Gettysburg alum sends letter to the President

Gettysburgian readers,

A copy of a letter for President Janet Morgan Riggs was recently mailed to our staff. In May of 2016, Donald S. Himmelreich (Gettysburg College Class of 1969) wrote a response to the “Notes from the President” featured in the Gettysburg College magazine. He called the Spring 2016 note “over the top”. Finding the letter highly opinionated and impassioned, the staff felt this letter thought-provoking and worthwhile to publish.


“Dear Madam President,

Over the years, I have read your “Notes from the President” which appear in the quarterly edition of the Gettysburg College Magazine. My inevitable response is that they have come to epitomize everything that is wrong with small, liberal arts colleges, in general, and Gettysburg College, in particular. The Spring, 2016 treatise is over the top.

What was conspicuously absent, shockingly so, in the summary of the subject — matters of ‘your retreat’ was any direct reference to the number one problem of higher education– the continuous sky-rocketing cost of tuition, room, board, etc. Yes, a college education in valuable, almost essential– but who can equate that ‘value’ with a 4-year cost at Gettysburg (or other similar schools) of $250,000.

Oh, it ‘pays off’ in the end– that is the generic answer always given. But, what about the ‘short’ term– the years and years of savings by parents, the years and years of student loan re-payment (and default) and the inability of the graduate to get a meaningful job inasmuch as he or she emerges as an ‘educated nobody’. Let’s face it– who ‘wouldn’t’ want to hire someone in today’s job market with a resume’ that is conspicuous by such ‘meaningful’ subjects such as ‘Chinese Art’, ‘Music Appreciation’, ‘Gymnastics’, ‘Literary Foundations’ (Beowulf, anyone?) An on and on and on.

My wife and I were fortunate. My oldest son went to Gettysburg for one semester in the 1990’s. He hated it and withdrew. He completed his higher education at Penn State, main campus. He loved it as did his parents inasmuch as the cost was 1/3 of Gettysburg. My younger son did likewise without even considering any place other than PSU. Today, they are grown men in their 30’s, both highly successful businessmen.

This letter will be an ‘open letter’ to various other media outlets on campus. I wonder if you, Madam President, ever ask yourself why, among other things, the Class Notes participation from the Classes of 67-69 is so low. Perhaps, it is because those graduates share the same outrage over the transformation of a great, small college in a great setting, at a reasonable cost ($2000.00/semester for T,R, and B) in the 1960’s to a place that most of those graduates do not recognize now and choose not to associate with.

There is a giant bear lurking on campus and other campuses across the country. He will be at the door soon or, more probably, in the streets. The bear either will eat you or you can eat the bear — there can be no head-in-the-sand nihilism as you seem to exemplify.

Perhaps, then, your next ‘retreat’ will be on the subject of major cost-cutting (inflated salaries, bloated administrative costs, etc.) to create major relief in T,R, and B. The revolution is is coming! You can either be out ahead of it or be forced in to a literal ‘retreat’ by the inevitable focus of change. Now would be a good time to get started.

Donald S. Himmelreich, Class of 1969″

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