Alumni Council News

Class of '51 enjoys a remarkable fiftieth reunion

A forecast of rain did nothing to dampen the spirits of the Class of 1951 and their wives, gathered at the Kenyon Inn for their fiftieth anniversary celebration on Friday, May 25, 2001.

Seeking to ensure a successful reunion experience, the Reunion Committee, led by Will Pilcher, began planning the event in the fall of 2000. The Rev. K. Darr Briggs, Paul K. Conn, Douglas W. Downey, Edward E. Karkow, Robert V. Vallera, and Lewis E. Weingard overcame the difficulties of distance by doing the bulk of the planning via e-mail. "I believe this must be the first time a fiftieth was planned using the Internet," says Downey.

The reunion classes gathered under threatening skies in front of Rosse Hall for the annual parade of classes preceding the Alumni Awards Luncheon. Proudly wearing their Fiftieth Reunion medals, hung from grosgrain ribbon, and their purple caps imprinted with Kenyon 1951, the seventy-five attendees and their spouses, representing about a third of the class, fell in behind a bag piper leading the reunion classes down the path from Rosse to the Peirce Great Hall for the luncheon.

The Great Hall was packed and humming with conversation as lunch was enjoyed. During the awards presentation, there was generous applause and warm congratulations as the Class of 1951 received the William H. Thomas Award for the greatest dollar amount donated to the Kenyon Fund, a handsome $104,272. The class also earned the Class of '62 Award for greatest percentage of donors to the Kenyon Fund (59 percent); and the Peirce Cup for greatest percentage of the class attending the reunion (43 percent). The D. Morgan Smith Award, for best class agent, was presented to Pilcher.

Following the luncheon, the class gathered in the television lounge of Peirce to view a videotape made by Lee Schermerhorn '51, who created the video from films he had made during his years on the hill. Among the most memorable scenes was dramatic footage of the fire that consumed Old Kenyon in 1949. Adding to the theatricality of the moment, the video was accompanied by music provided by Myron "Mike" Schiffer '51 on piano.

The rain held off as the class gathered on the lawn in front of Old Kenyon for the dedication of a memorial bench in honor of the nine men from the College who died in the Old Kenyon fire. As the result of a fundraising effort led by Vallera, members of the class donated $5,000 for the bench and its plaque, which reads "The Class of 1951 dedicates this bench to the memory of our friends and classmates who lost their lives in the Old Kenyon fire of 1949." Following the list of names, Ernest Anwajee, Edward Hyman Brout, Albert John Lewis, Martin Elliot Mangel, Jack Boland McDonald, Marc Spencer Peck, George Leon Pincus, Stephen Mahlon Shepard, and Colin Macrae Woodworth, is a quotation, "Heaven gives its favourites early death," from George Gordon, Lord Byron. Ahwajee, Lewis, Peck, and Woodworth were all members of the Class of 1951.

The day concluded with a pre-dinner reception hosted by President Robert A. Oden Jr. and his wife, Teresa Oden, at Cromwell House, and the class dinner in Lower Dempsey Hall.

Regional gatherings take off in a new direction

With the introduction of "Learning in the Company of Friends: The Kenyon Lifelong Learning Program," the College's regional association gatherings took on a new look and feel during the 2001-02 year.

President Robert A. Oden Jr.--a driving force, along with the Alumni Council, behind the new initiative--delivered the first "Learning in the Company of Friends" presentation in New York City on October 3, 2002. In this and later talks before regional association gatherings in Boston, Massachusetts, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, San Francisco, California, Seattle, Washington, and Washington, D.C., Oden spoke on "Making Sense of Ancient Near Eastern Myths."

"This program addresses a need we've faced for some time, that of introducing a taste of the Kenyon classroom experience into regional events," says Lisa Dowd Schott '80, executive director of alumni and parent relations and annual funds.

The regional associations taking part in the program during 2001-02, its inaugural year, were New York City, Chicago, Illinois, and Boston in October; San Francisco and Seattle in November; Atlanta, Georgia, Los Angeles and San Diego, California, Phoenix, Arizona, and Richmond, Virginia, in January; Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Columbus, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in February; Nashville, Tennessee, and Washington, D.C., in March; and Denver, Colorado, and Pittsburgh in April.

In addition to Oden, the faculty members who participated in "Learning in the Company of Friends" in its inaugural year were Assistant Professor of Political Science Pamela Camera-Rowe, Associate Professor of English Sergei Lobanov-Rostovsky, Professor of American Studies Peter Rutkoff, Professor of History William B. Scott, Associate Professor of English Timothy B. Shutt, and Associate Professor of History Wendy F. Singer.

Camerra-Rowe, who addressed the Denver gathering, has also been a popular lecturer to alumni groups on campus as an Alumni College faculty member during Reunion Weekend. She spoke on "The Future of Europe." Lobanov-Rostovsky, who is also a noted writer under the pen name Kenneth Abel, addressed the gatherings in Los Angeles, Phoenix, and San Diego. His topic was "Stealing the Books."

Rutkoff, who recently published his first novel, Shadow Ball: A Novel of Baseball and Chicago, appeared this year, delivered a talk entitled "Shadow Ball: The Origins of the Negro Leagues" in Chicago, Cincinnati, and Philadelphia. In each case, he tailored his talk to the city's own experience with the Negro Leagues, which faded after the integration of Major League baseball.

Scott, who teaches in American studies as well as history, addressed the gatherings in Cleveland and Detroit. His topic was "The African American Great Migration," the subject of the noted year-long course he teaches with Rutkoff.

Shutt, a talented lecturer who also teaches in the College's Integrated Program in Humane Studies, spoke on "Dante's Beatrice: How Dante Reconceives the Process of Christian Revelation." He delivered the talk in Atlanta, Nashville, and Richmond.

Singer, whose area of research is South Asia, addressed the gathering in Columbus. Her topic was "The Journey to Visit the Dalai Lama: Traveling through Different Sites of Tibetan Culture," based on her own recent visit to the spiritual leader.

Another "Learning in the Company of Friends" event went outside the Kenyon faculty and administration for its speaker. Paul Goldberger, the acclaimed architecture critic of The New Yorker (and the father of Benjamin Goldberger '04), spoke on "New York City Architecture after September 11" at a New York Regional Association gathering in March. Goldberger delivered his remarks in the penthouse apartment of Elizabeth Hutchins '80 and Alastair Short, which offered views of the city from the George Washington Bridge to the north to the site of the former World Trade Center to the south.

In the years ahead, the Office of Alumni and Parent Relations and Annual Funds (soon to be renamed the Office of Alumni and Parent Programs) will offer many more faculty members and other members of the Kenyon family to the regional associations as speakers in the Kenyon Lifelong Learing Program.

Reaction to the initiative has been overwhelmingly positive, so much so that Oden considers it one of the signal achievements of his presidency. In almost every case, much larger than usual numbers of alumni, parents, and friends turned out for the "Learning in the Company of Friends" events. And the high level of the discussions, both during and following the presentations, has made it clear that "Learning in the Company of Friends" can take place among members of the Kenyon community no matter how far removed in time or distance from Gambier Hill.

Alumni Council President's Column

by John "Jack" Buckley Jr. '66 President, Alumni Council

The 2001-02 Alumni Council year has been an abbreviated one. Our fall meeting was canceled due to our national tragedy of September 11. Our concerns were for the victims, their care givers, and their families.

The response of the College has been noteworthy, with the establishment of a scholarship fund to assist the children of victims of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., and of the airline crashes that day in those locations and in Western Pennsylvania. This special fund guarantees that Kenyon will provide a scholarship to attend the College equal to the full demonstrated need of any child who lost a parent or whose family financial circumstances were dramatically altered as a result of the attacks. The fund, which is named for Lee Adler, a 1975 Kenyon graduate who was a victim of the attack on the World Trade Center, will be supported by annual-fund gifts.

Council members have conducted the business of your Alumni Association using technology and alternative communications techniques to conduct their essential duties. My thanks go to Council members for their willingness to utilize these new capabilities.

This year, we have settled on three major initiatives for the Council: development of an action plan for a student and young alumni relations project (to be chaired by Megan O'Donnell Patton '74); improvement of communications with and programs for alumni with a focus on online communications (chaired by Scott Baker '94); and increasing the number of admissions referrals from alumni (chaired by Hutch Hodgson '61). At the spring Council meeting, we will hear reports on these activities.

One of last year's projects has come to full fruition: the Council reviewed regional association leaders' thoughts about what could be done to improve the interaction with and for the 70-plus percent of the alumni who live in geographical areas covered by the regional associations of the Kenyon Alumni Association. President Robert A. Oden Jr. got in front on this and encouraged a major restructuring of the regional events. Now, instead of just "learning in the company of friends" while in Gambier, we are able to offer "lifelong learning in the company of friends" with the educational and interactive focus of the regional association events. The first few sessions have been held, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. To the regional association leaders who said, "Give us a good reason for coming together," the College and the Council have responded. There were a number of other suggestions offered during our review, development, and testing of the ideas, and we intend to follow through on several other initiatives.

To regional association leaders, past and present: Thanks for your efforts on behalf of your association, Kenyon, and your fellow alumni. Your efforts are appreciated.

We also take this opportunity to thank the many board members, alumni, and friends of the College who gave so generously to the "Claiming Our Place" campaign for Kenyon, which was recently completed with overwhelming success. If you have not seen the many tangible benefits of the campaign, it is worth a return visit to the Hill to see the very positive physical changes, such as Storer Hall for music and the new natural-sciences complex, all of which make for an increasingly effective educational environment for the College's current and future students.

On behalf of my fellow Council members, we look forward to hearing from you.

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