Imagine parents trying to make ends meet to send their daughter to an expensive college. Imagine that they make every conceivable sacrifice to get their precious child a piece of the American dream. Imagine this all too common scenario— add a dash of hip–hop inspired Latin music—and you get the incomparable In the Heights, the Tony Award–winning musical brilliantly conceived by Wesleyan’s own.
Well after the gala event at the Richard Rodgers Theatre, my wife and I are still talking about this all–American tale. Beyond the pride of having Wesleyan on the Great White Way was the show’s tribute to higher education and its ability to transform lives.
Although the music is wonderfully edgy and the costumes hip, the story is as fresh as each generation’s immigrant experience. My own grandmother, Nona, saved up so her two sons could have an Encyclopedia Britannica in the house. That was the ’30s and the Depression. It was Brooklyn, not the Heights, but no matter. The details differ, but the story is the same: A classic tale of parents doing all they can for their children.
Nona couldn’t read that precious encyclopedia, which is still in our family, but her boys did. Her first language was Ladino, an ancient Spanish dating back to the Inquisition and our family’s expulsion from Spain.
I’d like to think that Nona would have loved In the Heights and been hip to Spanish dichos, or sayings, sprinkled in the show. She would have been amazed at how much things have changed. Solamente en America—only in America, she would say.
And yet, as much as things change, the needs remain the same. I am told that the gala raised $1.5 million for financial aid and that is really terrific. Our heartfelt thanks to the generosity of the sponsors and donors. But at this time of year, as we reflect on our good fortune, can’t we each do a bit more to ease the financial hardship of so many families?
In In the Heights, a father sells the car service he spent his life building so his daughter could go back to college. Learning of his generosity, she asks Poppi, “When will we ever be even?” Proudly and wisely, he replies, “When you get a B.A., we’re even.”
Making that educational achievement possible for current and future generations is what the Wesleyan Fund is all about.
So next time you are asked to give to Wesleyan, remember In the Heights. Think about how Wesleyan enriched your life. Ask yourself: Are we even yet? And then be as generous as you can.
Many thanks and Happy Holidays.
—Joseph J. Fins ’82