In the fall of 2021, the Earlham class of ‘76 made a generous donation of $10,000 to the college. The donation became a discretionary fund and would go unused for two years until the Earlham Word revival prompted its allocation. The fund was entrusted to Bonita Washington-Lacey, a member of the class of ‘78 and current Dean of Students.
The donation was made during the class of ‘76’s reunion and at the height of the Earlham pandemic era. The class intended the gift to provide some sort of relief for students during a difficult time, hence, the allocation of the fund was left entirely at Bonita’s discretion, provided it was spent on Earlham students. When asked about the process of allocation and any other potential hurdles, Bonita said, “[there were almost] none at all…the class of ‘76 decided to designate it to me as a discretionary fund…they placed no limitations on it. They wanted — after the pandemic — to support students in whatever way we deemed appropriate.” It does seem characteristic of an Earlham class to carry out an important task like this one with the legal counsel equivalent of a pinky promise—not that we’re complaining.
Initially, the fund went unused. Bonita reached out to ESG shortly after the donation was made but, in the somewhat chaotic environment of COVID-adjusted schooling, there was little solid feedback. That was, until she became part of the administration and faculty group supporting the Earlham Word. To Bonita, the initiative represents various vital parts of the university community and information mechanism, including student leadership, department-student relationships, and alumni-student relationships:
[I]t seems to me the Word is a…traditional, institutionalized place for student voices. What college doesn’t have a student newspaper? What kind of nonsense is that? So to me, it was important, particularly how news is used. It can inform, or it can misinform, and I really want the Earlham Word to be a place that informs all of us from a student perspective, not just opinions that are published… I would expect that everything from the word is credible, because….you’ve done your research, even if you don’t agree with it, even if… those folks at the college may not agree with it. I expect that will be a respected, trusted voice that we can all look forward to reading…I also think when I shared the idea [of] having different departments help sponsor the Word, it gives [the departments] an opportunity to share their story in relationship or partnership with students. And I think we all need to be doing more in that. It’s a way to get us reengaged and reignited as a community. So I love it.
Bonita described the class of ‘76 as “industrious, exceptional, successful, committed to Earlham, committed to [its] students, [and] deeply empathetic”, and even gave us a few names of previous editors and writers of the Word who could make a guest appearance in a future issue. It would bring this journalistic revival story full circle, and ideally re-establish some of the cross-generational involvement in political and social spheres which formerly characterized the liberal college experience.