LettersEditor's note: The winter issue of the Bulletin and its "Coping in the Nineties" profiles seemed to strike a chord with readers, eliciting a greater than usual response from alumni, parents, and friends of all ages. Here is a sampling of their letters, some of which called upon personal experiences.
Traveling other roads
I'm writing to express my appreciation of the winter issue of the Bulletin describing alumni in recovery. As you correctly intuited, some of us wince as we open the magazine, expecting each entry in our class notes will chronicle yet another triumph, herald yet another achievement.
Some of us are on another road.
The fortunate ones are working on their recovery, establishing habits of honesty and self-appraisal that may have been fairly enthusiastically avoided during our years at Kenyon.
I'm a survivor of incest, a survivor of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, an adult child of an alcoholic, and an adult child (and grandchild) of compulsively self-shaming people. I am, myself, compulsive--addicted to behavior that causes me to feel shamed.
My addiction is called sex addiction--a set of strong feelings that relate to my definition of my own worth in terms of my sexual being. I've been a sexual anorexic, and I've tried to shame myself by approaching prostitutes. My experience is of a world that is sexually charged. I happen not to be afflicted with the compulsion to participate in serial affairs or one-night-stands, I'm not burdened with sadomasochistic fantasies or with pedophilic impulses, but I know and understand those who are. I'm also an alcoholic, and I'm grotesquely codependent.
My career at Kenyon is somewhat furry in my memory, blurred by my binge drinking and the desperate anxiety that my inadequacies would be discovered in that small world. I have many regrets about the opportunities missed during my years at Kenyon. I know there were wise teachers, kindly townspeople, and generous students who worked to make Gambier a true community. I was frantic and frantically hiding from myself; I couldn't stay still long enough to be real to any of them. Looking back from a distance of almost thirty years, I envy the experience many graduates must have known.
What is true, even in the first halting stages of recovery, is that we begin to understand that there is more than regret in the past. Like the stories told in your "Coping in the Nineties" issue, mine is a story of hope. One of the mottoes I've chosen to adopt is: "Every saint has a past, every sinner has a future!"
I won't be writing to my class agent with descriptions of landmark changes as I work in recovery (Hey, classmates! It's been six months since I vomited through my nose!), and I'll continue to feel slightly our of "synch" with the generational triumphs reported in his columns, but I will not feel isolated and disenfranchised, in part because of the stories of adversity and triumph you've given me and others on my road.
Thanks from a grateful graduate in recovery!
Name withheld by request
Celebrating everyday bravery
The bravest person I know is a forty-one-year-old mother who was the victim of childhood sexual, physical, and emotional abuse. Every day she wages a battle not to hit, not to scream, not to belittle. She is determined to break the pattern of generations of abuse--and her beautiful, secure children are the testament to her triumph over her demons. We celebrate feats of physical bravery in our culture, but I look at my friend and think: now, that's heroism!
I thought of her again when I read the winter issue of the Bulletin. How courageous of Leslie Douglas Frye, Kevin Martin, Beth Worrall, Charles Needle, Mary Brennen-Hoffman, Bob Lundin, and Sam Gilberd to share their battles with their own physical and emotional demons. An alumni magazine usually presents the smiling public face of the college's diaspora and celebrates their public achievements. How inspiring to read about these private struggles--and these profound achievements.
Thank you for a powerful, poignant Bulletin.
Vicki Barker '78, H'96 London, England
Eliciting hope and prayers
As I skimmed the Bulletin (Volume 19, Number 3) last month, I realized this one was going to be special. The stories of your young alumnae and alumni and their courage and skills as they faced not only the normal developmental challenges of being in their twenties and thirties but also the challenges of breast cancer, giardia, manic-depression, HIV, and MS left me feeling great respect for them. I would like them to know that their stories elicited hope and prayers for their continued well-being.
I have received the Bulletin because of my status as a parent of a 1996 graduate of Kenyon and my humble gifts to the Kenyon Parent Fund. The courage of the Bulletin staff in highlighting the wide spectrum of the meaning of success with these alumni and alumnae stories triggered in me again my enduring gratitude to the College's administration, faculty, and staff for their challenge and encouragement of my son during and after his years at Kenyon.
Merry Carson P'96 Kalamazoo, Michigan
Showing the many faces of achievement
I would like to commend you on the "Coping in the Nineties" profiles in the winter issue of the Bulletin.
It is said that we become stronger in the broken places, and the inspiring and poignant stories of these courageous and hopeful men and women confirm the fact.
It is encouraging to be reminded that achievement and success have many faces.
Joyce Hegstrom P'91,'99 Shorewood, Massachusetts
Offering a challenge
I commend your wisdom in including the "Coping in the Nineties" profiles in your winter 1996 issue of the Bulletin--although "coping" seems a meager word to describe these lives. Indeed, these people and many others who have overcome adversity are the real achievers, and I admire them for sharing their courage and determination with us.
I also thought it quite interesting that you admitted, somewhat apologetically, that "occasionally, alumni distinguished by their good works or other contributions to the public welfare are deemed worthy of celebration." Since the Bulletin seems to be getting so enlightened lately, I dare you to run a serious piece on homemaking as a "successful" and meaningful way of life. I even volunteer to write it.
Cheryl Schaff Lachowski '78 Fleetwood, Pennsylvania
Editor's note: The Bulletin editors have been in touch with Lachowski about accepting her challenge--and its attendant offer of writing assistance. Look for an article with her byline in an upcoming issue of the magazine.
The most recent Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin, "Coping in the Nineties," is outstanding. Thanks for sharing this informative and inspiring issue.
Dottie Coppock Director of College Counseling The Latin School of Chicago
Congratulations on the fine Winter 1996 Bulletin which reached me just a few days ago. Kenyon certainly must find itself among the top producers of alumni bulletins. This last issue was awesome!
I found the "Coping in the Nineties" stories especially moving, and I will share some of those articles with my friends.
Keep up the good work!
Allan Hauck '45 Somers, Wisconsin
To the six valiant persons whose stories appear in the section "Coping in the Nineties" of the winter issue of the Bulletin, and to the editors who recruited them, I am deeply grateful.
While our society is preoccupied with celebrity and things, these six lives testify to a grace and spirit of remarkable power. Kenyon has reason to be proud of them.
James R. Moodey H'85 Cincinnati, Ohio
Editor's note: Moodey, now retired, is a former Kenyon trustee and Episcopal bishop of Ohio.
Just a quick note to say "Well done!" The winter issue of the Bulletin is the best I have seen to date, and it is a very good one. Content, layout, the whole thing is a fine piece of work. You have reason to be proud.
Many thanks for your efforts on our behalf.
R.G. Shepherd '41 Cincinnati, Ohio
"Coping in the Nineties" was an exercise in courage by all concerned, and it came off successfully. Congratulations, thanks, and best wishes to all who took part.
Edward Southworth '29 Norwalk, Ohio
Thanks for a great job with the Bulletin. I particularly want to commend you for the section entitled "Coping in the Nineties" in the winter issue. Not only do the featured individuals tell honest and inspiring stories, but your inclusion of this section at all speaks volumes about openness, acceptance, and diversity at Kenyon. I came away deciding to order a copy of Charles Needle's "The Healing Power of Nature"--and feeling grateful to be a Kenyon alumnus.
Vernon Powell Woodward '57 Cambridge, Massachusetts
Editor's note: As this issue of the Bulletin was going to press, the staff learned that the magazine's winter issue had won a bronze medal from the Council for Advancement and Support of Education in its 1997 Circle of Excellence program.
Time CapsuleHarcourt Parish, Church of the Holy Spirit, Kenyon College Chapel: the terms all reflect varying aspects of the presence that has for 170 years occupied a central position in the life of the College.
by Cy Wainscott
Harcourt Parish (named by Philander Chase for a controversial Irish preacher, Sir Harcourt Lees) was organized in 1827, with meetings held in Chase's log-hut home about thirty yards north of the entrance to the present chapel. Chase, as first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, came to the wilderness site that would become Gambier to found Kenyon and to make the new community the diocesan seat.
The College opened in Gambier the following year, in a semidetached hut, as Old Kenyon was being built. The parish next worshiped in the basement of Old Kenyon and then in Rosse Chapel (now Rosse Hall).
In 1859, Bishop Gregory T. Bedell came to Gambier from the Church of the Ascension in New York City (Ascension Hall is its namesake). In 1867, the New York City church presented him with funds for a new cathedral church (the bishop's home church is, per se, the cathedral). It was a personal gift to Bedell, who was intimately involved in every detail of its design. What he designed remains largely unchanged. At the end of Philip H. Jordan Jr.'s presidency in 1995, the church's interior painting and illumination were artistically restored; an upgrade of lighting, funded by the parish, College, and alumni, is being completed.
The Early English cruciform-style church was built of local materials. The basilica-shaped chancel at the south end was arranged with a table in the center and the bishop's chair behind. On either side of the chancel entrance were stalls for the presidents of Kenyon and the seminary. Bedell personally selected the illuminated passages on the interior walls; he even assigned names and messages to each of the massive church bells (installed in 1879).
The design of the stained-glass windows, most charitably described today as "interesting," was driven by Bedell's insistence that, as much as possible, the entire fabric of the building be of Ohio creation. Unfortunately, post-Civil War Ohio seems not to have teemed with outstanding stained-glass artists.
The Brooke Memorial Windows at the end of the west transept--commemorating, among other things, the life of a Kenyon alumnus who drowned trying to rescue a companion--and the rose window above the east entrance are later additions. The rose window is now hidden behind another late addition: the tracker organ. In 1984, the old organ on the west side of the nave was removed--the highly decorated pipes remain--and replaced by the one in the east transept gallery. (It is a gallery, not a choir loft. It was here that students of the Harcourt Place School for Girls sat, virtually out of sight of the all-male Kenyon student body.)
Originally strong, the ties that bound the church and the College began to loosen over time. The resident-bishop-as-parish-rector concept lapsed into one of a bishop-appointed surrogate from the Kenyon or seminary faculty, then into a rector-faculty member jointly appointed by the parish and College, then to a joint appointment as rector and chaplain, and finally to rector only, called solely by the parish.
The unusual seating arrangement of the building reflects both its once-central role as Kenyon's chapel and a distinctive sectarian outlook prevailing at the time of its design. The College and seminary were centers of an late-century "anti-idolatry" movement within the Episcopal church. In case anyone missed the point that the church was oriented north-south rather than the more orthodox east-west, Bedell arranged the pews so the congregation would not face the central object in the basilica, which was, he insisted, a table, not an altar.
Student attendance at daily morning chapel services was mandatory until 1935 and at Sunday services until 1960. There was a strictly charted seating arrangement: Kenyon students, arranged by class and alphabetically, in the nave; seminary faculty members and students in the front pews of the east transept; College faculty members in the west transept (arranged front to back in order of academic rank); and, of course, the Harcourt Place girls safely out of student sight in the gallery.
Contributing Writers Group convenes in GambierWe met in Gambier in mid-August, a dozen or so of us called back to Kenyon's campus to talk about the way we call others back to the College with words and pictures. As members of the Bulletin's Contributing Writers Group, we had all written articles that appeared in the pages of the Bulletin, but last summer, for the first time, we had come together for another of the group's designated functions: to share ideas for future articles and issues and to guide the course of the magazine as a whole, not just in five-hundred-word pieces.
Careful readers of the Bulletin masthead may have noticed the regular listing of Contributing Writers, an idea hatched several years ago to give the magazine's editors a wider pool of writing talents from which to draw. Several of us--Katherine Anderson '82, Mieke Bomann '77, Susan Rosenberg '78, Alice Cornwell Straus '75, and myself--worked in the Office of Public Affairs before joining the group; others, like Rebecca Miller '93 and Jennifer Neiderhouser Hedden '90, were student employees; still others joined the group after being asked to contribute freelance articles to the Bulletin.
At the weekend conference, we quickly discovered that we had much in common, not least our feelings for Kenyon and our concern for the Bulletin. We also discovered that many of us had strongly held opinions--not least our feelings about the College and our attitudes about what the Bulletin should be--and we thus learned about some of our differences.
Among our topics of discussion, we debated whether theme issues and profiles offered the best way of presenting Kenyon and its alumni; whether "Book Reviews" was the best term for a feature that tries to accentuate the positive; whether preparation of an issue looking at minority concerns at the College would be a divisive move or an inclusive one. We agreed that the "Class notes" section is one of the magazine's strengths (and the first place most of us turn); that we'd like to use color more (at this point, it's prohibitively expensive, except in special instances); and that, on the whole, we're pleased by the way the Bulletin represents a Kenyon College that makes us proud.
We found time for socializing as well, a reminder of one of the advantages of college ties. I, for one, remembered Mieke Bomann as someone who insisted that I write well, but I rediscovered the way Mieke can make me laugh, as we recalled the brief period we worked together and reviewed our careers in education. Mieke, Kenyon Review Managing Editor Cy Wainscott, and News Director Jeff Bell entertained with their tales of newspapering days. Having found that President Robert Oden Jr. is a connoisseur of beer and baseball, I left knowing that the College is in sure hands indeed. And, not least, we all saw Kenyon in its calm August beauty, awaiting the academic year that is now nearly at its end.
--Christopher B. Hammett '88
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