by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson; photos by Carl Socolow '77; video by Joe O'Neill
It’s a big world and, in some ways, a divided one. How do you nurture a sense of community, and where do you find places to call home? President Margee Ensign asked those big-picture questions during her first Alumni Weekend as Dickinson’s president, and the answer rang out loud and clear.
More than 1,600 alumni came back to their undergraduate home to reconnect, recollect and reclaim the joys of lifelong learning during Alumni Weekend. The three-day event was chock-full of events that brought Dickinsonians together and acquainted them with what’s going on at Dickinson today.
Generations of Dickinsonians with similar interests had plenty of chances to meet up. Sporty and outdoorsy alumni connected during a golf tournament, fun run, flag-football game and environmentally themed hike, while foodies learned canning techniques at the College Farm, where they could enjoy a farm-fresh, sustainable lunch. Arts appreciators checked out work by alumni artists, visited The Trout Gallery, drank in performances by music-department alumni and the Octals and Glee Club, and soaked up the local ambiance at downtown Carlisle’s annual ArtsFest. And everyone had a chance to cut a rug to the tune of the all-alumni band Bradley during the all-campus dance party.
“There’s so much to do,” said Serita Spidini ’66, who enjoyed learning about Dickinson research related to the nearby Carlisle Indian Industrial School, taking in the Trout Gallery exhibition and more. “We’ve had a chance to engage with alumni and also lots of students and faculty.”
Panels and discussions offered a chance to learn something new. These included a popular discussion about the state and future of U.S. democracy, led by Jim Gerlach ’77, Kara Getz ’93, Thomas Kozdron ’18, Colleen Miller ’81, Rosalyn Robinson ’68 and Chris Smith ’83. “It was a very good panel, with a lot of people with different perspectives who hadn’t come together in this way before,” said Elisa Campbell ’68, who attended the standing-room-only event with twin sister Faith ’68, “and while you can’t expect to come to any solutions in an hourlong panel, it showed us that there’s a lot of concern about these issues on the part of alumni.”
The weekend included a reception honoring 2018 Alumni Award recipients Scott Cohen ’91, Siobhán O’Grady ’13, Rosalyn Robinson ’68 and Sylvia Smith ’73; and Volunteer Award recipients Scott Braybrooke P’19, Brian Dorfler ’97, Mary Jeanne Reynolds de Groot ’48, Kristin Pracitto ’92 and members of the Class of 1963 Reunion Committee, followed by an all-campus toast on the John Dickinson campus. Ensign raised a glass to the 6,000 Mermaid Society members, including 720 alumni celebrating milestone reunions in 2018. The society marks its 15th anniversary this year.
Dickinson pride remained on display throughout the weekend, as alumni donned their letters for the Panhellenic & InterFraternity Party, marked the 25th anniversary of the Cameroon study-abroad program with a celebration dinner and rallied for the all-campus barbecue.
Dickinsonians also gathered to celebrate personal milestones. Coaches and former student-athletes gathered in the Durden Athletic Training Center to honor Dave Hummel, longtime athletics trainer, and alumni, faculty and staff turned out in Bosler Hall for Joyce Bylander, who retires from Dickinson after 20 years of service in the college’s Division of Student Life. A new scholarship has been named in Bylander’s name to honor her deep and enduring legacy.
"College was hard, as the first person in my family to graduate from high school, let alone college, and Dean B helped me develop into who I am, personally and professionally," said Valeria Carranza '09, a former Posse Foundation scholar who's now deputy chief of staff and legislative director for Congressman Adriano Espaillat. "There's so much love in this room for her today."
For most, the simple pleasure of spending time with influential mentors, professors and fellow alumni was the weekend's biggest draw. Many noted that they've gotten together year after year, on and off campus.
“Dickinson alumni stay friends for life—that’s not something I’ve seen at other schools,” said Larry Elletson, husband of Dottie Hinkel Wayne ’68, noting with delight that Dottie’s Dickinson friends visited them when they lived overseas.
“We have a group that gets together several times a year, and we’ve been doing it for 40 years,” said Jeff Cohen ’79, who joined fellow mid-to-late 1970s grads at Morgan Rocks on Friday afternoon and also gathered with other football alumni at the Gingerbread Man on Saturday night. “We all have a warm spot in our hearts for Carlisle and for the school.”
"This is a community—your community," Ensign affirmed, during a Friday-evening reception on Britton Plaza. "Welcome home."
Published June 8, 2018