Former College President Bill Durden ‘71 Returns for Lecture

Shane Shuma ’22, Staff Writer

Former Dickinson College President Dr. Bill Durden ’71 came to campus to present his thoughts about aging and how colleges should be involved in that process. 

Durden spent much of his lecture focusing on the concept of intentionality and how it plays a role in people of advanced age. He said that he noticed as he and others around him aged that their focus became heightened and that there was a desire to find a deep and single purpose. He also stated that the goal of many older people is to be a part of something bigger than themselves, whether it is an ideal or community, while retaining their individuality. He related this back to the college experience, arguing for the need for intergenerational colleges that are open to all people, and those separated by generational gaps can share their experiences and differing purposes.

Durden then displayed pictures of a sidewalk that he had taken while walking “in the diagonal.” He displayed them because he believed they demonstrated for his belief that the abstract can be found in the natural world. He also used them as support for his belief that people should take the time to walk in the diagonal, taking the time to walk the paths that are often overlooked and to find meaning in living in the moment. He extended this belief to people, asserting that people should take the time to know people in advanced age and not to let bias or apathy prevent people from working with people of advanced age. He sees their intentionality, their ability to find a deep focus and stay committed to it, as the key to solving many problems and as a skill that can be harnessed for social change. 

Albert Masland ‘79 enjoyed the lecture and recalled his experiences with former president Durden. “I used to run into Bill Durden walking down the alleys. So, when he mentioned that as part of living on the diagonal, I thought it made perfect sense to me having seen him there,” he said. 

Rebecca Fox ‘22 was the student project manager for the lecture. Fox explained the purpose of Durden’s lecture and how the lecture ties into the Clarke Forum’s themes of the good life series. “To start looking at a more comprehensive of what it means to have a good life and how you can have a good life, and Durden has obviously done incredible things for the college,” she said. Fox also said that the event was a success and appreciated its attendance. “An Anticipatory Memoir: Aging on the Diagonal” was held in the Anita Tuvin Schlecter Auditorium at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 18.