By Karen Donley-Hayes ’86 & ’06
Since I graduated from Hiram, I have spontaneously popped in to the annual Alumni Weekends, usually just showing up and milling around without much focus. In 2008, though, my husband Arnold Hayes ’86 and I completely immersed ourselves in Alumni Weekend. We registered for every event we could squirrel our ways into, and even though we only live four miles away, we stayed on campus to get the full experience.
We were just two of a record 700-some-odd attendees in 2008. That may have been a record, but both of us were dismayed not to see more of our fellow classmates from 1986. I mean, come on! You don’t have to wait until it’s a special reunion year to get a big bang for your buck out of Alumni Weekend at Hiram!
Director of Alumni Relations Jennifer Schuller and her staff pulled out all of the stops to provide a well-organized, enjoyable, eclectic weekend with something for everyone. In fact, I felt like a kid with a free ticket to ride picking out in which events I wanted to participate. But I managed it, and here follows a synopsis of my experience.
Friday, June 13 2008
Jane Preston Rose Roast
I was delighted to be one of a “tent-load” of people who gathered on the campus green to honor retiring Weekend College Dean Jane Preston Rose on the evening of Friday the 13th.
After everyone had a chance to mingle, drink, and fill up their plates with summer barbecue fare, Jennifer Prugh ’91 vice president of the Alumni Executive Board, kicked off the roast; she was followed by Warren Blazy ’91, who quipped that, “Roasting Jane is like roasting Mother Teresa.” That didn’t stop him, however, or several others, including Hiram President Thomas V. Chema, and Professor Emeritus of Classics Robert Sawyer.
Perhaps the highlight, however, was a Jane Rose parody by Professor Emerita of Music Damaris Peters Pike, who dressed up as Jane, and mimicked her well-known and beloved mannerisms. Damaris brought down the house (well, tent), as she touched perfectly on some of Jane’s foibles – talking and gesturing effusively about “indicting people into Phi Beta Kappa,” and the excitement about starting the new MAIS program – a Master of Arts in Skiing – “And we’re not even in ski country!”
No one seemed to derive more pleasure at her own expense than did Jane herself, who was dissolved in hysterics for the entire program.
After the official roast, alumnae, friends, and colleagues mingled, visited, and continued to eat and drink, and the first evening of Alumni Weekend 2008 began to wind down – just as summer thunderstorms rolled in, temporarily knocking out the power. Arnold and I trotted back to Bowler, and sat in the dark, laughing about the roast, and reminiscing about our blooming romance decades earlier in that very building. It seemed to take us right back – except what was my room back then is now not a room at all, but a little lobby with a vending machine.
Saturday, June 14 2008
This year the 2008 Hiram Hustle – taking place from 7 – 8 a.m. on Saturday morning, held several things in common with previous years’ Hustles: Participants met on Alumni Weekend; walkers/runners traversed the 3-Mile Square; and it kicked off the start of the “weekend-proper” events for Alumni Weekend.
We headed off on our morning trek, retracing steps so many of us had taken during our tenure as students at Hiram. Past the cemetery, along Ryder Road, past the dairy farm, along Pioneer Trail, past Panorama Farm…. I think the scenery isn’t much changed in the last few decades, and the 3-Mile-Square remains a staple walking/running route for Hiram students and villagers alike.
Those of us who hot-footed it around the Hustle this year got some good exercise. We got a good start on the day. We got rained on. Oh, well. You can’t win them all!
Around the World Breakfast
I love food as much as the next person, but college fodder generally isn’t high on my list of must-haves. However, AVI did an awesome job feeding us this Alumni Weekend. The Around the World Breakfast was no exception.
After the Hiram Hustle, I was good and hungry, but as per usual, my eyes were bigger than my stomach. That didn’t stop me from filling up my plate(s) with fresh fruits, blintz, crepes, waffles, scones, made-to-order-omelets… and that was WITHOUT partaking of the muffins, Danishes, biscuits and gravy, bacon, and other various and sundry offerings that AVI supplied for the hundreds of diners that morning.
I think that any time there is a large gathering of people, the reminiscing and camaraderie are the focus – but so much of that focus is supported by food – and the meals, hors d’oeuvres, and snacks that we were treated with this entire weekend, were, in a word, extraordinary. If I were anti-social, I’d still come to Alumni Weekend just for the food!
Well, I’m not anti-social, but the breakfast gave me a great reason to visit while stuffing myself silly.
Canoe Trip at Camp Hi
It’s hard for even me to believe, but in the 40-some-odd years that I’ve lived in or near Hiram – including my time as an undergraduate student here – I had never gone on a canoe trip down the Cuyahoga River. So, when such a trip was offered as part of the 2008 Alumni Weekend, I signed up; it seemed like fun, and besides, I’m a little bit of a nature buff, so it would give me a better look at what was going on in the water under those bridges I’d been driving over for decades.
Director of the Center for Science Education Matt Sorrick ’91 and Rob Roberston ’91 were the leaders for this event on Saturday afternoon, and they orchestrated a great experience. After being shuttled from the campus to Camp Hi, we all gathered in a pavilion – protected from the rain and drizzle that we were hoping would dissipate – and ate boxed lunches. Then Camp Hi bussed us up the river – and although the day started out rainy, none of the 40 or so of us who clambered into the canoes by the old Riverside Inn got wet (at least, not from the rain). And the rain cleared away and the sun came out!
Even though we were on the river at a relatively high-water time of year, I was surprised by how consistently shallow the river was. Usually, if I reached down into the water with my paddle, I could touch the bottom. Matt joked that when he first canoed the Cuyahoga, his guide said, “If for some reason, you tip over and go in, don’t panic. Just stand up.”
After about 2 ½ hours of paddling and drifting and the occasional game of “bumper canoes,” we had made our way back downstream to Camp Hi where we had started, and my river adventure came to a close. At least for now; I have a feeling I’ll be back. Next time, though, I’ll bring my bug repellant, a hat, and my sunscreen (what? It was raining when we started).
All-Alumni Reception and Alumni Awards Ceremony
Although Saturday had started a bit dreary and rainy, that had changed by late afternoon, and it was an absolutely beautiful day – bright and sunny, not too hot, not too cool. Between that and the extraordinary food and beverages (have you gotten the idea that I was impressed with the food?), it seemed like nearly all of the 700 to 750 participants in this year’s Alumni Weekend were present with bells on for this reception.
Hiram College Trustee and Alumna Kathy Coleman ’87 presented this year’s alumni awards.
Claudia Highbaugh ’72 received the Alumni Achievement Award. Claudia earned her Doctor of Ministry from the School of Theology at Claremont, and is currently the Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life at Connecticut College in New London, Connecticut. Through her years of service and leadership, she has blazed her own special trail, educating young women and men that the world can be, with their help, a more accepting, productive and loving place.
Marie (Mahn) Presher ’30 journeyed to Hiram from Florida to attend the reunion and to receive the Lifelong Leadership Award. Her contributions to her community have been substantial – monetary and of her time and kindness – and have been ongoing throughout her lifetime. Marie exemplifies the leadership traits of generosity, kindness, and decency – and has done so for more than a century.
Bethany N. Stoian ’06 couldn’t be here to receive the Recent Graduate Service to Humanity Award, because she is currently serving in her second year with the Peace Corps in Aryk-Balyk, Kazakhstan. Her efforts will have long-term effects that will continue to grow beyond the time of her service. Beth is doing more than just advancing knowledge, she is inspiring students and the people she meets, and they in turn are inspiring her.
After the awards were presented, we all continued to visit, eat finger foods (finger feasts), and talk about what was old, what was new, and what is up-and-coming at Hiram. We probably would have hung around chewing the fat beyond the 6:30 ending time – except we had to head to the various reunion dinners, where (I’m sure by now it comes as no surprise to hear) the feasting and reveling continued….
Sunday, June 15 2008
I was pretty worn out after all of my activities from Saturday (the Hiram Hustle, eating, sitting in on some excellent lectures, eating, taking a seven-mile canoe trip, eating, lots of walking, and some eating), but not too worn out to show up at breakfast Sunday morning. Generally, Sunday morning is a “light traffic” time for Alumni Weekends, but this breakfast seemed pretty well-attended, with a steady stream of folks fueling up for whatever their day might bring.
While it was really neat to see senior alumni who had graduated 50 or more years ago, and hear their stories and “compare notes,” it was also equally rewarding to see many recent alumni, with their little ones in tow, soaking up the Hiram traditions, some of them before they’re even in grade school. Who knows – maybe these little kids accompanying their parents to Alumni Weekend, are the Hiram alumnae of the future. And here they were, getting a head start!
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