February 03, 2011
An open letter signed by hundreds of Knox College students praises the College's staff response to the blizzard that hit the upper Midwest, Galesburg and the Knox campus this week with two feet of snow and higher drifts that temporarily blocked a number of buildings.
Photos: Top of page, Seymour Library; right, a member of the maintenance staff clears snow and ice from the stairs of Seymour Union; below right, a grounds staff moves snow from a campus parking lot
Although Knox classes were canceled on Wednesday, "dining, facilities, Campus Safety, library and student service workers... did not get to enjoy a break from work; instead they found themselves serving corned beef during a blackout, attempting to fight off enormous snowdrifts even as the night blew towards midnight, and dealing with all of the safety hazards that come with cold temperatures," said a letter sent on Wednesday to Knox College President Roger Taylor.
"Though such a rarity [snowstorm] inspired celebration for many, the enormous blizzard occasioned for others something less exciting -- that is, normal responsibilities under strained, difficult and altogether abnormal conditions... Their work ensured safety and comfort for each student, and for their commitment to this school and their selflessness, they should be thanked," the students wrote to Taylor.
"They said it well," Taylor noted in an e-mail that forwarded the letter and signatures of 530 students to the entire campus.
It took less than two hours to gather the signatures, said the letter's author, Christopher Poore, a first-year student from Colorado Springs.
"Evelyn Langley, Alyssa Kennamer, Claire Healy and I came up with the idea Wednesday morning during breakfast," Poore said. "I wrote the letter right afterwards, and Evelyn, Alyssa and I sat outside the cafeteria during dinner, getting people to sign it. It was great to see so many students saying, 'YES! I want to sign that.' There was a genuine air of gratitude. The people who worked here during the blizzard really deserve our thanks and attention."
The students' letter noted the arrangements that had to be made, to keep essential services in operation. "We were happy to hear that the members of Knox College's staff were properly taken care of during the blizzard," the students wrote.
"Because many staff members' cars were buried in the snow, security took special measures to transport workers. This kind of care is essential -- because so many individuals decided to see that we students were taken care of, it is important we take equal measures to ensure their well-being."
"We hope that the recent blizzard was not only an occasion for rest but also an occasion for each member of the Knox community to carefully consider the extraordinary individuals that the college employs at every level," the students wrote.
Long time faculty recalled prior blizzards. "I remember one day in 1999 when we canceled the first day of class in winter term, since students were not able to get to Knox with flights everywhere being canceled," said Sue Hulett, Richard P. and Sophia D. Henke Distinguished Professor of Political Science, who has taught at Knox since 1980. "I cross country skied to the office that day," Hulett said.
Hulett was one of the few faculty to come to campus on Wednesday. "The building doors had a 2-foot drift. I was thankful that the Knox staff had plowed the parking lots."
Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 45 states and 48 countries. Knox's "Old Main" is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.
Photos: right, a 1984 photograph of Old Main by Michael Godsil '76 made the cover of the college's alumni magazine -- and he's continued to make impressive scenic photos. Also on the magazine cover, in 1991, a photo by David Stluka '91 of two student snow sculptors (one of whom, Alex Moreno '93, right, is now a tile and stone artist in Galesburg with a son, Gabe, who is a first-year student at Knox); below, one of the residential quads.