When the College was in the period that Tendaji Ganges ‘71 called “The Great Interruption” (our closure from June 30, 2008 to the September 2009 “key exchange” and then the eventual arrival of students in September 2011) there was quite a bit of Alumni Chapter activity. During this period of interruption, there were 32 meetings in 20 different cities. (Ah, the pre-Covid world: food and fellowship in person.) There was first a listening round as Pro-tem Board Members and College Revival Fund members went out to find what the masses thought would make the reopening of the College strong. There was another round where people returned to ask, “Is this what we think we heard from you?” Also along the way, there was an “entrepreneurial” Philadelphia Chapter meeting that raised $18,000 in one night by having a concert at which an arts-loving neighborhood of non-Antiochians bought most of the concert tickets. Help from a young impresario from the class of ‘97 provided the talent for a wee pittance. Music, food, introducing Antioch to others! Win-win-win victory for Humanity!
During these rounds one day, I received an unexpected email from a former Community Manager from 2002 who had gone to a Phoenix Chapter meeting. They were also a former worker at the Olive Kettering Library, so we were bonded in that “Olive Kettering” way. To paraphrase, they said they felt that, although they knew nobody in the room and no one was anywhere near their age, they found a quiet comfort in the room because it was full of such like-minded people. They immediately felt like they belonged. I would imagine that the reason for this comfort is the ability of most Antiochians to open up and share their “story.” As a group that is eight decades wide, there are many commonalities we share. We have all been around the world more than many and have been exposed to concepts that shake us up on the way to that hopeful goal of a “Victory for Humanity.” At the OK Library before closure, the front desk at was very much shaped like a typical “bar.” Often (yes paper still was king) people would bump into each other asking for readings and start immediately talking about where they had been and what they had been doing. Maybe that is where Joe Cali got that phrase that he so often used, “Where have you been?” Many thought he was just being eccentric but he was giving you an open-ended question to OPEN you up, and after decades, Co-op was in his DNA as well. Another follow-up was when he would approach a student and say with a twinkle in his eye as they were starting to do research, “What do you THINK you are doing?” (The new Library desk by the way is more tailored to sitting and having your laptop open but those Co-op conversations still happened while I was there.)
Joe Cali was a master at getting your story. But we also have many master storytellers in our midst and that is some of the glue that has held us together. During this past year April Wolford ’92, Director of Alumni Relations, has imagined a smorgasbord of great alumni events. It is sure that this Zoomiverse of activities has already brightened many peoples’ evenings and at the same time opened people up to tell their story. An Antioch Adventure Watch Party with people who actually helped make it was a fun evening as people told some funny behind-the-scenes stories…and how making the movie helped change the trajectory of their lives. During a month-long Virtual Reunion as many people told their stories, there were also some things to learn from current faculty and even a sweaty living room COVID-era Div Dance. There was an evening of recent grads of Spotlights on Excellence that had me smiling as I had come to know these recent grads at the Library and just knew they would go far fast. There was a great lecture and workshop from Laurie Paul ‘90, philosophical in nature. It was maybe more cerebral than I could handle. I thought I smelled my neurons burning! The masses there certainly were exhilarated.
Most recently there was a two-Zoomsday weekend workshop on Oral History in the Digital age. Brooke Bryan, Associate Professor of Writing and Digital Literacy, Dean for Innovation & the Applied Liberal Arts, explained about the problems created by all our new technologies and how to make people aware and feel safe in this age of cell phones that do everything, including maybe make your coffee. She explained active listening, how to frame open-ended questions to help people be able to tell their story, and tons of technical hints.
This two-day seminar actually had quite the “participants.” There were 30 people in there from almost every decade and every geographical region. I hadn’t seen Willa Seidenberg ’78 since ’78. Some of us were active listeners but, ah, some were also very seasoned professionals in the field of radio journalism or regional history projects. So this class at some points became a very interesting sharing-of-wisdom session. Even a show and tell of microphones, websites, and databases! It felt like going through the monolith in the movie 2001 as information just “zoomed” by. Add to that the company of like-minded people, some of whom one might remember from 20 or even 40 years ago. A two-Zoomday combination of mind-opening and that like-minded comfort. The fees also went straight to help the College. I wonder what other multigenerational classroom and practical moments will appear? Perhaps a weekend of Master Gardening, who knows? What great getaways from the quotidian and Covidian worlds.
There are often other Zoom and Google Meet events. The Bay Area has a fun monthly chapter gathering. And on campus, Community Meetings are a great Google Hangout. The first one for 2021 had at least 64 participants. I went as an observer, but almost everything I heard was so reassuringly familiar it showed me how resilient and vibrant the Antioch Community is. There was talk of campus job openings and possibilities with Miller Fellowships (a fund set up by Nolan and Dick Miller) with community nonprofits. Mentions of Anti-Watt (the alternative radio station), The Record, and the return down the road of the famous Antioch Writer’s Workshop. One student asked if any physical plant workers were there. The Antioch proletarian mindset continues! People chatted with each other on the chat space on the side, and there was talk about how to be kind and gentle with each other during this age of pandemonium as well as follow protocol. If you had been there you would have felt that same common comfort of like-minded folks from that Phoenix Chapter meeting. The current CM, Coco Gagnet ’18, ran a great virtual meeting. I wished there had been such a thing as Google Meet and Zoom back in the day. Library people often stayed doing their jobs as libraries were spaces anyone would appear in the pre-Covid world. Now we are temporarily in bubbles.
Please add the Antioch Zoomiverse to your calendar as you see future events. There is an upcoming Gala and much more. Please stay in the loop.
And please tell your stories when and wherever. For starters ,if you can loosen up your 75 word muse please consider sitting down and writing your class note. You may not know it but in sharing your story, even briefly, you can start strengthening a community that is eight decades deep. Join the online community or submit that class note to firstname.lastname@example.org.
And to knit some things together, it has already turned out that an oral history work produced by Eric Rhodes ’16, a student in that Profiles of Excellence event, has already been used by several outside researchers. Those electrons might not even be totally dry yet!
Finally, the Community Meeting was so good and so familiar it made me extra homesick for that pre-Covid era. I imagine you might feel similarly. To all, be safe, stay sane, and share (tell) your stories as you can.
“A Buffalo Grazing” is a regular feature by alum Steven Duffy ’77, known to many as the Buffalo or simply Duffy.