Greetings from the Borough of Swarthmore

At the inauguration of President Valerie Smith, Mayor Tim Kearney offered greetings on behalf of Swarthmore Borough.

Good Afternoon. My name is Tim Kearney and I have the pleasure of serving as mayor of the borough of Swarthmore. So first, let me welcome you on behalf of the citizens of our borough. The College makes up about a quarter of the 1.4 square miles of our dense, transit oriented, inner-ring suburban town and a good percentage of the faculty and staff live here and are part of our community.

I wear several hats these days, although I haven’t worn a hat like this since the 80's. I am an architect, adjunct faculty member at Drexel, a husband and father, ukulele impresario, soccer nut, and an overall proponent of community. The citizens of Swarthmore elected me mayor at a time of accelerated evolution here. Things often happen slowly and deliberatively in our highly educated and often opinionated town and people take exception to the term change.

But there are changes occurring and most often at the messy edge between town and gown. The College inn is rising (and a liquor license coming), the round-about functioning brilliantly, and plans are in the works for new classroom space and student housing. All of which will have an impact and, I believe, will benefit Swarthmore. Town and gown are often presented as separate competing entities with their own agendas and aspirations. I think the truth of it is much different. The College and the town grew up together. The railroad came first, cutting through farmland to get to Media. The College came next and you can see that Parrish Hall and lawn was oriented, not to the wilderness as Jefferson’s UVA, but to the train station. The Quakers were and are practical people. The town came later and its life has always intertwined with the College. Newcomers to Swarthmore, I myself am still a newbie, only having been here 19 years, most often come because of the College. Whether they work here or just like the idea of raising a family in a college town with great public transit to the city. If the College and the town have different goals and aspirations, they are at the very least parallel and often overlap. That is what I mean when I talk about the messy edge between town and gown.

I am thankful to Val for including me in this ceremony as a representative of one or several of the communities that she is joining and it is my pleasure to welcome her. In our own way, we are all striving for that sense of belonging that comes from community. It is easy for us to retreat to our separate house (castles) with our clear boundaries but I think we know that happiness comes through the complexities of human interaction. Our lives consist of overlapping circles of people and activities that are fluid and change over time. This dynamic keeps things interesting and our community flourishes when people have the courage to branch out and try new circles. The circles of the College and the town are often the same, whether its Hobbs coffee shop, the co-op, the swim club, the farmer’s market, or back to school night at the elementary school. The overlapping circles make for a richer life for all of us.

So welcome Val, to the messy, dynamic, and complex community of Swarthmore. I am confident you will fit right in. 

Thank you.