‘You, Who Are on The Road’

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New Provost Kathy Ogren invoked words from the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young classic “Teach Your Children” at her Dec. 3, 2015, installation.

“It is a mantra of mine,” explained Kathy Ogren to the audience assembled to celebrate her installation as provost in Orton Center. She was referring to the lyrics “Teach Your Children,” from the Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young song that provided the title to her speech. “A mantra that inspires my work as a teacher, scholar, a contributor to many living-learning communities and now, as a university administrator with this most curious of titles, a provost.”

“You, who are on the road,” Ogren sang (yes, sang), “must have a code that you can live by.” Though there is no single code to live by on the road to educational advancement, she noted it is our teachers who empower us and “decode” the “knowledge, skills, sensibilities and experiences valuable to our journeys.”

Ogren, who served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences from 2011 to 2015, was also a faculty member in the history department for many years and served as director of the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies from 1999 to 2007. Her new role as provost began this past June.

In the many courses she has taught in American and African-American history, women’s history, jazz and blues studies, and the modern American West, Ogren has often combined history, literature and music. Ogren performs in her spare time as a vocalist with the Buffalo Blues Band, which she started in 2006 as part of a Johnston Center class project.

At her installation, several speakers shared memories of a born leader who has always worn her intellect and wisdom lightly and led by example.

“Kathy Ogren in college was the person that you know today—bright and lively, hardworking and hardplaying, serious but with a ready smile, engaging, kind, tough when necessary,” said Helen Horowitz, the Sydenham Clark Parson Professor Emerita of History at Smith College and an important early mentor for Ogren.

Bill McDonald, professor emeritus of English at the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies, spoke of how on her arrival at the University, in addition to her intellectual credentials, “she had plenty of streetwise experience as a socialist organizer, political activist and a feminist.” From the beginning, he said, she was “a hit” with her students and with her colleagues.

As provost, said Ogren, “I will ask this always: Have we challenged students to achieve their best work in what they do best and in what is least comfortable for them?”

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