Regional association news


The Kenyon banner hanging on the front porch of the Rockland Tavern guided alumni, parents, and friends to the unique home of Tom Bruggman '75 for the annual gathering of the Baltimore Regional Association. Graciously hosted by Bruggman and expertly organized by Paige Dunlap Knipp '77, the association's new president, the event was held on Thursday, November 13, 1997.

Arriving chilled and wet, attendees were delighted to step inside and see and hear a roaring, crackling fire in the renovated eighteenth-century village tavern, a registered National Historic Landmark. The tavern's fireplace and dark wood paneling added to the coziness on this blustery night. Bruggman's charming home, which he restored himself, is one of several historic houses in a one-time mill community known as Rockland Village.

Gathering everyone from the various corners and lofts of Rockland Tavern, Jo Usher P'94, associate director of alumni and parent relations and annual funds, thanked Bruggman for opening his home and Paige for her excellent coordination of the event. Usher expressed appreciation to Kate Fonyo Pisano '85 for her three years as the association's president before turning the program over to Associate Professor of English and Chair of the Faculty Tim Shutt, who offered the alumni and parents a College update. Shutt emphasized that the existing spirit of collegiality and the balance of academics, athletics, and artistic endeavors at Kenyon place the College in a prime position for the comprehensive curricular review that has begun. While Kenyon may be known to some as "the school where you don't have to take math," said Shutt, the Curricular Review Committee, chaired by John Crowe Ransom Professor of English Ron Sharp, is not charged with making changes but with studying and reviewing the curriculum by asking broad, fundamental questions. Shutt emphasized that one aspect that will not change is "teaching as a College priority." Asked by Garry Bender '80 about his famed Kenyon ghost tour, Shutt delivered a brief sample of his ghostly performance, part of each year's reunion weekend entertainment.

Mingling, munching, and mini-tours gave all an opportunity to enjoy one another's company and the special venue for the Baltimore gathering. The desserts were delicious, although a large braided "K" bread sat untouched on the buffet table until the very end of the evening. When someone finally broke bread, it was revealed that the bread was purple! It was the perfect close to a memorable Kenyon evening.

At the top of the second flight of stairs in the University Club of Denver, alumni, parents, and friends knew instantly they were in the right place when they looked up to see the Kenyon banner. The room filled quickly as members of the Denver Hosting Committee greeted those arriving to meet President Robert Oden Jr. on Wednesday, October 8, 1997.

It took a few attempts for Association President Darwin Toll '82 to get the attention of the enthusiastic crowd, which was thoroughly engaged in lively conversations. In his introduction of Oden, Toll commented, "We are privileged to have him in Colorado and at Kenyon!" Oden thanked Toll and Suzanne Grant MacKenzie '88, who, with Steering Committee members, organized the event. Regional Parent Chairs Jan and Fred Mason P'98 helped by making calls that resulted in a great turnout of parents past and current.

Sharing his impressions as he and his wife, Teresa, began their third year in Cromwell Cottage, Oden emphasized the sense of place at the College, the talented and curious students "with the guts to be friendly," and Kenyon's academic reputation. He continued by highlighting several initiatives launched since July 1995, including the committee chaired by John Crowe Ransom Professor of English Ron Sharp that is conducting the first systematic review of the curriculum in twenty years by asking such broad questions as, "What should the College's graduates know?" Oden noted that the newest Kenyon classroom is the 430 acres across the Kokosing River that make up the Kenyon Center for Environmental Study (KCES). He also informed the group that the Class of 2001 ranks among the most talented ever. In fact, Oden reported, Kenyon beat the Ivy League by enrolling 54.5 percent of students accepted by both. "We even shut out Princeton," he noted.

In closing, Oden talked about the campaign the College is launching in May, the most ambitious in its history, with a target goal of $100 million. Endowment will be the largest component, followed by facilities (Graham Gund '63 is the architect for the new science and music buildings) and $13 million in unrestricted operating support from the Kenyon Fund and Kenyon Parents Fund. After responding to a few general questions, Oden mingled to meet the assembled alumni and parents and answer more specific questions.

Houston welcomed College guests Oscar Will, visiting professor of biology, and Jo Usher P'94, associate director of alumni and parent relations, most warmly on Wednesday, October 22, 1997. Regional Parent Chair Debbie Kaplan P'99, who served as an excellent chauffeur for the guests, discovered an instant rapport with Will when she learned that he was a Knox County "cattle baron" with a herd of seventy-five registered Black Angus. Their discussions ran the gamut from hay baling methods to animal innoculations.

A good mix of Kenyon alumni, parents, and prospective students enjoyed the Houston Regional Association's annual gathering at the home of gracious hosts Kicki and Joe Mazur P'99, who shared duties with Debbie and Martin Kaplan P'99. Interrupting the intense conversations, Association President Ed Benyon '91 succeeded in "herding" everyone into one place for remarks by Will, the College speaker. Benyon expressed appreciation to the Mazurs and Kaplans, recognized Usher and Assistant Director of Admissions Liz Forman '73, and introduced Will, who began by asking the audience's indulgence, noting that he had delivered keynote and plenary addresses, given opening and closing talks, but he had never before offered "remarks."

Stating that President Robert Oden Jr. is his "remarks" mentor, Will proceeded with his own to the delight of all present. He began with two toasts: one to the people in the room, "who are Texas," and a second, in the tradition of the Plains Indians, to the Mazurs, Kaplans, and others who organized the event.

Will commented on the topics of change, Kenyon, and good fortune, concluding that the change from Augustana College in South Dakota to Gambier has been good for him and that coming to know Kenyon and the College community has been his good fortune. As a recent transplant, he spoke highly of Kenyon students and faculty members. Will noted that the campus has a fondness for acronyms, the most well-known of which to him is KCES, the Kenyon Center for Environmental Study, 430 acres with gardens, prairie grasses, hiking trails, and a farmhouse that serves as the Visitors Center. He said that many departments take advantage of the KCES, for such courses as "Religion and Nature" or a watercolor class. Describing the KCES Butterfly Garden, Will asked, "Where do butterflies come from?" When the "class" responded correctly, he proceeded with a brief lecture on the life cycle of a butterfly, giving all a taste of being back in the classroom.

A special request from Forman for "the emu story"--about an emu lost in Gambier before being taken in by the Wills--concluded Will's remarks on a humorous note.

Though unlighted, the lamppost "wearing" the Kenyon jacket assured alumni, parents, friends, and prospective students and their parents that they had arrived at the home of Mary Ann and Preston Lentz '72 for the annual gathering of the Nashville Regional Association on a cold, wet Thursday, November 12, 1997. They were welcomed by Preston Lentz, greeted by the fire, and offered nametags by Jo Usher P'94, associate director in the office of alumni and parent relations and annual funds. As advertised on the invitation, barbecue, beans, and beverages with all the "fixins" were readied, served, and happily consumed by all.

Appetites sated, Preston Lentz began to set the stage for College guest Tim Shutt's remarks, telling all that his brother Perry Lentz '64, the family's "older and more favored son" and also a Kenyon professor of English, had been the College speaker at a number of these gatherings in previous years. Lentz continued by noting that Shutt wears many hats at and for Kenyon: member of the English and IPHS faculties, chair of the faculty, announcer for National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III swimming nationals, guide for the annual "Ghosts of Kenyon" tour, and faculty liaison for College athletics. And then Lentz asked Shutt to "wax eloquent."

Delivering his fireside talk, Shutt did "wax eloquent" on such subjects as the positive campus climate, the "Claiming Our Place" campaign, the Sears Cup for athletic achievement, collegiality, and the curriculum. A faculty member at Kenyon since 1986, he said he has seen that the College embraces the pursuit of excellence, engages in discussion of all kinds of views, and continues to hold teaching as its core mission.

The enthusiasm for Kenyon in the Lentzes' home was contagious, warming all who attended, whether loyal alumni, dedicated parents, or eager prospective students.

Kenyon Sweeps the Coast
Some like it hot, and hot it was in San Diego when Associate Professor of English and Chair of the Faculty Tim Shutt and Jo Usher P'94, associate director of alumni and parent relations and annual funds, arrived in Coronado for the annual gathering of the San Diego Regional Association on Monday, November 3, 1997. And, just across the street from Tomaso's Ristorante, where Kenyon alumni were gathering, was the grand old Hotel del Coronado, where portions of the classic comedy Some Like It Hot, with Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon, and Marilyn Monroe, were filmed. Temperatures in the eighties, palm trees silhouetted against a breath-taking sunset, and a crystal-clear crescent moon with Venus twinkling beside it made for a spectacular California welcome for the two Ohioans.

Organized by Stephanie Rocca Wilbur '88, the gathering offered graduates in classes from '49 to '89 a full menu of Italian fare, diverse dinner discussions, and an animated campus update from College speaker Shutt. Also visiting from Gambier was Vice President for Development Doug Givens.

Leaving the brilliant and beautiful coastal towns of the San Diego area, Usher and Shutt drove north to the second stop, Los Angeles--foggy, smoggy, and also warm. On Tuesday, November 4, alumni and parents came together in the lovely home of Monika and Ivan Nesser P'00 for the annual gathering of the Los Angeles Regional Association. With Monika's gracious hospitality (Ivan had to be in New York City that evening) and so many Kenyon people present, the mood was festive and spirits were high. Although it was difficult to pull the crowd away from the wonderful buffet, all were finally persuaded to settle comfortably in the Nesser family room for Shutt's remarks.

Usher took the opportunity to thank the Nessers, to recognize and thank Regional Parent Chairs Nancy and Ron Lightstone P'98, and to introduce Givens before giving Shutt the "stage." Noting the art on the surrounding walls, Shutt began his remarks by saying, "This is a room with many points of view, much like the liberal arts!"

As successor to Barbara Powers '75 as the association's president, Gina Bauman Kornfeind '85, an enthusiastic alumna and imminently expectant mother of a third child, made the rounds during the evening to let alumni know that she will gather volunteers in the new year to plan future Kenyon events in Los Angeles.

A cancelled flight, a few unsuccessful stand-bys, and several lattes later, Usher and Shutt made a delayed arrival in San Francisco, although it did not interfere with the evening's annual gathering of the San Francisco Regional Association on Thursday, November 6. Though not completely set up for the early arrival of Jack Shutt, Tim Shutt's father, all was in place when the forty-four alumni, parents, and prospective students checked in at the Bayview Room of the Hyatt Regency. Alumni in attendance represented six decades, but the 90s prevailed, with twenty on hand for the festivities.

Association President Laurie Cole '89, who organized the annual gathering, requested dim sum for the reception buffet as a special San Francisco touch and treat for the visitors. Opening the evening's program, Cole thanked Steering Committee members Leslie Stephens '91, Andy Cope '92, Catherine Allan '93, Sara Fousekis '93, Courtney Cox '96, Sara Rothenberg '96, and Regional Parent Chairs Paul and Vicki Kojola P'99 for their help. She also recognized trustees Alan Rothenberg '65 P'96 and David Taft '60 and introduced College speaker Shutt.

At each stop along the California coast, Shutt delivered a College update centering on the alliterative headings of campus climate, campaign, cup, collegiality, civility, and consensus, then segued to issues of difference. Summarizing the status of the $100-million "Claiming Our Place" campaign, Shutt noted the intended distribution of campaign funds and described the building plans for music and the sciences. Stating that Kenyon is committed to achieving excellence and a balance in academic, artistic, and athletic areas, Shutt mentioned the 1997 Sears Cup awarded to Kenyon. Presented by Sears and USA Today, the cup measures athletic ranking and strength in all sports. The other five Sears Cup recipients were Stanford University, the universities of Michigan, North Carolina, and Virginia, and Williams College--"not bad company," Shutt observed. Referring to "faculty factions," Shutt happily reported that in the twelve years he has been at Kenyon, there has been a change for the better. "Students," he said, "have taught the faculty civility, collegiality, a generosity of spirit." Concluding his remarks, Shutt discussed the College-wide focus on issues of difference and the plans for addressing difference broadly. And, as he said at the end of his talk in Los Angeles, "That's the news from Lake Wobegon."

Alumni-parent travel diary: Kenyon goes Down Under
The land of kiwis, koalas, kookaburras, kangaroos, and Tasmanian devils is a long, long way from Ohio--or Florida, Utah, and Wisconsin for that matter. Kenyon travelers from those four states left the cold winter weather behind in February 1997 to enjoy three weeks of late summer in New Zealand and Australia. As coordinator of the Kenyon Alumni-Parent Travel Program, I had the pleasure of accompanying Kenyon alumni and parents Terrie and Jon Barsanti '58, Mary and Joe Gormley P'93, and Lynn and Len Snellman '43. Joined by travelers from Centre College, DePauw and Wittenberg universities, and Brickhite Tours, Ltd., hosts Harvey and Lorna Mierke, we were a group of thirty-six. In addition to my excitement about traveling Down Under, I was pleased to have the opportunity to be one of the Kenyon travelers, to share the experience, and to encourage future travelers.

Our itinerary began in Los Angeles, our port of departure on February 16, 1997. We promptly lost a day en route, crossing the International Date Line during the eleven-hour flight to the "City of Sails," Auckland, New Zealand. Unfortunately, the harbor cruise and sunset dinner aboard the Pride of Auckland provided a rather wet welcome. Donning rain gear provided by our Kiwi captain, we went on deck after dinner and sailed through the storm, listing a bit too much for some of us but with a confident "Captain Barsanti" at the helm.

The next stop on the North Island was Rotorua, the center of Maori culture and thermal wonders. A Hangi feast, the traditional Maori banquet, followed by a pool-side floor show of native song, dance, and customs, the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute where we observed skilled flax weavers and woodcarvers, and a walk through the Maori village and thermal area of Whakarewarewa with its bubbling mud pools and spouting geysers gave us a sense of the Maori people and New Zealand's tourism industry. Furs, handicrafts, sheepskins, and other souvenirs were available at every turn. Sheep dominate New Zealand, with more than fifty million dotting the hillsides, spreading like a giant wool blanket on a green comforter. While the sheep population has declined because of less world demand for their meat, sheep far out-number the 3.5 million people in the country. Had we even begun counting them, we surely would have dozed off rapidly. An alternative to the sheep industry, deer farming, is becoming more common.

While a good deal of time was spent motoring from place to place on the coach, it was then that our local driver guides told us about the country's people and their way of life, their history and culture, and the country's landscape and industry. It was also then that we were able to enjoy the spectacular panoramic vistas so prevalent in New Zealand and Tasmania. Experiencing more rainy weather than I had expected during this late summer season in New Zealand and Tasmania, we saw clouds draping Mitre Peak in Milford Sound, Mount Cook (New Zealand's tallest mountain), and Cradle Mountain in Tasmania. While postcards rather than photogaphs of these sights appear in our albums, the weather never dampened the enthusiasm and spirit of our group. Rain or shine, we all trooped on and off the coach or up and down between decks so as not to miss a single "photo op."

Some knew and all had heard that Kiwis and Aussies were friendly people who spoke our language--or something close to it--and we found that to be true. However, despite all we had heard and the many spectacular photos we had seen, we discovered that nothing matches being there to experience firsthand the majestic scenery and breathtaking naturl beauty of the lands Down Under. The artists, birdwatchers, and nature lovers among us were delighted with the flora, fauna, and wonders of the diverse and dramatic terrain, particularly in Milford Sound, the National Parks of Mount Cook and Tasmania's Cradle Mountain, and the World Heritage rainforests of Far North Queensland. These parks provided wonderful walks in the wilderness and a special time to observe the feeding of possums, wallabees, and Tasmanian devils outside our lodge at Cradle Mountain.

Fresh air and sunshine greeted us on our catamaran cruise of the beautiful Sydney harbor, and a drizzly, gray day dramatically contrasted with the awesome brilliance of the magnificent marine life seen when snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef. A literal high point for some of us was our predawn hot-air balloon ride over the Atherton Tablelands in Far North Queensland, watching kangaroos hop through the bush beneath us. At the Koala Park Sanctuary outside Sydney, those who wished could be up close and personal with kangaroos (one with a joey in her pouch), wombats, and sleepy koalas.

The trip's natural wonders were complemented by the sights we saw in the spectacular cities we visited. With The Remarkables as a backdrop, Queenstown, a year-round resort on Lake Wakatipu, ranked high for all of us with its restaurants, shops, and adventure activities. Tales of bungee jumping (a spectator sport for us Americans), fishing, hiking, jet-boating, and taking gondola rides were shared at dinner. Also among our favorites was the very Anglican, very English city of Christchurch, which offered a stroll through its beautiful Botanic Gardens and punting on the Avon. In keeping with the wonders we had enjoyed in New Zealand, a delicious "Farewell to New Zealand" dinner was prepared especially for us by the award-winning chef at Pescatore, the tres gourmet restaurant in our hotel, The George. For dessert, we were treated to Fang au chocolat (just ask me about it!). The ocean port of Hobart on the southeast corner of Tasmania with a tour of the nearby penal colony of Port Arthur received honorable mention among our other stops.

For best city visited, the vibrant and cosmopolitan Sydney received the most votes. There was so much to fill our time in Sydney: museum-hopping, taking a monorail ride to Darling Harbor, strolling in the historic waterfront district of The Rocks, shopping in the boutiques and drinking in the cafes of the Queen Victoria Building, relaxing in the Royal Botanic Garden and Hyde Park or The Domain, swimming at Bondi Beach, exploring the famous Opera House, tasting wines in Hunter Valley, or seeing it all from atop Sydney Tower. The Olympic Games in 2000 will have special meaning for us now that we have experienced Sydney.

Representing a small percentage of the Australian population, few Aboriginal people were seen except in Sydney. Stories of Australia's aboriginal beginnings were told in museum exhibits, in tribal rituals and dances performed at the Tjapakai Theme Park, and in authentic aboriginal works of art and souvenir trinkets. The didjeridoo rhythms and drones were enjoyed by all of us but mastered by none.

We were happy to learn that tipping is not expected Down Under, which made us all the more willing to do so. We also discovered that Kiwis and Aussies love to bet. In fact, we were told they "will bet on two flies walking up the wall." There must have been a little Aussie or Kiwi blood in our group, as several came out ahead at the casinos in Christchurch, Hobart, Sydney, and Cairns.

Would I return? Indeed: our stops Down Under offerd wonderful people, sights, sounds, smells, and tastes. I'd say it's a fair dinkum great place, mate!

In addition to the seven of us who traveled Down Under last winter, sixty-five Kenyon alumni, parents, and friends have participated in the travel program during the last four years, on trips to Alaska, the British Isles, Copper Canyon in Mexico, Egypt, the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu, Greece, India and Nepal, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain, and Soutern France. Associate Provost Robert Bennett, Professor Emeritus of Biology Robert Burns, and Associate Professor of English David Lynn '76 and Wine Roads of Italy author Marc Millon '77 have all been Kenyon tour hosts, providing educational enrichment for the trips to Greece, the Galapagos Islands and Machu Picchu, and Italy, respectively.

Upcoming travel plans for the Kenyon Alumni-Parent Travel Program include a trip to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies this spring, a Russia Cruise and Finland in July, Morocco in October, and Costa Rica in December. So plan now to come on board with Kenyon and travel to that place (or those places) you've always wanted to visit or revisit!

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