Letter to the Editor: McDaniel College should consider changing its motto

Zepp's quote can be found on the side of the water fountain in McTeer-Zepp Plaza (Ciara O'Brien / McDaniel Free Press)

As the next in the Finnerty Family (watch out Westminster) applies to McDaniel College this year, this author cannot be happier as he details the benefits for his sister and her friends.

Two years removed from Zoom graduation and not quite a year removed from a ‘prodigal son returns to waltz across the stage on the football field moment,’ the confidence and reverence for McDaniel College’s education rears in this author. In a newfound job on Representative Susan Wild’s reelection team, preparation provided by the Political Science Dept. keeps me going as the “real world” sets in.

Although distance and lack of a car prevents my sister’s tour from being family-guided, the college campus’ annual spring-blossom-beauty is sure to impress. The campus is nestled on the Hill and sits atop Westminster, like a treehouse for those lucky enough to be on the fourth floor of Whiteford hall facing the city. National Public Radio Philadelphia affiliate WHYY’s contributors, Katherine Gilmore Richardson and Lena Smith report, “Studies have shown that access to green space increases the quality of life for the surrounding communities and reduces the impacts of the Urban Heat Island effect.” This is one of McDaniel’s finest qualities; it contains ample green space and even owns a campus farm.

This green space has the potential to not only color students’ interaction with their environment, but it also benefits students at the psychological level.  A study done by Van den Berg et al finds “significant evidence for the close positive association” between green spaces and a decrease in ‘all-cause mortality’ and similarly an increase in mental health well-being (2015). Therefore, beyond the nascent benefit of Glar Chicken Tender Thursday, McDaniel benefits its students with access to a natural green space to breathe in that pristine country air.  

This functions doubly to take care of students’ innate desire to interact with the green grass of the bowl during the football game and provides a boost to one’s metaphorical mental health well. 

This is the point: McDaniel needs to change that outdated motto.The current version is “I call you out of the darkness into the light.” For a college, which proudly saw its students exit class for the Climate Strike not too long ago, the right motto is found in the words of the immortal presence of longtime professor Ira Zepp.

Zepp says, “Know when to be Water and when to be Rock.” The words are perhaps the most prescient of any case, certainly more so than our current, forgettable motto. They invoke the elements, rock and water, and intersection between man and the natural world. 

This author dares students to ask each other, “What words could more appropriately express our worldly dilemma as students in a rotting ecosystem than those said by one of the college’s beloved professors?” 

For those wondering and wandering, visitors to the college can find those words scrawled on the McTeer-Zepp fountain in the center of campus.

Dare I say, a younger man than I once bathed in that fountain? Anyhow, this is my love letter to the college and the professors (Dr. Leahy, Dr. Mongiello, and Dr. Scullion, who answered my emails during COVID-19), who make it a great place to come of age.

I sincerely hope my sister finds this place as her destination.