Knox Homecoming 2013: Alumni Memories

October 20, 2013

Kate Xiao, Mike Boyd, Monique Roberts, and friends at HomecomingKnox College alumni and friends returned to campus October 18-20 for 2013 Homecoming festivities. The numerous Homecoming-related activities included an all-class reunion, Prairie Fire football and soccer games, the Summer Horizons display of student research and other accomplishments, a tour of the Alumni Hall renovation, and the traditional Homecoming Convocation.

Here are some of the Knox alumni who celebrated this year's Homecoming.

Not long ago, Janet Van Der Sluys Brown '58 took an especially vivid trip down memory lane, thanks to her mother and the correspondence they shared during her years at Knox.Janet Brown and Letitia Schactner

"My mother saved every letter I wrote to her for all four years. Last winter, I read them all. It was amazing to go back to see what life was like in those days," Brown said.

"It's really strange to read letters that you wrote when you were 18, 19, and 20 when you're over 70. Of course, I know I glossed over a few things to my mother, but it gave me a wonderful picture of what it was like to be a Knox student in those days -- and a nice memory," she added.

"I think my overall impression [upon re-reading the letters] was that I was actually a deeper thinker than I thought I was. I thought that I was pretty social, but as I read them and read about the classes I took, I realized I really did learn a lot about how to think independently." (Photo at right: Janet Van Der Sluys Brown '58, at left, with her Knox roommate, Letitia Luther Schactner '58.)

Monique Roberts '03 and Kate Xiao '03 agreed one of the best things about Homecoming is re-connecting with old friends.

Both participated in multiple activities as Knox students -- Roberts played soccer and basketball, was involved with ABLE, and studied abroad in Barcelona, Spain, while Xiao was involved with Lo Nuestro, ABLE, Alpha Phi Omega, and served as president of the Chinese Club.

"The people I met and the sports that I did, those are some of my best memories," said Roberts, who majored in psychology and Spanish and now works as a licensed professional counselor at a high school in St. Louis, Missouri.

Xiao said she appreciated that at Knox, she and other students could "get to know other cultures and people and have the opportunity to focus on what you really wanted to study."

"Knox enabled me to chase what I was passionate about and let me focus on those things," added Xiao, a biology and art major at Knox who now is in a nursing residency program at the University of Missouri. "In addition, it taught me to think on my own, think outside the box, and be a little bit more creative."

(Photo at top of page: Friends gather at the ABLE and Lo Nuestro alumni reception. From left: Kate Xiao '03, Mike Boyd '03, Angela Moton '02, Roychelle Lindo '03, and Monique Roberts '03.)

Mike Boyd '03 returned for his 10-year reunion, which he could hardly believe.

"It doesn't feel like 10 years," said Boyd. "It feels like maybe a day, two days since we graduated. I miss my classmates because they're like family."

creative writing major at Knox, Boyd now works as a freelance writer, often writing about the Chicago Bears and Chicago Bulls.

He said his Knox education has benefited him in his after-Knox life. "The idea of being able to go across academic disciplines, I think that helped me out when I was on my own working."

"I'm able to roll with the punches," he added. "I'm able to learn whatever the job is, even if I don't have experience in it."

Boyd recalled that when he visited Knox for the first time years ago, he immediately realized it was a special place.

"There was something about the campus that spoke to me," he said. "You get more one-on-one with your professors. You get to know people on a more personal level, and it helps with academics."

Jeff and Susan WilliamsVisiting from Fort Worth, Texas, for his Reunion year, Jeff Williams '73 returned to campus with his wife, Susan Williams.

Jeff was excited to visit with friends, including his Alpha Delta Epsilon fraternity brothers.

"It's just nice to get together with everyone again," Jeff said.

Susan enjoyed the book signings by professors after Homecoming Convocation.

"I was surprised to find children's books, so I picked some up for the grandkids," Susan said.

Jeff and Susan planned to spend their afternoon on the rail yard bus tour around Galesburg, which was of special interest to them as Jeff works for BNSF in Texas.

Jeff says his Knox experience has helped him in his career and beyond in the years since graduation.

"My time at Knox showed me I could be responsible and succeed by myself despite my background," Jeff said. "I met a wide variety of people, and it gave me a better, wider perspective on the world."

Vida Cross '88 says one of her favorite things about Knox is the mix of people she met as a student.Vida Cross and Mary Burke

"I really liked the fact that I could interact with African-Americans, international students, and people who are not black or international," said Cross, a writer and teacher who majored in creative writing and history at Knox.

"It's always been a comfortable environment for me as an African-American, for me as a writer, for me as a female. Also, as a woman, I always felt very strong here at Knox. I felt like I had a voice that was not silenced. That was very good." (Photo at right: Vida Cross '88, at left, and classmate Mary Ryan Burke '88.)

Jon Carbary '72 makes sure to return to campus every year for Homecoming.

A lawyer from Elgin, Illinois, Carbary credits Knox with a lot of his success.Jon Carbary and friends at Homecoming

"If it weren't for Knox, I wouldn't have gotten into law school," he said.

Carbary says he follows a traditional Homecoming schedule each year: seeing old friends, getting a burger and beer for lunch, and then watching the football game with his friends.

Carbary reflected on his Knox experience with fondness for how it has served him in the years since graduation.

"It gave me the focus and commitment to do my very best," Carbary said.

(Photo at right: Jon Carbary '72 stands at left with Knox College friends Ralph Norman '71, second from left,  Sue Kamp Norman '70, and Larry Kusch '71. The three men are former Knox roommates. Kusch and Carbary served as best men for each other at their weddings.)

Cameron King '12Cameron King '12 has attended both of the Knox Homecomings that have taken place since he graduated. He enjoys coming back to see his friends, "hanging out how we used to when we were here," and feeling a strong sense of shared community.

"You kind of get nostalgic about seeing people, and you want to come back and be in the same room and reminisce," said King, who works in a Chicago law office and hopes to attend law school next year.

"When you're at Knox for four years, ... you're tied to this setting. You understand people in this setting. You grow to know them and love them in this setting," he said.

For Norma Hedges '63, one of her favorite memories of Knox is the impromptu singing she'd perform with one of her roommates, Sharon Hallett Schnell '63, in their room.Norma Hedges '63 and Sharon Hallett Schnell

"We always shut the door because we weren't any good, but it was fun," she said, adding that the two have remained best friends.

Knox, she said, instilled her with self-confidence.

"When I came here, I was from a very small school," she said. Knox "gave me the self-confidence to know that just because I was from a small town, didn't mean I couldn't compete."

Later, as a teacher at one of Illinois' tiniest high schools, she tried to pass that same lesson along to her students. "We never had more than 79 students. That was one of the things I stressed, that you're as good as anybody else." (Photo at right: Norma Hedges '63, at right, with Sharon Hallett Schnell '63.)

Bruce Blasch '63 thinks if he hadn't attended Knox, he might not have finished college. As it turned out, he earned a bachelor's from Knox, two master's degrees, and then a doctorate.

"For me, Knox was special because it was small and intimate, and it really got you on the right path for academia," he said. Knox offered "small classes where you couldn't hide."Duncan Rowles and Bruce Blasch

"And professors that cared," added Duncan Rowles '63. Blasch and Rowles have been friends since they were Knox students.

As a biology major at Knox, Blasch said he appreciated "the freedom and responsibility you had as a student -- where you could get keys to the science hall and go in there and work all night, if you wanted to."

Rowles served in the military after graduating from Knox and eventually became director of total quality management for a multinational corporation. He later started his own consulting firm. (Photo at right: Duncan Rowles '63, at left, and Bruce Blasch '63.)

What makes Knox special to him, Rowles said, is "the memories of a more innocent time in life and the friendships that were developed here."

He has especially fond memories of singing in the Knox College Choir. "The relationships I built in those four years, many of them still exist today," Rowles said.

Kate and Chuck FlintKate Horan Flint '86 and Chuck Flint '84 have returned for many Knox Homecomings, sharing some with their daughter, Colleen, a Knox junior now studying abroad in Denmark.

"I like coming back to Homecoming because it brings back the memories of being here," Kate said. "I [also] like meeting people I didn't know when I was here and finding out I have so much in common with them."

"The friendships are incredible," added Chuck. "One of my classmates and I went out to California after we graduated -- without jobs. We just packed up his car and went. You form those kinds of friendships, where you would jump into a car and go."

For Homecoming weekend, the Flints were staying at a bed-and-breakfast where other guests included members of the Classes of  '58 and '73.

"It's fascinating to hear the different things that have changed over the years," Kate said.