An Open Letter to 2017 Summer Scholars

Dear Summer Scholars,

Tearing open a much anticipated white package full of this year’s Summer Scholars books was like a reunion with good friends. Some of the texts we are reading this year are close to my heart, having awakened my imagination, challenged my thinking, and changed me a bit for the better (at least I hope so) in previous visits. Some of the texts are a bit harder to get to know, and I will never claim to fully understand Dante or Plato, but that is one of the beauties of reading Great Books. Every time I re-visit them, I get to know them a little better, recognizing that, much like a person, I will never fully know them.

2016 SSP students in class, discussing Tolkien.

I am excited to get to know some of you as well, whether we are already friends or meeting for the first time. I was never a Summer Scholar myself (though I drooled over the program from afar), but last summer I had the chance to be a Teaching Assistant for the Tolkien course and had to come back for seconds. I enjoyed taking my love of Tolkien to a whole new level, exploring his world with Templeton’s own Gandalf’s and Galadriels, and I fondly remember the way Middle Earth colored the trees and gardens of Longwood. I half expected to see Treebeard or Sam around every corner, and mine was not the only overactive imagination. More than anything, however, I remember a stream of faces and little moments when we connected to a text or each other: the group discussions when one clear voice broke through a muddled conversation, the snatches of conversation at odd times with a friend who opened my eyes to what I would never have seen on my own, and the cozy devotionals each evening when we were simply present with one another and with God as we crystallized the events of the day.

It is all of you who make Summer Scholars worthwhile. Technically, I could study Lewis or Plato on my own this summer and still learn, just as I could eat an entire gallon of ice cream by myself (and still enjoy it), but such things are meant to be shared. A great book is better enjoyed (and struggled through) in company. Learning is hard. Passing a course like the Summer Scholars Program is difficult but truly opening yourself up to learn and grow through the experience is even more of a challenge, though it is also more of an adventure. Through the laughter, tears, or mere exhaustion, something amazing happens if we let it, but it does not happen alone.

Yes, this kind of adventure is a struggle, but it is in the struggle that we find each other. Last year, almost everyone was overwhelmed at some point, but then again so was Frodo. He had Sam, and we had each other. I found friends in unexpected places when I needed them, and ones more trustworthy than I could have hoped. The joy of Templeton is exploring questions in a community of those who truly care about the work and each other. If you are a student, know that we have been praying for you and will be right alongside you throughout the upcoming adventure. The Summer Scholars Program is meant to be intense, which opens us up for learning as it is meant to be, finding companions in the midst of adventure.

So, whether you are on Socrates’ jury, or Lewis’s bus from hell, welcome to Summer Scholars. If a philosopher is a lover of wisdom regardless of title, perhaps a scholar is anyone willing to be a student—a beginner—ready to learn from others in a community of books, questions, and each other.

Godspeed on your next adventure,


Katarina Rorstrom (’19) is a Templeton junior studying English Literature. 

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