Blast from the Past – A 50th College Reunion
At dark, the fireworks boomed, lit up the sky and the then their glow died in the distance. A fitting ending to a 50th reunion weekend at America’s tenth oldest college, the first college in the new nation. Right here in Chestertown.
It is really a bittersweet experience to attend the 50th anniversary of one’s graduation from your alma mater. Both sobering and thought provoking.
I experienced that event this past weekend and am still reflecting on all the thoughts, observations and memories which danced through my head.
Perhaps these thoughts will be with me for some time as one realizes that this event will never again occur in my lifetime. Realizing that your alma mater, fifty years later, is not the college you experienced, but is the college which must exist today, is a most interesting insight which an event such as the past weekend brings home clearly. The entire faculty that you knew and respected has now all gone on to their reward. No opportunity to converse with them or tell them what a change they made in your life. No opportunity to explain how fortunate you were too have benefited from the knowledge they imparted and motivation they inspired. Just the memory of their words, contributions and lasting effects on your life.
Strolling through the campus, one realizes, with nostalgia, the old vistas, new views, new brick and mortar edifices and sports fields with superior design with the capacity to accommodate a wide array of athletic pursuits.
One’s college reunion reminds that it was at this institution that you began a path of lifetime learning. Learning the liberal arts and sciences, and much more. Learning to think, inquire, challenge, communicate and examine the many challenges that appear on life’s pathway. Today, the value of a liberal arts education, as it has been in times past, is being challenged and affected by online and long distance learning. Many challenging issues face the college administrators, faculty and students, who are at present engaged in the mission of liberal arts colleges. Challenges exist, threats abound, questions arise and value is under scrutiny.
Among pleasant gatherings, social intercourse and quiet conversations, alumni become aware if the significant need to support their alma mater in the future. The need to remain active and support the institution becomes abundantly clear as you experience, on a very personal basis, the future plans of the college in order to remain a leader, competitive and a effective, as a contributor in building future leaders and helping underpin the basic components of our economy, political life, culture and democratic values.
Then there is the town of Chestertown, where you spent four years of your life in the undergraduate years and perhaps many more as permanent residents. The town looks much the same with some notable exceptions. Many vacant store fronts on High Street, no movie theatre, no Vita Foods plant, no Lombardo’s Sub Shop. No Big Newts, no Village Tavern, no Old Warf Restaurant, and no Fox’s Five and Ten Cent Store. Venues long gone, but remembered by those who utilized the amenities of the town, as students. Downtown Chestertown then, unlike today, was a shopping town, with various establishments frequently visited by students from the college on the hill. The challenge of this reality, emanating long ago still haunts the town today, and answers need to be found and successfully implemented. While sometimes viewed as a college town, the downtown area needs more identity with the college.
It is not wild imagination to expect the college creates more of a visible presence in that area of town, in the near future. Perhaps in another fifty years these problems and challenges will no longer exist. Let us hope.