – one of three tenets of our current strategic plan – we believe it would be a fitting honor to reimagine the project of renovations to Plank as the construction of the Janet Morgan Riggs Center for Global Citizenship.

Surely, a dynamic venue focused on intentional collaboration and deep engagement with complex issues would be a fitting tribute to the legacy of a president who has challenged us all to dig deeper in our pursuit to understand the world around us one conversation at a time.

And, we imagine that, if put in those terms, many of the very same benefactors who helped the GettysburGreat campaign succeed so spectacularly would be keen to top it off with a lasting tribute to a visionary leader that led Gettysburg in pursuit of something greater. Furthermore, all Burgians of the Last Decade (BOLD) benefited from her leadership, so this would be a strong rallying cry for young alums and first-time donors to honor a beloved campus celebrity: someone who spoke at their convocation, went to their sporting events, attended their concerts, listened to their concerns, led their alma mater, and wished them well at commencement.

It is worth noting that President Riggs would be the first woman to be honored as the sole namesake of an academic building on the Gettysburg College campus. Her accomplishments certainly deserve to be heralded alongside those of the deserving men in whose honor our current academic and campus life buildings are named.

Since its founding by abolitionists, Gettysburg College has been concerned about the unfinished work ahead. President Riggs would be the first to admit that the work that she has done to expand opportunities for global citizenship is just the beginning of the long journey towards becoming a truly international center of higher education, yet we believe it would be altogether fitting and proper that we should commemorate her efforts in this way.

This editorial reflects the collective opinion of The Gettysburgian’s Editorial Board: Benjamin Pontz ’20 (Editor-in-Chief), Joshua Wagner ’19 (Managing Opinions Editor), Alex Romano ’20 (Associate Editor), Katherine Lentz ’20 (Arts & Entertainment Editor), Mary Frasier ’21 (Director of Photography), Madeleine Neiman ’21 (Features Editor), Lauren Hand ’20 (Lead Copyeditor), Gauri Mangala ’21 (News Editor), Charlie Williamson ’19 (Sports Editor).

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Author: Gettysburgian Staff

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