2008 Walter E. Beach Distinguished Alumni Award
Eileen Fair Durgin ’52
For Eileen Fair Durgin ’52, serving Dickinson College has never felt like work. The former science teacher has volunteered to work on each of her class’s reunions, served six years on the Alumni Council and interviewed numerous prospective students for the college, but she’s rarely thought of her efforts as service. Additionally, in 2002 when the college started a new tradition of including an alumni processional in the Commencement ceremony with two representatives from each decade, Eileen, along with her late husband Richard ’50, volunteered to serve as a representative of the ’50’s and has continued to do so for all but one of the last seven years.
“I never considered any of it work,” she explains. “When you’re so proud of your college, being involved doesn’t feel like service. I don’t feel like I’m serving; I feel like the college is still serving me.”
Her commitment to Dickinson began when she was elected secretary of her class more than five decades ago. While other class officers might have thought their posts were limited to their college years, Durgin saw it as a lifetime appointment.
“Perhaps I took that position more seriously than anyone intended when I was elected, but I thought I should keep helping out as much as I could,” she says with a laugh. “The minute I graduated, I just kept going back to get involved in everything I could get involved in. Long before anyone used the phrase ‘a Dickinsonian for life,’ that was just the way I felt.”
A member of Phi Beta Kappa and the recipient of the American Association of University Women’s Award for the Outstanding Senior Woman, Durgin made the most of her time at Dickinson. Ask her for her fondest memory, and she’ll tell you she “had one a day,” but her performances as a soprano soloist for the college choir still stand out.
“That was a load of fun,” she recalls, noting that her favorite piece was the Easter-
season performance of the cantata, “The Seven Last Words of Christ.” “It was the most impressive thing you would ever want to hear … I’ll never forget it.”
Music is still a big part of Durgin’s life. In addition to her work with Dickinson, she volunteers as the producer of the Cinnaminson Community Chorus in Cinnaminson, N.J.
During her student years, Durgin was also involved in the Dickinson Follies, Microcosm and The Dickinsonian. But as important as her Dickinson memories still are, her dedication to the college isn’t about giving back. For Durgin, it’s just second nature.
“To me, being involved is just what you do,” she says. “It never occurred to me not to help out.”
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