By Tom Campisi
Matthew Peterson, a Journalism, Culture, and Society major at The King’s College in Manhattan, is passionate about telling stories. This winter, when it became apparent that the college may not survive past the current semester due to a financial shortfall, the freshman was compelled to use his gifts and creativity to lift the spirits of the King’s community.
As Peterson heard testimonies from current students and professors about how much The King’s College (TKC) meant to them, an idea was born. Over lunch at Shake Shack with Aidan Ableson, a sophomore, he shared the concept of having people write letters documenting the ways in which King’s has positively affected them. Ableson agreed to upload the letters to a website. Eli Johnson, a freshmen who serves as an editor and columnist at the Empire State Tribune (the college’s newspaper), soon joined the effort and The King’s College Letters Project was born. The three students hoped their project would “use the power of human stories to connect individuals to each other.”
“Our goal is that by compiling the eclectic mix of nuanced experiences which TKC has produced, we can create a culture of thanksgiving,” the website states.
And that culture of thanksgiving has certainly helped over the last three trying months. TKC is currently in the midst of a prayerful, eleventh-hour fundraising campaign. The Board of Trustees has selected May 31, 2023, as a deadline to raise sufficient funds in order to continue operations through the 2023-2024 academic year.
The Letters Project includes submissions from students, professors, and alumni. The site also includes a fundraising option. Peterson, Johnson, and Abelson said all the letters have been poignant, but two, in particular, have stood out—one from a recent student, Carys Walter, and one from Professor Business Professor Dawn Fotopulos.
In her letter, Walter, who graduated from King’s this month, recalled how two TKC professors walked her through “one of the most difficult nights of her life.”
“King’s is about more than an education,” she wrote. “I know I’m not the only student at The King’s College whose life has been radically changed by professors who want to shape better people, not just better students…Lectures and assignments did more than teach material. They drew thoughts from me and developed desires in me. They formed me.”
“All Of Life Is Plan B,” written by Professor Fotopulus, chronicled how she came to King’s nearly twenty years ago for a hiatus from her banking career following a serious car accident.
“Teaching at King’s was going to be a short-term solution until I could get back to banking. But God had other plans. How thankful I am that He did,” she wrote.
Getting to know her students and seeing who they become after college has been one of the greatest blessings Fotopulus has ever known: “Their faith has built mine. Going to China with twenty-five King’s students and singing ‘How Great is Our God’ on the top stairs of the Temple of Heaven in the Forbidden City in Beijing—[it] still brings tears to my eyes. And every time we graduate another cohort of those who finish their undergraduate race strong, we send light and life into a world that desperately needs them…”
In addition to producing and editing The Letters Project, the three students shared their own love letters to the college, which was founded in Belmar, New Jersey in 1938 by Percy Crawford.
Johnson wrote how The King’s College is “a collection of people obsessed with living intentionally.”
“We are individuals with plans, grit and determination who have been entrusted with a foothold in the epicenter of our culture… In less than a year, this college has already begun to challenge me, motivate me, and bless me with friends, mentors, and partners in this mission of living intentionally.”
Ableson noted how TKC has taught him “how to interact with the world, while grounded in a stronger understanding of the character of God…Perhaps more importantly, I’ve found at King’s a group of people who love and cherish each other and seek the betterment of my character and faith.”
Peterson wrote that, although he is majoring in journalism, he is appreciative of the well-rounded worldview he has gained at TKC.
“The things I have learned with the politics, philosophy, and economics core and the many long, nuanced conversations I have had with friends have been highly influential to the art I produce,” he wrote. “King’s has touched basically every area of my life—and I have been better for it.”
“I’m not ready to leave yet. I feel that there is much more for me to do here.”