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Photo care of Matthew Arnold ’99

2019’s Volunteer Work Week and Reunion included a window of fairly perfect Ohio summer weather that followed what seemed more like 40 rainy days of NOAH weather, rather than NOAA weather. Luckily, the timely arrival of sunny weather and lower humidity helped provide some solar energy surges for everyone to celebrate the reasons why they came here. A recent Facebook post from an early 80s alum is a clue to what people felt after departing: 

“Having Antioch and Yellow Springs withdrawal. Where else can I find people like my fellow free thinking, status quo challenging, implementing great-ideas-to-save-the-world Antiochians? Where else can I find a lush, green, friendly village, 100-year-old trees, beautiful old houses, and a very artistic downtown like Yellow Springs?” 

Believe it or not, one returning alumnus burst into tears of joy as they arrived at the OKLIBRARY!

This year’s Work Week and Reunion seemed exceptionally upbeat and joy-filled. The volunteer work crew was HUGE and even included some Antiochians who brought their teenagers with them. Those teenagers quickly found the OKLIBRARY for their after work-hours fun. I did manage to get over to the North Hall Dining Commons one evening to see some of the volunteer crew regulars. Their “happy hour” seemed raucously happy. Good wine, cheese, pate, crudites, and a side of delicious conversations with laughter. The sweet perfume of artfully smoked brisket was also in the air. Sharon Merriman ’55, Louise Meller ’69, Peggy Erskine ’60, and Helen Welford ’69 cooked up a storm for Penny Storm ’65 and others!

Soon many of those volunteers arrived at the OKL in full force and were giving all of us much love and care from top to bottom. Upstairs, The Antioch Review had more than a half-dozen people doing various chores as well as those helping Scott Sanders in Antiochiana. On the main floor, Ariel Leonard ’87 and Denwood Parrish ’69 absolutely moved mountains to various campus dumpsters (thousands of volumes of obsolete Bio and Chem abstracts and other abstracts and indexes which are now online). The old reference area will move to the newly emptied space and the old reference area will become a new multipurpose space for fun and academic moments. Soon there will be a design/build process where students and others, in concert with Michael Casselli ‘87 and Librarian Kevin Mulhall, will imagine a creative space and even make furniture using a 3-D printer! In the basement, David Newman ‘71, Dan Beverly, and others worked on giving our ailing AC system, giving it some tweaking so a half-million volumes and their users will be more comfortable.

Photo care of Perihan Sharpe ’91

Throughout Reunion, you could bump into anyone — all the way from the class of 1949 to even to 2019 — as some recent grads also returned to “re-present” their senior presentations. In between festivities, I had the joy of seeing folks who worked at the OKL circulation desk 30 years ago. So good to see each other. There are no words! 

We have been blessed for the past 12 years by a cavalry of people who each do what they can to revive and restore this College and still continue to come in relays. These many hours of sweat equity provided are ways to “make it” in an era of ever-tightening resources. The volunteers on the main library floor moved more mountains in five days than we could do in months! 

The first summer after the College was put into a period of suspended animation,

Photo care of Chris Welter ’20

the Yellow Springs Community and Non-Stop were buoyed up by visiting alums. They kept arriving and tenaciously raised spirits and also some money when we were clinging to nothing but hopes and aspirations. During mid-summer 2008, Matthew Arnold ’99 arrived with a busload of musicians and dancers. That troupe, known as “The Mechanical Rude Orchestra,” arrived with its re-converted school “veggie-powered bus” (actually on a nationwide tour for election-related consciousness raising). The Rude Mechanical Orchestra are a group of professionals who spend their vacations together and other times and also have fun with activism; they help make change while making music! The Rude Mechanical Orchestra made an extra pit stop here to boost local spirits by having a rally and a parade in Yellow Springs. I am grateful that Matthew continues to return. Maybe that Orchestra will also return some day.

Reprinted from Facebook and with Matthew Arnold 99’s permission is what seems to be a great reunion re-cap from someone who is 20 years out from their graduation. It seemed to cover almost everything but Div Dance! Always good to hear from others and gather their perceptions ! Here goes:

“Back from the Transient Mode Home, rehydrated, rested and semi-recombobulated. A few thoughts:

  • The eschatological numbers stuff seemed much improved. Sounds like recruitment – the real panic item on my last visit – is now trending in the right direction. Next they need to work on retention. There was talk of reaching a plateau of 325 students in 5 years. I have no read on how aspirational this is, but it seems way better. The burn rate vs. inflows stuff is still scary, and there’s the looming

    Photo care of Chris Welter ’20

    generational cliff set to happen in the next couple decades. But Main Building is getting a rehab and most of campus looks really great – a million times better than it did 20 years ago. Some of the town-college and non-profit partnerships in the works are really interesting. They’re searching for new and multimodal models of sustainability.
  • Tom Manley, the college president, issued a frank and seemingly-heartfelt apology to the staff, students and faculty of Nonstop that were so grievously wronged when the college they’d kept alive against impossible odds transitioned into a non-successor entity (which now resembles the old college to a remarkable degree). I know younger folks on the Alumni Board helped to make this happen. I think there’s also been 1.) an increasing unease about the prospect of all those Boomer/Silent Gen alums being succeeded by the handful of still-engaged Gen Xers and Millennials, and 2.) a dawning awareness of just how methodically the university fucked us with austerity funding designed to starve the college to death over decades. I actually overheard an older board member (who’s super nice) say something to the effect of “They were killing the college back in the ‘90s, and we didn’t know it then.” I restrained myself from saying something like “LOL we were telling you this!!1!” I suspect a lot of older alums are seeing the struggles of that era – and the achievements of that generation of students – in a new and very different light.
  • The remembrance event for Jimmy Williams, Karen Shirley and Al Denman was really moving. I didn’t really know Karen or Al, but Jimmy was one of the people that helped me keep my messy younger self together in my time there, together with Bob Devine and Elaine Comegys and a whole bunch of other people. It made me incredibly grateful for the wise, kind and generous elders who set me on a better path. Antioch was coming out of a period of really ugly retention problems when I arrived, due in large part to slipshod financial aid offerings, but I can’t help thinking that it was mostly those good old souls that righted the ship (well, until the university capsized it a decade later).
  • The few students I had interactions with were so cool and doing such exciting things with the giant set of pedagogical Tinkertoy set that is Antioch 2.0. A lot has changed in the 20 years since I left there, and I’d imagine these kids are a lot more sure of themselves, able to find way more representation and affirmation in the culture and closer to the mainstream of the left half-and-change of our bifurcated national politics, such as it is. But they’re still pushing boundaries and buttons and thinking up new ways to remake the world and disassemble power structures.
  • The Winning Victories Grant finalists were incredibly impressive and motivating. And they immediately set to subverting the competitive social-justice-Shark-Tank format by talking about how they could collaborate regardless of who won, which was essentially Antiochian.”

If you missed Work Week or Reunion this season, perhaps you might ponder getting involved down the road.

From a place that is not yet perfected but mighty precious and here! A true oasis in a crazy world!