Notes from the President

Chris Gray, Ph.D. | Founding President, Erie County Community College of Pennsylvania

Thanksgiving has long been my favorite holiday; it’s not that I dislike the others, but for me, there is something profound and magical about this day established specifically to encourage us to take a pause and just be grateful for what we have. It’s a simple kind of happiness that we often forget as we move through the day-to-day routine of everyday life.

As we learned in elementary school, Thanksgiving was a tradition celebrated throughout the New England colonies during the eighteenth century. Thereafter, George Washington continued the custom through the creation of a National Day of Gratitude in 1789. In the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln set the observance date to fall on the last Thursday in November; however, it wasn’t until December 1941 that FDR set the observance date for the holiday that we all know as Thanksgiving Day to the fourth Thursday in November, which is the schedule that we still use today. For well over two centuries, we as a country have recognized the importance of being thankful and set aside time expressly for this purpose. It’s a day of fun, football, parades, family, and feasting.

As we enter into this week leading up to a day singularly dedicated to celebrating gratitude, I see an excitement building among our students. It’s a short week at EC3PA, and the prospect of a long weekend looms large and bright. Our first semester is just about behind us, and the final weeks are about all that’s left. The end is in sight as anticipation for the coming holidays and long-awaited winter break begins to grow. The next few weeks will pass in a blur of final papers and exams, and we’ll then gear up to do it all over again.

Before this end-of-term frenzy takes over, however, we have this week in which to pause. In so doing, I can’t help but reflect on the monumental journey that we are all on building America’s newest community college. I am most grateful for my team: these thirty-seven people who make up the faculty and staff of EC3PA. They have given so much of themselves — their time, energy, passion, and commitment to something bigger than themselves. I encourage you to talk to our staff and to hear their stories firsthand. Their passion for EC3PA and our students is made manifest in all they do. We have staff who have literally packed up their families and moved states away, taken pay cuts, or changed career paths entirely in order to be part of this journey. And what an incredible journey this is turning out to be! Today and every day, I’m so incredibly grateful for the chance that the Board of Trustees took when they chose me for this opportunity and for all the good work that we’ve done together since my arrival. We are in the process of realizing a grand vision. And we’ve only just begun.

Likewise, I’m incredibly appreciative of our community, and trustees for all that they have done to get EC3PA off the ground and to create this place in which putting students first is our normal modus operandi. For the way in which the community and county government have rallied around our efforts, I feel such inexpressible gratitude. And to the students who have chosen EC3PA as their educational home, I wish to express my most profound and sincere thanks. They have put their trust in us and chosen us to help them make their educational dreams into reality. We will not let them down.

Come Thursday, I’ll be sitting down to my first Thanksgiving in my new Erie home. My sons will be venturing out from Illinois to join me for our first major holiday experience in another state, and we will watch football together before enjoying our traditional holiday repast. I’m looking forward to taking advantage of the opportunity to share more of Erie County, my new home, with my boys during their visit and to help them get to know this place that I have come to love. And together, we will all take a moment to acknowledge just how fortunate we are to have found our way here to this place at this exciting time for Erie County.

I wish you all a very peaceful holiday with your family and friends. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!