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Reprinted with permission of the News-Register. Find more News-Register stories about Linfield College here.

 

Leonard Pitts speaks at Linfield CollegeMay 17, 2013

By Bruce Wyatt, contributor

You hear it from tourists in the wine bars on Third Street and from lifelong residents: “McMinnville is a special place.” While recently celebrating my 10th anniversary here, I wondered, what is it that makes McMinnville so “special?”

My wife and I have lived in towns of similar size and makeup, in Vermont, Massachusetts and Wisconsin. We’ve raised kids, led Girl Scout troops, coached baseball and been involved with churches and civic groups. We’ve enjoyed every place we’ve lived. Yet we, too, would agree, McMinnville is a special place.

Aside from the natural beauty, a charming downtown and the friendliness of the people, I believe that Linfield College is a mark of distinction for McMinnville. I’m biased, of course, since I work at Linfield and it’s the reason I came here. But I’ve lived in other college towns, and this one truly is different.

In April, I attended a lecture on “The Accelerating Universe” given by Nobel Laureate Brian Schmidt. Ice Auditorium was packed. The audience had its fair share of Linfield students, faculty and staff, but there also were many people from the community, and a large contingent from the Delphian School. And why not? How often do we have in-person exposure to one of the brightest minds of our times?

Being at the lecture reminded me of the many educational and cultural opportunities Linfield offers to Yamhill County residents. Our theater program produced two world premiere plays this year. One was co-authored by a student and a professor. The other, by a New York playwright, was written and developed in conjunction with our theater students. You don’t need to go to Portland to see innovative, high quality theater.

The same is true, of course, for the visual arts and music. Cutting-edge artists regularly display their art on campus, and the concert choir is commissioning a new piece by an up-and-coming composer, who will be in residency for several days next year.

All these events are open to the public, and most are free. When a local person tells me he or she hasn’t been on the Linfield campus, I am sorry that they are missing great opportunities.

Linfield has truly partnered with McMinnville since the college’s founding in 1858. One of the most tangible aspects of this partnership lies in the privileges all McMinnville residents have at Nicholson Library. Any given night, high school students and community members sit side-by-side with Linfield students studying and researching. On May 16, the ninth annual MacReads (a city-college venture) culminated with a reading at “The Nick” by the author of this year’s selection.

Outreach from the college to the community may be at an all-time high. Recognized by the President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, as many as 900 Linfield students volunteer more than 50,000 hours a year. Local groups such as Kids on the Block and Habitat for Humanity rely on these students, who in turn develop valuable skills and civic commitment.

For five years, Linfield has hosted a Hispanic Heritage Day, attracting 500 people to campus for music, dance, food and celebrations. The student Latinos Adelante group provides community service ranging from health clinics to assisting Mac High students with applying for financial aid to attend college.

The relationship between the burgeoning wine industry and Linfield also continues to grow. Most visible to local residents, of course, is the annual International Pinot Noir Celebration in Linfield’s Oak Grove, which brings hundreds of winemakers, chefs, sommeliers and aficionados to McMinnville each summer. The college’s faculty and its innovative Center for the Northwest have conducted research, produced videos, brought noted speakers to campus, organized seminars on the business of wine and created the outstanding Oregon Wine History Archive.

Finally, no reflection on the distinction of McMinnville would be complete without a reference to Wildcat athletics. With eight national small college titles (in football, baseball and softball), Linfield boasts one of the most successful college athletics programs in the country. Community support, home and away, is a hallmark of that winning tradition. And the athletics facilities on campus serve as venues for youth clinics and camps, under the guidance of our talented coaches.

Our college developed because of the vision, commitment and financial resources of community leaders more than 150 years ago. That vision and commitment is sustained through our annual “Partners in Progress” fund drive, considered a model for successful town-and-gown fundraising. Linfield, in turn, continues its commitment to provide exceptional educational, cultural and recreational opportunities to local residents.

It is, indeed, part of a very special place.

 

Guest writer Bruce Wyatt has served as vice president for college relations at Linfield for 10 years. He plans to step down this summer to work part-time on special projects at the college. He and his wife, Carol, live in McMinnville and enjoy biking, gardening, reading and traveling, especially to visit their children in San Francisco, Vermont and China.