“At the Olympics, it isn’t the most beautiful or strongest who are crowned, but those who compete.” –Aristotle

Dear Ursinus Family,

With the Winter Olympics in full swing, I took a few moments to reflect on the past year in sports, briefly re-living a montage of those athletic “snapshot moments” that gripped our nation. They spanned the amazing SEVENTH Super Bowl win for recent-retiree Tom Brady, to the Tokyo Olympics, where the forthright choices made by both Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles sounded an important alarm about our collective wellbeing. Sometimes, in order to compete, we need to fully embrace self-care and healing. Think also of the PNC Championship comeback of Tiger Woods and his “mini-me” son, Charlie.

And just this past week we witnessed “the thrill of victory” through the gold medal performances of the mixed aerial team, along with Lindsey Jacobellis, Nathan Chen, and Chloe Kim. We’ve also shared in the “agony of defeat,” painfully experienced by Mikaela Shiffrin.

You might think these reflections are all quite different, but to me they share something important: a competitor faces far-reaching emotions and experiences and hears a powerful inner voice which sometimes screams confidence. That same inner voice, at other times, echoes self-doubt or urges caution, as was the case of Simone when her “twisties” set in.

We can learn a lot from observing athletes and their circumstances and choices. Right now, some of us feel like Brady, the Greatest of All Time, while others might feel the need to take some time for reflection and prioritize ourselves, like Simone and Naomi.

Very few of us have the talents at the level of these athletes, but that doesn’t mean we don’t compete with equal ferocity in so many other aspects of life. Like many of you, I have had my share of moments personally and professionally where it took everything I had to keep moving forward. What I’ve learned is that, sometimes, just putting your feet on the floor as you get out of bed is a victory. You may not feel especially strong or determined that day, but you compete.

As most of you know, I fractured my ankle in December. After spending three weeks in a therapeutic boot I learned, to my dismay, that an MRI had shown a second fracture and I would need a cast for six more weeks. I was initially angry at the circumstances that created this encumbrance and frustrated with my dependency on others; however, I adapted, and soon began to embrace the change, so much so that I may have officially become the Danica Patrick of knee walker scooters! Obstacles or new circumstances are part of our life experience. It is essential for us to face those moments and determine how best to overcome them and move forward.

As Charles Darwin noted in a quote that somewhat reflects Aristotle’s advice: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.” Change is all around us every day. Recognize it. Embrace it. Innovate and create around it.

Compete within it. For this, as we well know from evolution, is what it truly takes to be among the “fittest.”


“Of all the civil rights for which the world has struggled and fought for five thousand years, the right to learn is undoubtedly the most fundamental.” –W. E. B. Du Bois

How many of you know where this quote is permanently etched on campus? I urge you to go find it and someday sit in the stillness of it. Indeed, there’s a place for just that along the Strassburger Commons, outside of the Kaleidoscope. I have stood before it, sat silently around it, prayed, and meditated within it. For so many of us, it has special meaning, and all for different reasons.

At this time of year, when we celebrate Black History Month, notice the many quotes around campus that are with us each February. Search for the purpose in them. Find one that speaks to you and share it on the free speech wall. Or please feel free to send me your favorite quotes—especially if it is self-authored! We will share them on the electronic billboards around campus and, perhaps, even print them on our flagpole banners. I believe that it’s these lived experiences that not only inspire us, but also give us more to consider and, hopefully, help to move us forward towards a better understanding of each other.

I’ll start: “To bring about change, you must not be afraid to take the first step. We will fail when we fail to try,” by Rosa Parks.

What a wonderful reminder to lean into each day with intentionality and confidence, particularly if that means taking time—taking that first step—for your own wellbeing. That’s the essence of those who compete!

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

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