Posts Tagged ‘Milligan’

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Being There

June 29, 2009

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I spent the past week as a chaperone with a group of youth from our church while they attended a CIY Conference in Tennessee. I haven’t worked with youth in a lot of years, and I was a little apprehensive of how the trip would go… mainly, I wasn’t sure how well I would relate to the teenagers I’d be chaperoning. I’m pretty insecure, and teenagers scare me a bit.  However, I couldn’t resist the chance to spend a week at my alma mater (Milligan College) where the conference was held. So I agreed to go.

I love Milligan. I spent four wonderful years there as a student, and I remain very connected to the place even now as I prepare for my twentieth reunion this fall. I never miss a homecoming. I try to stay in touch with my classmates, former professors, and other friends who live in the area. But spending a week down there with hundreds of teenagers, living in my old dormitory, eating in the cafeteria, and worshiping each night in Seeger Chapel? I’m not sure I have figured out just the right word to describe it yet…

Unique?   Definitely.

Nostalgic?   Deliciously.

Inspiring?   Surprisingly.

It all started on Monday. We arrived on campus to get checked in late in the afternoon. I walked in to the student union building and had the bizarre experience of being recognized by a complete stranger (Chad Brown, director of the conference) from a facebook photo. And then we got our dorm assignments. I’m sure the kids would have preferred air conditioned quarters, but I for one was delighted to find that we girls would be staying in Sutton Hall. I even had a room just a few doors down from the room where I lived my sophomore year. So far, so good.

One of the first orders of business after checking in was to eat some supper before the evening worship session began. So, just like old times, I walked down Sutton’s echo-y stairwell (people who have lived there know what I’m talking about) and got in line to eat. Only thing is, the cafeteria which I have written of so fondly in a previous blog post has been completely renovated. So, walking through those doors was a bit disconcerting. No more big open space with long white tables and molded plastic chairs. No more brown trays and yellow tumblers. It’s all muted greens and cafe-style tables and flat screen TVs showing the news. Very very nice, and very very wrong at the same time.

Note: I guess the school is all about being “green” these days, so no trays translates to less water and heat used to wash them. However, no trays also translates to more food on the floor when certain people who shall be nameless but who look an awful lot like me cannot juggle a drink, dinner plate and salad plate very well. Clean up on aisle 2! Is all I am saying.

Things really got interesting after supper when it was time for the first worship session to begin. We all walked down to Seeger Chapel and checked a big chart on the wall for our assigned seats. As we found our rows and sat down, I started having flashbacks to my student days… gathering before chapel or convo, chatting with my friends, figuring out where to put my books while I sat in one of those ridiculous seats. All around me were hundreds of high school students, and lots of CIY paraphrenalia on the stage… but in my mind, I could see all my old chums from the late 80s. Just like it was yesterday.

CIY09-7I have trouble describing just how special it is, as a Milligan alum, to sit in Seeger and see it packed to the gills with young people singing their hearts out in a worship service. I am pretty sure that the people who first envisioned and then built the chapel never could have imagined the kind of celebrations that take place in there nowadays. The loud music and the lights and the smoke and the hands raised and the jumping… oh, the jumping! I was quite certain a few times that we were suddenly going to find ourselves in the basement, the floor was shaking so much. To think that the hallowed halls where I sat for many a solemn assembly is host to nightly rock concerts during CIY week is mind boggling. But in a good way.

After worship, our group went out to meet together to discuss the day’s events. We headed down to the gazebo at the front of campus… another hot spot for nostalgia if you are an alum like me. So there we were, gathered by Buffalo Creek, chatting about our evening and the week to come. The girls squealed about spiders. The boys wanted to go down by the waterfall.

And I sat there feeling very much at home.

I spent the rest of the week hanging out with the kids, attending worship sessions, participating in small group discussions, and enjoying a lot of free time in the afternoons. One night in our group’s discussion time, our youth pastor asked everyone to share what their “God moment” had been that day. When it came my turn, I got a little choked up. My day and indeed my week had been full of “God moments,” but I wasn’t sure how to explain them to the kids. My “God moments” were born of the realization that it has been 20 years since I graduated from Milligan, and yet there I was, feeling like it could have been me attending that youth conference as a youth. Because once I set foot on campus, I was transported back to a time when I walked up and down those hills on the way to my next class, or to the cafeteria, or just on a stroll with a good friend to talk about important things… like what we wanted to be when we grew up.

It’s a great thing, to be able to feel that way. To remember so clearly what it was like to be young.

I am blessed.

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Monday Menu: Warm memories and a side of cereal.

March 9, 2009

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Everyone has to eat.

At Milligan College in the 1980s (1988 in the above photo), everyone had to eat in the dining hall on the first floor of Sutton Hall. There really wasn’t any other choice. With only 500-600 students back then, it was simple: if you lived in the dorms, you were automatically on the meal plan. Just show your student ID at the door as you enter, and go get your food.

id1Here is a picture of my student ID. It barely survived all four years (thanks to a lot of careful ironing, and to a couple lucky times of finding it just before I had to have it replaced for being lost). I’m not sure how anyone could tell it was me in the photo after the first year or so, but I put the little stickers on it each semester, and they bought me access to all-I-could-eat college food. Whoohooo!

Much like the lobby of our dorm, the dining hall was a central part of campus life. Instead of MTV, though, we watched each other. And what a show it could be! Some of my favorite memories…

  • My sophomore year, when Pioneer Food Service first took over the cafeteria… They brought in a cereal dispenser that was made of plexiglass and held about eight different kinds of cereal, which replaced the prior method of having several large cereal boxes sitting on a table. Suddenly, all you had to do was pull a handle, and WHOOSH! out would come your Cocoa Puffs. Whether you had a bowl or not. And, they just kept coming until you pushed the handle back in place!  Needless to say, there was an adjustment period that involved a lot of cereal on the floor.
  • Stacking the salt and pepper shakers on top of each other, then seeing how far you could tip the stack before the top one fell off. Despite overwhelming evidence that you could not turn them all the way sideways, trials were constantly being conducted to prove otherwise.
  • Waiting until the person next to you was in the midst of saying grace, then leaning over and whispering “tell the Big Guy I said hello.”
  • Steak night once a week… all fancied up, with candles on the tables. Who knew that powdered coffee creamer was flammable?! We did!
  • Turning your soft drink over really quickly onto your tray, so that almost all the liquid stay trapped up in the tumbler. I don’t know what the purpose was here, other than to make more of a mess for the people back in the dishwashing line… but it gave us something to do.
  • The big toaster! You put your bread in the top, and then watch it come out the bottom, magically toasted. And sometimes it would get caught in the back somewhere, and start to catch fire.
  • One incident of steak sauce being set out in a bowl along beachparty86with all the ice cream sundae toppings. It did kind of look like chocolate sauce…
  • Freshman year when we threw a beach party. Blankets instead of tables and chairs… sunglasses and hawaiian shirts… whoohooo!

Probably the best memory of the dining hall, though, is just the memory of seeing everyone there. If your best friends were majoring in completely different areas of study than you were, you knew you could catch up with them in the cafeteria at chow time. Freshmen, seniors, musicians, scientists, writers… we all picked up those brown trays and went through the line together to get our spaghetti. We all kept track of who was sitting with whom, and who put ketchup on their scrambled eggs. And we all poured our hearts out to our classmates in those conversations that are best had while fidgeting with those carrots that we didn’t want anyway.

Nowadays, I believe the dining plan is very different. I think it involves a limited number of meals in the cafeteria, with more students eating at the Student Union or even off campus as part of their normal routine. I just hope that everyone is spending at least part of every day sliding their trays along an entrée line, filling amber colored plastic tumblers with soft drinks, and occasionally spilling Captain Crunch on the floor. It just wouldn’t be right any other way.

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Boys in my ‘hood.

November 9, 2008

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My college years were greatly enhanced by a certain group of guys… they were all from Oklahoma, and I think they all had gone to the same small high school together. It started with the Harper brothers (Darren a year or two ahead of me, and Craig in my same class) and then the next year they brought a couple more friends, and then the NEXT year another one… eventually the school was crawling with Okies!

I adored every one of them. They were all tall! And they were all friendly. And they were all willing to hang out with me. So… what’s a girl to do?

I’ll tell you what I did. I brought them home with me!

I believe it was our senior year, most likely over fall break. I am not sure exactly how I organized this trip, nor am I sure what my parents must have been thinking to give the go-ahead. But I told Mom to stock up on Mountain Dew and Reeses’ cups (which she did), and Craig, Darren, Freddy and I piled into Craig’s Buick Skylark and drove from Tennessee to my hometown of Bethesda, MD for a long weekend. That’s right… I brought home not one… not two… but THREE fine young men to visit my parents.

Now, before I go too far stringing everyone along… all of these guys were, I believe, dating other girls at the time of this trip! And while I am quite certain I had a crush on each one of them at some point during our college careers, we were well past all that at this point. This was just a fun weekend with friends! Nonetheless, I was amused when my preacher interrogated me after seeing us all sitting together in church on Sunday.

I don’t remember all the details of the weekend. I know we did a good bit of sightseeing downtown. A lot of walking from monument to monument, historic site to historic site. At one point, I think it was Freddy who exclaimed over having seen his very first homeless person. I recall driving around through DC at night, running a few red lights and committing a few other traffic violations because I was so distracted by all the craziness coming from the guys in the car. We took a lot of photos, many of which came out poorly because I had no flash. But we had fun. I don’t remember all we did, but I remember the fun.

At some point I snapped this picture of the guys in front of the White House. It’s one of my all-time favorite photographs. As we walked away we noticed a man in a trenchcoat following us for a while. I am still convinced that he was a government agent who felt we were a threat to national security.

I don’t know… you be the judge…

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year.

November 1, 2008

Some photos and brief stories from Homecoming Weekend (last weekend)… click for a larger view of anything:

Seeger Memorial Chapel was the site of convocations, vespers services, concerts, graduations, and many games of “stalag” at night. It’s a beautiful building with lots of squeaky folding seats inside. The main focal point of the campus.

Buffalo Creek, which runs alongside the campus, was a popular spot for romantic couples. Also a great place for a good game of tug-o-war (loser goes in!).   Most students were “creeked” at some point during their college career. I managed to escape that distinction. 🙂

The campus is beautiful, but my friends are even more so. Rae (Schauer) Augenstein was a freshman when I was a senior… we enjoyed a lot of great times together. She and her husband, Craig, live just a few miles from campus today. It was really great to see them and get caught up.

David Powers was one of the “cool kids” with a fast yellow car. He was always a sweetheart and still is today. He is a minister at a church down in Atlanta, and I usually see him every year at Homecoming. This year I managed to snap a photo of the two of us.

I didn’t get as many photos of people as I would have liked… the weather at the beginning of the weekend was not great, and the first half of Saturday I was standing around outside shivering in the chill, not feeling like picking up the camera. By the time the sun came out late that day to brighten things up, a lot of people had moved on to other things. Still, spending the day on campus is always one of the highlights of my year.

Someone made a comment to me in the past week or so, about how when we were all back in college, “we didn’t know how good we had it.”   Well, I have to say that I did know. I knew how good I had it. I knew I was lucky to be there. I knew my time there was limited. I remember starting my junior year and thinking to myself, I only have two years left! I don’t want it to pass by too quickly! And so I return every year. I love to stay connected and I love to keep some of the great memories alive. I love to walk the campus and note things that have changed, as well as things that have remained the same.

Every year that I return, for several years straight now, I stay with a couple who live a few miles behind the campus. When I was a student, I went to a little church off in the hills back there, and Ray and Janice Lyons were very involved at the time with a Sunday School class for college students. I could write a whole separate post – and probably will – about all the great things the Lyons did for my rag-tag group of friends during our college years. But what has been so special to me over the past 20 years is the friendship that Ray and Janice and I have shared. I would always make an effort to swing by for a visit whenever I came back to town, and eventually I started lodging with them instead of finding a hotel in Johnson City for the weekend. We have come to treat each other very much like family, and it’s at the point now where Homecoming Weekend is as much about seeing Ray and Janice as it is about seeing my old professors and college buddies.

To top off the weekend each year, I linger on Sunday afternoon a bit and then leave so that I will arrive at the top of Clinch Mountain when the sun is setting, or at least low enough in the sky to be interesting. This year the timing was a little off due to the non-daylight savings time change, but I still think the view of the South Holston River is beautiful. (Photo here doesn’t seem to want to behave, but there should be something you can click to see a larger image)

Everyone should be so lucky.

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Homecoming.

October 23, 2008

I’m heading out Friday morning for Homecoming weekend down at my alma mater, Milligan College (near Johnson City, Tennessee). It’s just about my favorite time of year, every year… I drive down Friday and stay with some dear friends that I went to church with when I was at school. I spend Saturday on campus catching up with college buddies and taking part in some of the official festivities. Then I go to church Sunday, spend a little more time with friends over lunch and usually enjoy a leisurely afternoon. To wrap up the weekend, I time my departure so that I am crossing over the summit of Clinch Mountain right around sunset. It’s wonderful, and I plan to enjoy every minute of it.

Photos and stories to follow!