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World Map with Push Pins showing Co-op locations

All Photos credit:
Matt Shetler

Volunteer Work Week and Reunion are just slightly in the Rear View Mirror. Some new grass seed and straw are already down where the big “2022 Commencement and Reunion Tent” was. Might this say that our “grassroots” movements continue to be nurtured along with much more… that even with a rather small physical plant staff gets ever so much done with some love and so quickly? The campus is a beautiful setting to be in, in between traveling the world on co-op. Having a small somewhat left-leaning village a stone’s throw away is also a blessing and that giant nature preserve, The Glen (and even John Bryan Park and Clifton Gorge).

We are having a week of scattered thunderstorms and showers, typical August weather, so that new grass should quickly be up even before the next Freshman Class arrives (in less than two fortnights). By then the days will start to be slightly cooler with encroaching early morning fogs. Some decades ago an Admissions’ staff member, JoAnn deArmas Wallace, once wrote a bi-lingual Admission brochure where she mentioned the frequent early morning fogs that came as fall arrived. At first I skeptically thought, “What is she talking about?” Actually she was right! I was just having an “Is that so?” Antioch reaction. Antiochians always seem to want tons of proof! (and when I read that brochure I wanted some proof!) Over many seasons I realized she was right on target. I guess that is “experiential” proof, as long as you are looking for it.

So, Volunteer Work Week and Reunion were pretty mellow and a respite from the world’s madness. We were blessed to have most of the week without much heat. A window of good weather between two heatwaves. The humidity did not creep in until the evening of the Saturday New Orleans’ style funeral (some Summer Ohio air you can wear, which may have been appropriate with the New Orleans’ theme) and then followed by the eulogy for the old Union Building. One wonders if any other college has alumni so passionate about all their varying memories contained within old crumbling bricks and mortar that they would do this sort of thing. A sea of votives on the old Union steps (like a giant altar, glowed in the evening at dusk), people, dressed in white, walked silently toward the Union with their own votives. It was a most magical moment that may have included a few mosquitoes! Some people sat in white draped chairs, some stood and others were sitting on the grass… some in reverence, some in reverie and all somewhat riveted as a spotlight came on and ceremonies began emceed by outgoing Community Manager Coco Gagnet ’18 and Shannon McCarville ’02, the eulogist, who covered the feelings and vignettes from many decades. There must have been some big research with Scott Sanders in Antiochiana to cover all the variables from the decades. A slideshow from all the decades also ran on the walls as everything else went on… Later a set of songs by Gary Goldsmith ’64, playing his guitar, performed some “Songs from the Stoop”. The stoop and its overhang was a double stage or altar! Maybe the stoop was the present and the overhang was the past.

Overall people at Reunion and the Volunteer Work Project were just ecstatic to see each other again! After decades of working with each other there is a great, almost familial bond. A three year interruption caused by the COVID pandemic made everyone want a touchstone that made the world seem somewhat normal again.

At some of the Award ceremonies speakers seemed to coincidentally have the same thoughts as they looked back on their journeys in life “Antioch and co-op provided me with the ability to keep re-inventing myself” and “enabled me to go almost anywhere and make it; even if you might drop me in the desert”. 

One evening under the tent there was some fabulous tale-telling about great faculty mentors from way back. As current faculty sat at a table under the tent along with the rest of us, a trio of folks told tales of faculty who have passed but were such great and out of the box mentors. The stories covered perhaps four or five decades! Many of us knew Bob Bieri, Karen Shirley and Paul Treichler and as we heard the trio of tributes many of us had recognizable moments of nostalgia and laughter. The stories were about world class advising, building Community and world travels. Many of us laughed as some stories were big surprises and some most recognizable. Although all had an element of joy to them. Perhaps a few decades from now future alums will tell stories about adventures with the current faculty.

On a visit to campus this week this Buffalo can tell you that campus overall looks great and is still evolving in great ways. At the OKLIBRARY a C-Shop in a new iteration is being imagined. There may be great coffees and healthy things to go. Some of the current students may never know the guilty pleasures of a “Jazzburger” from the sixties’ and seventies; the new c-shop but may have farm to table tomatoes on sandwiches or healthy treats to go. I did hear some younger alums at the Union Funeral say “ what is a Jazzburger?” when memories of past those unctuous, greasy pleasures were mentioned. Some of us knew the joys of that most greasy comfort food.

Map of Europe with Push Pins Indicating Co-Op Locations

On a campus visit this week I checked out the library and its ongoing progress in the new creation of a C-Shop. And as always saw a circle of folks talking and laughing at the front desk. With coffee and snacks folks may never leave the library! I peaked in the co-op offices which are now on the third floor of South. In the hallway is a map of the world, full of push pins. Each push pin represents a relatively recent co-op. The US part of the world map is almost solid push pins but there are push pins on six of seven continents. There is an Antioch Adventure contained in every push pin, no doubt.

The weekly meeting of Advancement/Alumni Relations was moved to a location in the Wellness Center (the old Gym for many of us) because of another meeting in the South Hall 4th floor conference room. A surprise to me is that on the third floor of the renovated old Gym there is a quiet circular space to have a meeting. It is an out of the way place and rather comfortable. To those of us who remember the old Gym which smelled like 90 years of sweat… the third floor in August would have been a world class steambath but since its renovation a few years ago is now comfortable thanks to geothermal cooling and heating. Antiochians and Community Members can sweat in comfort!

On a walk past the McGregor building, one can see a triangular flower bed of native Ohio flowers, planted last year by a Summer Block class from last year. Under the supervision of a recent alum and visiting faculty, Mandy Knaul ’00. So some native blue perennials are saying, “Hello August!”

We are blessed to have many strong new people on the College’s Administrative team, whether it be Advancement, Student Life, or elsewhere. And some recent graduates have joined the larger team and understand the current culture.

Things indeed are looking pretty bright. We have a team that seems to listen and act in a quick and accurately targeted fashion.

In late May I went to a concert in the Foundry Theater where the local World House Choir, a regional choir of Quakers, Shakers, and Unitarians did a dual performance with recently returned citizens (previously incarcerated individuals). Toward the end of the performance there was a heavy downpour. On the walk after the concert I headed back to the Library Parking Lot. Suddenly as the trees opened up there was much bright light (the sun had gone down around 9pm) and of course some lingering rain. The library parking lot was as lit up as Times’ Square. This was a quick result of an administration that listens to students’ concerns for security and took decisive and quick action. The bright lights were certainly a surprise and maybe appeared even brighter as some lingering showers came down around them.

So let there be lights, whether it is that sea of Union votives, a bright blue native perennial flower bed or a sea of lights in the OKLIBRARY parking lot. Things are looking bright and right! Hopefully the new arrivals will also have a bright future and many great mentors to light their way to and from co-ops, something that Antioch College does that is so up-ending and life-changing and gives one the possibility of re-invention. A great gift!

Wishing the new arrivals a bright future and their own wonderful version of an Antioch Adventure even in what seems like a crazier world and wishing everyone out there the best.