Dear Ursinus Family,

Every year around this time, students gather in Wismer to celebrate “Friendsgiving.” It’s one of the rare occasions when the stressors of the semester are put aside, if only for a few hours, so that our students may enjoy an evening together. These small moments bring the Ursinus family together, offering an opportunity to share various holiday traditions with each other, and to partake in the age-old linguistic debate: Are we eating “filling” or “stuffing?”

We spend a lot of time reflecting on what it means to be a member of the Ursinus family. I’m grateful to be an alumna, a parent, and an employee. Like so many of you, Ursinus will always be my second home. Some of my most cherished moments happened right here with friends and professors.

As with any home, people come and go, yet at this time of year, we like to remind ourselves that everyone is welcome to share our table. It is a time when we find new ways of living together, understanding our world, and discovering what matters most to us. It is a time when we strive to become even more open and affirming.

I also have been reflecting on my own home—which, candidly, is nothing like I imagined it might be many years ago when I was a student. And so, today, I’d like to share some musings from what I learned from my own family circumstances that also has shaped my Ursinus experience.


As most of you now know, I started my career here in college relations and as an adjunct faculty member in the English department, soon after becoming a parent for the first time. In some ways, I thought that teaching might help me prepare for motherhood. It was certainly a new adventure altogether: I hadn’t grown up with siblings; I never fought over the wishbone with a brother or sister at Thanksgiving. What I learned rather abruptly was that there were no manuals for being a parent, just as there was no real training for being an adjunct faculty member. Nevertheless, I had true friends and colleagues to lean on and learn from; I grew into both roles because of the extended personal and professional family around me.

Ultimately, I became the proud (and often overwhelmed) mother of four sons and part of a “blended” family, which includes a stepson and stepdaughter and their families! Like so many of you, in each of your own ways—we all must navigate family dynamics at home and here, on this special campus. With that in mind, I’d like to take a moment to share several qualities that, I believe, keep families close, especially during times of disquiet like we’ve experienced in the past two years.

Embracing difference: Each of my four children was special in his own way. One preferred to be left alone; another sought undivided attention; one was a comedian; another a prankster. Only two shared a similar hair color; their genes, and their personalities, were expressed quite differently. Similarly, we need to work harder to recognize and affirm the distinctions among our own Ursinus family; it allows us to become better and stronger. When I had my second child and my family grew, I was told these special
words: “You know, by embracing another, your love does not divide—it multiplies in new and wonderful ways!”

Listening: Don’t all children love to tell you about their great achievements—their home run, their spelling bee win, their standing their ground, their speaking truth to power? And doesn’t every child appreciate silent empathy when things don’t work out? Excellent listeners are a rare and wonderful breed, and we are blessed with such talented people in so many places across campus. If I were to paraphrase a famous song, I would change “whistle while you work” to “listen while you work!”

Trust: On many occasions when my boys were fighting, I would send them off to their room to work it out. Those of you who are parents know this scenario well. When we are in charge, we so often think we should have the answer. Reality tells us otherwise: that the best results come from those having to work through their own challenges. Let’s remind ourselves to trust the folks in the midst of the moment to be the experts they are and to find solutions that lead to positive outcomes.

Commitment: Families are a part of an unending bond. They have a common history and traditions and memories. Most importantly, they have a shared value system. Here at Ursinus, there is a reason we ask, “What should matter to me?” and “How should we live together?” Just as we ask our students to contemplate the essence of “Quest,” let’s make the most of our distinctive family culture and make sure to regularly ask those questions of our friends, colleagues, and mentors as well.


A final thought about family. This past month, Ursinus surveyed thousands of high school counselors to understand the experiences of the next generation of students. The results of that survey were featured in an exclusive article in Inside Higher Ed. We know that we have an important job to do as both prospective and current families wend their way through the college experience. Let’s demonstrate the real meaning of family through our actions and our hearts. If nothing else, we owe it to the youngest Bears to provide our love and support.

Especially in this season, I am so very thankful for counting you all among my Ursinus family.

Gratefully yours,
Jill Leauber Marsteller ’78, P’18 President

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.