Homecoming 2011: Alumni Memories of Knox
October 15, 2011
More than 1,200 Knox College alumni and friends turned out this weekend for the 2011 Homecoming festivities, part of the 175th anniversary celebration for Knox College and the City of Galesburg.
Knox alumni and friends had dozens of Homecoming activities to choose from, including the Community Pumphandle, Homecoming Convocation, a book-signing event featuring authors who are Knox faculty and alumni, a Prairie Fire football game, and various other social gatherings.
"We celebrate the past, and we stand on the threshold of the future," Knox College President Teresa Amott told the audience at Saturday's Homecoming Convocation ceremony.
During the ceremony, the college's 175th anniversary song, On the Steps of Old Main, was performed in public for the first time. Sam Brownson '12 composed it. (Photo above shows Brownson, with guitar, performing with other Knox musicians.)
Here is a brief look at some of the Knox College alumni who came back to campus to celebrate the 2011 Homecoming:
Mike Takehara, Mark Chelmowski, Ward Dietrich, Chris Daniels, and Reed Graf, all members of the Knox College Class of 1981, became buddies more than 30 years ago, thanks in part to their championship intramural basketball team: the Abra Cadavers.
"That's one of the ways in which our group bonded together," said Takehara, who lives in Rancho Cucamonga, California. "We've stayed friends for 33 years. That is probably the thing I've cherished the most (about Knox) -- close friends."
Graf, of Cedarburg, Wisconsin, praised the high quality of the Knox faculty who taught him. "This was a smorgasbord," he said. "You had legends in every field."
For Chelmowski, who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, returning to the Knox campus is "a walk down memory lane. It brings back a lot of happy memories and rekindles friendships."
Long-lasting friendships, especially the ones that stretch over more than three decades, shouldn't be taken for granted, Dietrich said. His friends agreed.
"It's kind of corny, but (I enjoy) the dynamic of all of us together," said Daniels, who lives in Park Ridge, Illinois. "It's just a great group of guys to get together with." (Photo shows from left, Dietrich, Takehara, Daniels, Graf, and Chelmowski.)
The 70-year friendship between Marynell Durland Kirkwood '44 and Barbara Lemke '44 began when the two Knox first-year students lived near one another on the fourth floor of Whiting Hall. They later joined the same sorority, Delta Zeta.
By the time they graduated, World War II was under way, and "we were virtually an all-girl class," Kirkwood said. "But we always had dates because the Air Force was training here. And I taught dancing, so I was always having fun."
Kirkwood, who lives in Moline, Illinois, visits the Knox campus every year for Homecoming and Commencement.
Lemke, of Woodland Hills, California, returned for the 2011 Homecoming so she could meet Knox College President Teresa Amott, who arrived at Knox in July.
Lemke said she is pleased to hear about the just-announced $2 million in gifts from four alumni to support the renovation of Knox's historic Alumni Hall.
"I think redoing Alumni Hall is great," she said. "The college needs the room." (Photo shows Kirkwood, at left, and Lemke.)
Jim Whitehill '81 reminisced with longtime friends Fred '80 and Annette Ambrosini Johnston '81 just before the Homecoming Convocation.
Whitehill's son, Andrew, is a first-year student at Knox. "I'm looking forward to seeing Knox through his eyes," said Whitehill, of Tucson, Arizona.
"There's an amazing diversity of experiences here," he added. "I met people whose families were farmers, whose families were steelmakers, and I became friendly with these people while at Knox College."
Coming back to the Knox campus is "a chance to see old friends again," said Fred Johnston, of Highland Park, Illinois. "It's a chance to see how the college and the town have changed. You come back and realize it really is a good school and a good town, and you appreciate what you have and what you had here."
Annette Johnston recalled that her class was the first that was required to take a year-long Preceptorial class at Knox. "All the writing teaches you to have clarity in your thinking," she said.
"Knox teaches you a way of looking at the world," Whitehill said. "Because it is a liberal arts education, you learn to look at problems from a multitude of perspectives." (Photo shows Whitehill, at left, and the Johnstons.)
Alfred Stegman '56, of Earlville, Illinois, and Bob Kadanec '56, of Eau Claire, Wisconsin, were both in attendance for their 55th year reunion this year.
Stegman recalled fond memories of his years on the baseball team, and Kadanec spent time checking out the scene design display, seeing what has changed since his years as a theatre major.
"It's just great to be back, because you only see these people every five years," Stegman said. Both are frequent attendees of their every-five-year Homecoming reunions. (Photo shows Stegman, at left, and Kadanec.)
"We're Knox people," is the simple explanation Larry Sommers '66 gives for visiting campus for his 45th year reunion.
Sommers, now from Madison, Wisconsin, says Knox feels like an "old hometown."
Sommers recalled a mischievous memory from his time at Knox, involving his first-year roommate and a giant icicle.
"Charlie Rush, my roommate, made a 10-foot icicle hanging from the third floor of our room in Seymour. By the time he was done, it was red, white and blue, and probably weighed about a ton and a half," Sommers said. "The authorities were worried it might drop through the roof of the gallery below. Luckily, it didn't."
Mimi Thompson Krause '61 and Susan Shea Worthington '61 rekindled their Pi Beta Phi sisterhood this weekend and took note of changes on campus.
Krause traveled from Seattle, Washington for her 50th year reunion, and Worthington came from Lexington, Missouri, for the event.
"My favorite memories are from the old Gizmo in Alumni Hall, which anyone who was here from 1960-62 would remember," Worthington said. "We would stop by after class to play bridge, drink coffee, and chat with professors."
Both are excited to spend the weekend reconnecting with classmates. (Photo shows Krause, at left, and Worthington.)
Traveling all the way down from the upper peninsula of Michigan for his 40th year reunion, Bill Rice '71 made the trip simply because he "hasn't been back in 27 years."
Things have changed, he said.
Rice was a geology major, and remembered the department was located in the basement of Whiting Hall. "It was a fun place to spend three years," he said.
As for his reunion experience, Rice said he has really enjoyed re-connecting with people. "I'm going to be keeping in touch more," he said.
"I'm lacking sleep right now, but that's exactly how it always was when I was here anyway," Ben Tovrog '71, joked about the 750-mile drive he made from Atlanta, Georgia, so he could be at his 40th year reunion.
Tovrog said he has been enjoying the Homecoming events, especially the Taste of Galesburg event that was a "great mixer with good food, and it was just good to see everyone."
The lasting value of a liberal arts education is one of the reasons Jo Rabb Beaty '71, appreciates Knox.
"My experiences at Knox have informed so many things in my life, and I keep realizing the value of my Knox education by understanding how much it influences the way I look at and see the world," Beaty said.
Beaty, who currently lives in Gainesville, Florida, says she always likes to come back to campus to remember what was a "really good period in her life" that provided great opportunities.