Arts & Culture / Mosaic / October 19, 2011

Celebrating 175 years: Alumni share memories of Knox purple and gold

Over 1,000 alumni, family and friends arrived at Knox this past weekend to visit their alma mater, catch up with Knox happenings, talk to current students and reunite with old friends. Highlights included the largest-ever class donation to the college and a video of President Teresa Amott attempting to find the Latin name for a 175th celebration. Here are some of the memories of the alumni and their days at Knox.

Riding the Gizmobile

Getting to and getting around Knox was very different when Bill McVey ’66 was here.

There were no interstate highways and the “Gizmobile” brought students to the East Coast and to St. Louis; parents who wanted a way to get their kids home from college purchased the used buses. Students were not allowed to have cars on campus, unless they had a job that required them to have a car.

“People who had cars were highly sought after as friends,” McVey said.

Shakespeare and spirits

Bruce Wyatt ’71 remembers going over to an English professor’s house to drink beer and read Shakespeare out loud.

Flirtations, friendships

Marynell Durland Kirkwood ’44 loved working in the kitchen at Whiting Hall because she “got to know all the boys in sports.” She has fond memories of teaching social dancing to Air Force members.

“I got more dates than I could handle — ­and more proposals,” she said.

But it was the friendships she made at Knox that lasted; Kirkwood was here with a friend she first met in 1940 and they’ve “been together ever since,” even as Kirkwood started a family and her friend became a “career gal.”

A different kind of Flunk

Ann Feldman Perrille ’76 was head of Union Board and in charge of planning Flunk Day, which included helicopter rides, a Ferris wheel and hot air balloons. A student even won a keg as a prize.

“Nowadays those things wouldn’t make it,” she said, but the “attitude of Flunk Day is the same.”

Prairie Fire takes flight

“I was there the night a guy rode off the roof of the Phi Delt house on a bike,” an anonymous member of the class of ’76 said. Rolled up newspapers in the spokes of his bike were set on fire and music was playing as pledges held up mattresses.

“Luckily he did okay,” he said.

A life-changing bet

Arturo Ramirez ’71 made a bet with his friend Randy Black ’71 their freshman year that the first to get married would name their first child after the other. In exchange the other would come to the wedding and give them $100. Ramirez was the first to get married and his first son is named Randy. Black drove all the way from Oklahoma to Tucson on a motorcycle to be at the wedding and pay the $100.

Changing times

When Kathy St. Cyr ‘68 came to Knox, women were required to wear skirts to dinner every night, which was served by waiters. They also had to be in their dorm by 10 p.m.; however, by her senior year, she only brought one good dress and wore blue jeans most of the time. “Women were coming into their own,” she said, and “the administration was recognizing that girls were as responsible as guys.”

Delaying graduation for media

Glenn Spachman ’65 blames not graduating on time on being editor of “The Gale,” Knox’s yearbook. He got mono the spring of his senior year and was so busy editing the Gale he could not finish his coursework. He finished his degree over the summer and was in grad school before he had graduated from Knox because he had to wait for the Board of Directors to meet during homecoming. The worst part was not being allowed to walk at graduation;

“I had to sit in the audience with my parents,” Spachman said. “My parents weren’t very happy.”

Parlez-vous francais?

Sandy Alshamma ’66 remembers living with nine other students in the French House. Residents were required to speak French everywhere in the house except the parlor.

Evolution of theatre

Joelle Nelson Sommers ’67 helped move the theatre equipment from Alumni Hall to the Ford Center for Fine Arts (CFA) with other students in her class on stagecraft. They wanted to make sure nothing was harmed and moved everything themselves. She described the theater in Alumni Hall as “very small, very old, it was old then.” They had a line of people manually changing all of the lights. In the new theatre in CFA, there was a computerized board, “one of the first computers on campus.”

Professors with a history

Kirsten Ice Mogbo ’76 loved the experience of being in small classes, especially an American history class she took with Ron Davis.

“I thought I hated history,” she said, but Davis’ class was the “first time I realized how interesting history could be.” Davis came up to her at her 25th reunion and addressed her by name.

(Improv)ing humor

Bruce Hammond ’71 and Sherwood Kiraly ’71 were members of an improv group called Unlawful Assemblage. The group started in the Gizmo and ended up traveling to about three shows per year and even went out to New York and shot a video that played in a theatre in Manhattan there for nine months.

“We had a lot of fun with that,” Kiraly said.

Gretchen Walljasper

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