From Illinois Wesleyan University Magazine, Spring 2009

From late-night games of hide-and-seek to breakfast
bagels, alumni give their fondest college moments.

Illustrations by Gary Schwartz

We invited alumni to send us descriptions of their favorite Illinois Wesleyan moments — here are some of the responses we received.

Existentialism in the afternoon

Larry K. Uffelman ’60: In the spring of 1959, I was enrolled in an existentialism seminar that focused on the works of Martin Buber and Sren Kierkegaard. The professor was Paul Hessert, who is since deceased. The others in the class were Michael Pullin ’59 and David Strang ’60. The late afternoon sun was shining, Paul Hessert’s office (where we met) in Shaw Hall was warm and Dave was reading aloud a couple of poetic Kierkegaardian paragraphs in a more-than-usually expressive manner.

Suddenly we looked at Paul and discovered he had fallen asleep. We didn’t know what to do; awakening him would have embarrassed him, but not awakening him had implications as well. Finally, without really making a conscious decision, we arose from our chairs as quietly as we could manage, left the room, and began walking and then running down the hallway to get outside as quickly as possible. But before we had reached the door at the opposite end of the building, we began to laugh — loudly and boisterously. I don’t recall what happened next, only that Paul Hessert remained our friend and, in fact, participated in my wedding to Donna (Benson) in June 1960.

A house of mirth

Theresa (Lawson) Goble ’80: One of my favorite Wesleyan memories is dinnertime at the Sigma Alpha Iota House. The house was built very early in the 20th century and the dining room had a window seat, fireplace and beautiful built-in buffet. Attached to the dining room was a butler’s pantry with a dumbwaiter which connected to the kitchen below.

Our cook, Doris, had a heart of gold and was such a caring woman. I only remember her once getting angry with us for eating several dozen pieces of frozen cookie dough over the course of a month. When she went to make cookies ... no dough!

Our housemother, Mom Hedrick, sat at the large, round table in the center of the room. There were a couple of short tables for overflow. No one sat until Mom did and that was only after we sang the SAI Grace. If we were late to supper, we stopped at the entrance of the dining room door and asked Mom for permission to please enter. 

We employed three houseboys during the week for suppertimes. One boy would be downstairs in the kitchen, sending food up via the dumbwaiter. The two other boys would be in the butler’s pantry, refilling our large dishes as needed. Whenever one of us would request more  mashed potatoes or some other such item from the kitchen, Mom would ring the small crystal bell at her place and one of the boys would come out to do our bidding.

We had three very funny houseboys during my senior year. Jon Schroeter ’80 (Acacia) worked in the downstairs kitchen. Tom Cross ’80 (Theta Chi) and Pete Rottman ’80 (Theta Chi) were our pantry boys. Tom and Pete found some very old, yet clean, houseboy uniforms one day. They surprised us by coming out wearing the uniforms, which made us all laugh. They were good sports, too, for our annual house Christmas party. They somehow found elf costumes, entered through the fire escape in the third-floor dormer, came down the front stairs and helped “Santa” (Jon Goble ’80, Theta Chi) deliver presents from all our parents! They made our dinners at the house a lot of fun and made us laugh every night.

Good vibes and an order to go

Angie (Bazzell) McHale ’00: As a student teacher in the fall of my senior year, I had to relearn how to wake up “early.” Inevitably, I never seemed to have time to make it to Saga for breakfast, so the bacon-and-egg breakfast bagels at the Dugout became part of my morning routine, along with a cheery “Have a wonderful day, honey” from the worker who always made sure a fresh bagel awaited me at 7 a.m. Then, I continued to the bowels of the student center to pick up my packed lunch, made especially to order, with no tomatoes and extra mayo, by another person who wished me “Happy day, kiddo.”

While there are perhaps funnier or more dramatic memories I could share, this one sticks with me, because it was in these moments, four years into my college career, that I realized Wesleyan was truly a home. I had chosen to attend IWU because I wanted a small community where I could feel like I belonged; never did I belong so much as in those moments when people who did not even know me took care of me, simply because we all belonged to Wesleyan.

I loved laughing into the late night in my Pffeifer triple, singing in the Chapel choir, tramping over to the English house, and even typing for hours in a little cubicle at the Buck Computer Lab, but whenever I come back to campus for a visit, I always have to stop in the Dugout and remember what it feels like to call Wesleyan “home” ... and, of course, order a bacon-and-egg breakfast bagel.

Presidential scholars

Allison (Howes) Hitchings ’02: As a freshman English major, we were required to take a course called Practical Criticism. The professor, Robert Bray, asked us to decipher several handwritten letters and accounts from Abraham Lincoln-era materials. We were divided into groups and each given two or three manuscripts to work on.

My group decided to meet one afternoon in the old music library in Presser Hall. At the same time, President Minor Myers was scouring the shelves for, I believe, some harpsichord music and stopped to see what we were working on. We showed him the papers and he examined them for a bit, then went about his business. Not five minutes later, he came back to the table, pulled out a chair and proceeded to go over our handwritten documents with us for at least 20 minutes.

I made the decision to go to Illinois Wesleyan because I wanted to be a part of an intimate learning community. I never expected to have my university president sit down with me in the library and help me with a research project.  It was an experience I've never forgotten.

And we got an A on the paper.

Second childhood

Jackie Bond-Senger ’92: One of my favorite Wesleyan moments was a late night game of hide-and-go-seek in Presser Hall. For several days before the game, whispers went through the building about how the game would be accomplished. There was much anticipation about whether or not the game could be kept secret.

The big day came. As the professors headed home and the day wound down, about 20 or so of us "in the know" hid in practice rooms and storage closets, crouching down low so as not to be caught by security. About 45 minutes after the building was locked up for the night, the fun began. Someone was named "it" and the rest of us ran all through the building to find the best hiding places.  The building was completely dark except for the glow of the exit signs. The game was more fun than any game of hide-and-seek we played as little kids. And we never got caught!

Sea of tranquility

Jim Larson ’70: One of my favorite Illinois Wesleyan moments was when I was an art student and was assigned my own private art studio on campus. This was the fall of 1968, and the School of Art assigned their students studios in these old, white-frame, two-story houses that were scattered around campus. They were quaint, rustic, cozy old homes where the School of Art held classes, gave art history lectures, held exhibits and granted their junior and senior students private rooms to work in.

I grew up on the south side of Chicago and had also been a student for two years on the giant, mega-university campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign. The soft, serene, art and humanities environment at Illinois Wesleyan was a unique, new experience for me. Its relaxed atmosphere of calm and peace and reserve presented a different, new world that I had never encountered before.

During my high school years in Chicago, I used to do oil paintings at home on my own and was deeply immersed in developing my artistic identity. One summer I took a vacation trip out East with my parents and visited the scenic art colony at Cape Cod. It was there that I dreamed of one day becoming a resident artist and painter in a beautiful, scenic art community. When I received my own art studio in the charming, enchanting art school community at Wesleyan, that inspiring dream finally became a reality. A very special, enlightening and beautiful period of my life was beginning.