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April Wolford class of 1992

April Wolford ’92

Where were you born?

I was born in Mt Vernon, Ohio and lived there until I left for college at The University of Akron when I was 19.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Mt Vernon too. It was a very blue-collar town of 15-20,000 people while I lived there 1966-1985. Rolls-Royce engines were manufactured there as Warehouser and several other big companies. My father worked the furnaces for Pittsburgh Plate Glass until the company downsized and closed the glass plant in Mt Vernon in the 1970s.

It was both a difficult and privileged childhood growing up there. As a queer woman, I experienced a lot of bigotry but as an accomplished athlete and a white person, I experienced a lot of privilege.

How did you hear about Antioch?

I first learned about Antioch College from one of my oldest friends Abby Maitland ‘88. Abby and I both hated the conservative and often bigoted attitudes of the people in our small town. It was particularly difficult to be “different” in Mt Vernon and Abby and I both fit the “different” category on several fronts. Abby applied to Antioch for early admission and was accepted in her Junior year! She escaped Mt Vernon early and really loved the program at Antioch. She tried to talk me into applying but I was not interested in a small school after living in my small town. I wanted to go to the big city to expand my horizons so I attended the University of Akron instead.

It turned out that Akron was not a good school for me so I left after my first year and grabbed a ride with a friend to the SF Bay Area. I lived there for about a year trying to survive on my own at 20yrs old. After barely making a living working at a Jack in the Box and landscaping for a year I decided it was time to go back to Ohio. I took the Greyhound bus from LA to Columbus with a dozen guys who had just been released from jail and were on their way to New York. That is a colorful story as well but we’ll save that for another day.

The second time I heard of Antioch College it was from a guy I met in Lafayette, California in 1986 – after I dropped out of Akron and fled West to California with a friend. That guy told me that he had attended Antioch in the 1970s, that you could major in Rocks and Spaghetti sauce and get gym credit for living on the 4th floor of one of the dorms (North Hall).

Soon after returning to Ohio in the summer of 1987, I decided to check out this kookie college called Antioch. I met with a man named Ed Amrhein ‘74 in the admissions office and we talked for several hours. I remember our conversation very vividly because it was one of the most interesting conversations I had ever had. He asked me if I was an activist or had ever been involved in civil rights actions. I told him that I had not but that I was very interested in learning more. I was not aware at the time but that was my admissions interview and I was delighted when I received my letter of acceptance in the mail.

What was it like when you were here?

In 1987 Antioch College was a wild and unruly place. GenX was coming of age and we were very busy. We partied hard and worked harder. Grunge music was born during this time and Antioch’s student band, The Gits, played a big role in that movement until their lead singer, Mia Zappata, was murdered in 1996. The campus community was very politically active. The campus community was very involved in organizing Take Back the Night marches with Villagers, protesting the Gulf War with a large event at Wright Patterson Airforce Base, and other activism. There were a lot of civil rights activists living in Yellow Springs as well and they held classes to teach us non-violent protest methods.

At that time Community Government was very strong. The concept of Community Government was originally based on the City Manager model of government. The Community Manager was essentially hired to do the work of the Community Council including managing a budget of more than $200K in addition to providing leadership to the campus. CG funds supported academic programming, student events, the C-Shop, a recycling program, movie nights, and much more. Serving as the co-Community Manager with David Benson ‘90 in 1990-91 was an unforgettable experience. Not just because that was the year the Sexual Offence Policy was written but because it was a chance to put my ideals into action.

What co-ops did you do? What was your major?

My degree from Antioch is in Literature and Women’s Studies. I loved studying literature at Antioch. The faculty were passionate about their subject matters and Antioch’s experiential learning model. There were no grades at the time which I also loved. Without grades, you are only competing with yourself to become the best student you can be. No one had any trouble getting into graduate school because of the absence of grades. Faculty member Peter Townsend used to track the success of our alumni who pursued graduate study.

My co-op jobs included working at a runaway shelter in Columbus, OH, a school for students with learning disabilities in Atlanta, GA, a stint on a goat farm in Western, MA, a night manager position at a Volunteers of America residential program for women convicted of drug-related felonies, a community organizer for the National Abortion Rights Action League in Seattle, WA and my biggest co-op which was the year-long post as Community Manager.

One powerful insight came to me on my co-op job at the runaway shelter. I asked myself, “you study literature, why are you working at a runaway shelter?” The answer came quickly and clear, that art is representative of life and these experiences are life.

Where did you live while at Antioch?

When I was a student I lived in Birch Hall all my years except for a quarter in North Hall. I loved living in Birch right across from the Glen. I lived in Pennell Hall when I first arrived. Pennell Hall was the top floor of Birch on the North end. This was a hall for women only. Most of my dorm life was lived on Hardy Hall however which was directly under Pennell Hall. Hardy was a co-ed hall with mostly older students. Most of my friends lived on Hardy and it was a great place to live.

I also lived in the Birch Apartments during my time as the CM and in several rentals in Yellow Springs.

You designed “Bootcamp for the Revolution – How did that happen?

This is a great time to give a shout-out to one of my closest Antioch friends, Bitsy Eddy ‘91. The Bootcamp t-shirt was born in a conversation she and I had following a Friday Forum discussion. The Friday Forum series was a great program for hearing different perspectives on controversial topics. During one Friday Forum, a faculty member at the College sarcastically said that Antioch was not the boot camp for the revolution. I took issue with that statement and, during a phone call with Bitsy the next day, we had decided on the language and it was made into a shirt. The shirt itself was controversial for many years. We even had a Friday Forum discussion on the message of the shirt. I am very proud that it speaks to so many Antiochians to this day.

I designed the original “No Football Team Since 1923” t-shirt as well. The one with the photo of the football team is my design. That shirt was born out of my early experiments with Photoshop in the early 1990s. My arrangement with the bookstore to sell the shirts was that profits were shared with the LGBTQ and the Womyn’s Centers.

What’s your favorite thing about Antioch?

My favorite thing about Antioch is the remarkable accomplishments of our alumni. I also love the fact that you can do anything at Antioch without people telling you it is not possible. Even if they do tell you that, they will not stop you from trying.

Can you share some reflections with us about the past two years at Antioch?

These past two years have been very challenging ones for those of us who work, teach or study at Antioch College. The leadership transitions have been frequent and very disruptive for all of us. The pressures on the fundraising team have been tremendous as we worked hard to meet the College’s revenue needs without sufficient resources. Jane is a welcome change to this dynamic and I am confident she will turn these conditions around.

There are a lot of positive results for all the great work that was completed despite the circumstances! Personally, I am very proud of the work I, and those of the Advancement team, were able to do for the College and our Alumni over the past two years.

Some of the highlights I am especially proud of include:

  • Several New Alumni Relations Programs
  • Alumni Lecture Series
  • Spotlight on Excellence Series
  • Produced over 100 virtual public events including
  • 30 events for two virtual reunions
  • Oral History Virtual Institute and many other fantastic programs.
  • Led the Advancement team to raise $4.9 million since starting in the acting position on February 1, 2021.
  • Developed standard templates and procedures to improve services delivered by Advancement and to make it easier to do the work.
  • Made substantial contributions to a video archival strategy to catalog and quickly access the growing collection of online event recordings. I’m proud to be handing that off to Mary Evans and the next generation of event planners.
  • Provided campus wide training on Google Suite tools for teaching and learning when the academic program went virtual.
  • Designed and led the Chapter Challenge initiative to engage alumni in a friendly fundraising competition. I’m proud that this program really blossomed and alumni chapter leaders are making it their own.

What are your next steps?

My plans are to rest for the remainder of January and to regroup in February around some exciting projects. I am not talking about those plans yet so you will all have to wait to hear from me in the coming months!