Landrum Bolling reflects on 100 years

November 13, 2013

Earlham College on Wednesday celebrated the 100th birthday of President Emeritus Landrum Bolling with a reception and meet-and-greet event at the building bearing the centenarian’s name.

Bolling, who served as president from 1958 to 1973, shared his strategy for reaching the milestone.

 “I never expected to be this old, but for me it’s been a great surprise and blessing,” Bolling says. “I’ve had good health right to the very end here. It’s amazing. I’m sort of hard of hearing and I don’t see very well but I have nothing to complain about. I’m still mobile, I still get around. I don’t drive my car anymore, but, you know, I’ve enjoyed my life very much.”

 So what’s his secret to a long life?

 “I’ve been well fed, (ate) healthy foods. I never smoked. I had a very normal kind of life, and I’ve enjoyed life,” he says. “Maybe the real secret is enjoying life, enjoying people, enjoying what you’re doing. I would gladly have paid for the privilege of doing the jobs that I’ve had if I had to pay for it. I feel the same way about Earlham College.”

 Bolling came to Earlham as a professor of political science in 1948 before ascending to the presidency. He was at the helm as the College developed into a truly international institution, having a personal role in establishing the Japan Study program in Tokyo that recently celebrated its 50th anniversary, along with other opportunities for students to study abroad.

Today, about 70 percent of Earlham’s graduates complete off-campus study programs both domestic and abroad, with more than 20 semester-long and May-term opportunities now available for students.

After his years at Earlham, Bolling served as President of the Lilly Endowment, as CEO of the Council on Foundations, and later as Rector of Notre Dame’s Tantur Ecumenical Institute in Jerusalem.

He is known for his ongoing efforts to achieve peace in the Middle East. At the request of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Bolling headed an international working group studying the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was the principal author of its report that was published in 1970 and titled “Search for Peace in the Middle East.”

During the administration of President Jimmy Carter, he served as a primary channel of communication between the White House and Yasser Arafat, the former Chairman of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

But Bolling, despite a storied resume in higher education and international politics, says his greatest accomplishment is long-lasting friendship.

 “Personal relationships are very important to me,” he says. “I’ve been blessed by having wonderful friends, wonderful family, jobs that I feel so happy to have had the chance to work at. I’d say, for me, the most satisfying thing about my life has been the wonderful associations I’ve had with people, friends, relatives, colleagues, and being in a real partnership, doing things worth doing together.”

 Friends not attending Bolling’s birthday may send greetings to him at 914 19th St. South, Arlington VA 22202.

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