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Everything is gonna be OK!

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Probably about a dozen years ago while the College was still in closure mode we had what was termed the “Board Pro Tem”. It was like a group or a Board of Trustees waiting in the wings to undertake the work of bringing back a closed college with a great legacy (even during a Great Recession that began in 2008).

At a publicly open Board meeting in the Herndon Gallery it was mentioned that there was a sizable amount of money delegated for masonry work. As the Board was made up of Antiochians it did what Antiochians do. Have a deep discussion! The discussion was where to use that money. A most spirited and lengthy discussion ensued (our true collective College sport). One Board member wanted to work on Main Building as the “Iconic heart” and another wanted to give that love to the “Academic heart, the Olive Kettering Library. At that point no buildings were really online yet other than South, the OK Library, and the CSKC. Sometimes Antiochians need to continue dialogue or discussion and delve deep into conceptual matters but sometimes meetings also unfortunately have definite end times. So that Friday meeting ended with no resolution on that matter.

Dream bigger! Photo by Chelsea Carpentier ’16

On the following Monday around 4:00 PM, Scott Sanders heard a great rumbling in the southwest corner of the OK Library near Antiochiana. One guesses that the final decision was made from up above, either the second floor of the library, or maybe even powers higher up as the bricks tumbled to the parking lot. Perhaps even higher powers love the OK Library. So that masonry love went to the “Academic Heart” at that point. The corners of the foundation were all redone and 5,000 helical coils were placed in between the grout to secure the outer brick skin to the inner cinder block walls. Eventually Main Building will get its due share of love; a big ticket item like that may take more time and some brainstorming and, of course, patience.

The OK library has remained a great bubble inside the campus bubble during these uncertain times. Always a place big enough to be alone or to meet someone, and plenty of breathing room! With the mailroom, bookstore, and snack shop also there… people come and go. And in between people use electronic resources, check out books, and even pick up interlibrary loans. Books still exist! Although someone now might scan text with their cell phone or the copier and then return the book seemingly straight away. It is a new world all the time!

As August 2021 begins, staff and faculty are all reporting back to work in person. Although the library staff along with many others have been there quietly all along!

Thirty or so students have been working on campus in different capacities all summer and later this month first years will arrive and people coming back from Co-op or summer break (Co-oping in a pandemic is a real and heroic Antioch Adventure! Stories to tell the next generation when the current folks become the elders!).

Last week I came to campus to get a feel for how folks are feeling as we head back to some form of normalcy. I went to the YS Credit Union for some “folding money” but of course was drawn to the OK Library and campus—any excuse for that homing instinct. The library still had that familiar sweet smell of old school knowledge. Hundreds of thousands of books and journals. Students were at computers. There was also a table of rambunctious people who turned out to be the team for the ANTIOCH RECORD! There is an issue coming out soon; they told me the scoop but my lips are sealed

I talked with the “Record people” after their meeting ended and we were simply elated to talk with each other. I hope the returning faculty will have that same elation although one imagines there will also be some anxiety. It was great to see Scott Sanders and Sandy Coulter, troupers with almost six decades of Antioch Adventures between the two of them.

Emily in the outside world, librarian getting her feet wet

Then I managed to meet the new librarian, Emily Samborsky. I felt a great surge of welcome and positive energy. She is just the kind of Antioch librarian with which we all might resonate. Effusive, welcoming, casual, youngish, and not all stodgy. She previously worked at a huge Community College and has been waiting to work at a more intimate place. She told me that she has never been at a place that has been more welcoming. She also wants to make the OK Library as welcoming and comforting as possible. Her wish: “I want to continue to lead us into the future while keeping the historic and welcoming feeling of the spaces. I am ready to bring about needed changes but not without input.”

One of the joys of working at a place like Antioch College is that even though it has been a river of people that seem to flow through over the decades there are times where there are chances to jump into that river for great new starts. And some in that river are lucky enough to be eighteen! surrounded by people who are in their corner whether they know it or not. In the area of Student Life, Louise Smith ‘77 is coming back for an “encore performance” as an Interim Dean. She was an awesome Dean when we reopened and with theater skills, a counseling degree, and being an Antiochian herself, well, you couldn’t ask for much more.

Also in Student life are Iara Ward ’97, Truth Garrett  ’20, and Mary Evans ’20. So there will also be some 20/20 vision in the area of student life. As students both Truth and Mary were decades older than their peers and have the seasoning of an elder along with the knowledge of what it is like to be a student in the current era. And Iara may be second generation Antiochian whose parents were both Antiochians I remember from the ’70s and lived in the old Married Students housing. To use a favorite Bob Fogarty word (RIP, Bob), they are all “Sentient” human beings. So everyone is going to be in good hands, okay in uncertain times. A great feat.

Also had a chat with Donna Evans, Registrar, who I have known for years. She is eager for everyone to be more in “real” time. Thinks that everyone craves that Community where we can be with each other in the total sense of the word!

Enrollment looks a smidge better than last year and something most unusual (and I am a witness for decades) Antioch did not end the last year in the red.

After a while I strolled over to a gazebo area between Weston (the Old Horace Mann building) and North Hall where there is a huge wooden bike rack and swings. In the shade a swing said come and relax. I sat there surrounded by a tunnel of green and got a great breeze. I felt a real sense of place! Such history and such possibility!

So everything feels OK. I imagine when faculty, student, and staff come together in a Community Meeting or in other ways it will be like some sort of reunion, with all sorts of emotions.

And speaking of Reunion there are TWO in sight. There is Antiochtober which will be virtual with some exciting surprises and may be the warm up act for an in person Reunion in July 2022. Save the date once the Alumni Board’s Reunion Committee nails it down and some money for the pilgrimage here next year! YSOH has great good and coffee and spirits now if you should wander…. but those tasty things cost! The campus and Yellow Springs are great places to be, no matter what decade you come from or geographical region.

The Volunteer Work Project crew will be here in early October right around the time of Founders’ Day (somewhat the College’s birthday!) like a toe in the waters of semi-normalcy.

Let’s wish everyone a wonderful first week back. Let’s save a second wish for the students when they arrive and maybe a third wish for the new President, who I hear is already hard at work.

We are gonna be OK! A major accomplishment in uncertain times! Thank you to everyone in this collective effort!

“A Buffalo Grazing” is a regular feature by alum Steven Duffy ’77, known to many as the Buffalo or simply Duffy.