Published: July 8, 2022

Ralph Waldo Emerson, a noted abolitionist, poet and philosopher who helped launched the American romantic and transcendentalist movements, once offered this advice: “Be an opener of doors to those who come after you, and don't try to make the universe a blind alley.”

Emerson was a leading intellectual of the 19th century, a reputation cemented by his “American Scholar” speech in 1837 to the Phi Beta Kappa Society of Harvard College. In that address, he likened individual people to fragments of a greater whole, “as the hand is divided into fingers.” The greater whole was humankind itself.

This is the spirit we celebrate in this year’s edition of the Colorado Arts & Sciences Magazine.

Be an opener of doors to those who come after you, and don't try to make the universe a blind alley.​"

Through the years, we’ve written much about a liberal arts education, heralding its intrinsic value and, also, its career utility. But many of our students, alumni, faculty and staff take the broad-mindedness engendered by such an education and generously apply it in service of others.

We see this in a biology lab that uses a survey and a “living document” to make all who pass through its doors feel valued and a sense of belonging. We see this in a Distinguished Professor of sociology, Jane Menken, whose groundbreaking work improving access to family planning in Bangladesh has helped generations of women. And we know this from a blind graduate student, Kevin Darcy, whose own experiences with implicit bias informed his research, commissioned by the university, designed to make CU Boulder more inclusive.

“I just don't want the knowledge that I produce to sit up in the ivory tower,” Darcy says. “I want to make a positive impact for the people I do research with. Hopefully, I can make some changes.”

Darcy, Menken and the others we’ve profiled here are not just part of but also committed to the greater whole. Their work will continue to open doors for those who come after. We can think of no higher purpose and can offer no greater praise.