Dear Alumni of Yale-NUS,

A few weeks ago I read Alma Mater by P.F. Kluge. It’s been on my mind ever since. The book is a memoir about an alumnus returning to a small liberal arts college decades after graduating. It’s a sharp but loving portrait, and I’ve been buying copies for any friends who will listen. “Read this,” I say, “and you’ll understand what life is like at a tiny college. Warts and all.”

One theme that’s stuck with me is the life-long connection we have to the institutions that made us. Deans and presidents, associate deans and executive vice presidents - they come and go. So do faculty, though some stick around for decades. But alumni are affixed to their college for life. Alumni are the perpetual guardians of a school. They have a unique stake in its identity, health and future. You, accordingly, have a unique stake in Yale-NUS. You always will. This place will be yours, always yours, in a way that no one else can claim.


You are long accustomed to hearing of your unique role as builders. In my view, that is not such an apt image any more. After all, you have lives of your own to build, and the College hums along as institutions do. Your relationship to the College must therefore change.

Perhaps a better description of the role you now fill is stewardship. Like the Stewards of Gondor who kept a kingdom in trust for centuries, you are the ultimate Stewards of Yale-NUS. There is no king. There never was. But there is an odd little college with alabaster towers and green courtyards that needs nurturing and input from its guardians.

You may well wonder - Tolkien references aside - what this could possibly mean. Here is what I have in mind:

  • Mentor current students. Many of you are doing this already, and I take so much pleasure in seeing those relationships blossom.
  • In the fullness of time, serve on the Governing Board. Give back with your time. Work with presidents and deans to keep the College true to our mission.
  • Visit your old stomping grounds. Drop by from time to time and say “hi” to the folks still here who meant the most to you. And even when you can’t do that, stay in touch from afar.
  • Show up at Town Halls and such. And when necessary, hold the College to high standards of conduct and policy.
  • Give money. Vote with your dollars and thereby help shape the institution.

You will each find your own way as Stewards, of course, and I’d like to see how you will add to the list.


This is indeed a fundraising letter (in part!), so let me comment on the last item a bit. I do not write to tell you whether or how much to give to the College. That is your choice. But I will share with you my own policy. I give to Yale-NUS every year. I always will. I do not, for what it’s worth, generally give without restriction. It’s not my job to pay the electricity bills. Rather, I give to the funds that matter to me and that impinge on matters dear to my own peculiar heart.

I imagine some of you reacting with a cynical smirk (“alabaster towers”, “Stewards”, “true to our mission” - who does this guy think he is?). For you know that Yale-NUS is imperfect. It’s capable, as are all institutions, of betraying its constituents. I’d like to share, then, something about the complicated relationship I have with my own alma mater. On the one hand, I adore the Torrey Honors Institute at Biola University: oddball professors, shared triumph and suffering (common curriculum), and those little corners across campus where I once read old books late into the night. On the other, I sometimes feel Biola has wronged me - and worse, wronged its current students. Yet I give every year, and have without fail since graduating. Because the place does good things in the world despite its flaws. Because it made me who I am. Because it will always be my spiritual and intellectual home. And because I hope for it to do better.

Something to think about.

At any rate, should you choose to give to the College this year, here's a fund that may be of special interest:


If you have already given this year: thank you.

I close with a sentimental note. You - dear Stewards of Yale-NUS College - will always have a spot in our hearts. I hope the College will continue to earn a spot in yours too.

Warmly yours,

Andrew M. Bailey


P.S. If you’re considering giving towards other funds at Yale-NUS, a full list of funds is available here.


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