Long after their son graduated, John & Ann Collier P '90 are still involved at Carleton
Sierra Leone isn't known as a hot spot for honeymooners. But in 1963, when the West African nation was still ruled by a stable government, newlyweds John and Ann Collier decided to join the Peace Corps and spend their first few years together in the coastal country. They worked for two years in a public secondary school, teaching history, geography, mathematics, and an oddball course called "General Knowledge." They learned much about Africa—and even more about each other.
"It was time well spent," says John. "In the very act of surviving, we gained considerable self-confidence and courage. We became excited about a place we'd hardly known before."
The Colliers believe that Carleton, too, is a place where young people can try new things and gain confidence. The College instills students with a thirst for knowledge and openness to new perspectives.
As parents of a Carleton alumnus, John M. Collier '90, the Colliers know that a liberal arts education can be as valuable as living in a different culture. Education, both formal and informal, begins with experience, they say.
We believe in the kinds of things that Carleton represents and the values that it reinforces.
—John Collier P '90
Their belief in the importance and value of liberal arts education has made the Colliers enthusiastic supporters of the College. They've contributed to the Parents Fund and set up a charitable unitrust that will someday benefit Carleton significantly. An additional gift from the Colliers in 2000 helped finance construction of one of nine new student townhouses at the southwest corner of campus.
The Colliers first visited campus in the 1980s, when they accompanied their son on a tour of several colleges. But John, a lifelong educator and an administrator with the Foreign Service Institute, and Ann, who taught high school and community college math, were familiar with Carleton's reputation. Their visit confirmed their suspicions: "We loved it," John recalls. "We liked the small-town setting, the close student-faculty interaction, and the diversity of the student body. We thought it was everything a small liberal arts college should be."
The couple connected with former President Steve Lewis, who himself had lived and worked in Africa. They appreciated the seriousness of Carleton students as well as their sense of humor. When their son married a fellow Carl, Megan Ensminger '91, it gave them yet another tie to the College.
Preparing students for a rapidly changing world—one in which peace can turn into war overnight, as happened in Sierra Leone—is a complex task. But Carleton's ability to motivate students toward lives of leadership and community service gives the Colliers confidence that their investment in the College is one small step toward making the world a better place.
"That's the kind of thing I think a small college should be doing," John says. "The students it produces should be not only competent in what they do, but also engaged fully in life around them."
—Joel Hoekstra is an editor and writer at Carleton.