Category: Alumni

For this seafaring Lawrence alum, life has been one shipwreck after another

John Odin Jensen '87 poses for a publicity photo at the wheel of a ship.
John Odin Jensen ’87 is the author of “Stories from the Wreckage: A Great Lakes Maritime History Inspired by Shipwrecks.” He will return to Appleton Nov. 11 for a book event at the History Museum at the Castle and to speak to Lawrence students.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

John Odin Jensen ’87 knows his way around a shipwreck.

He survived one.

Jensen grew up in Alaska in the 1970s and early ’80s, immersed in his family’s fisheries business, an isolated and often danger-filled upbringing. Then he headed to Lawrence University in 1983, a history major determined to get an education that would allow him to explore a new way of life and leave the seafaring world behind.

Mission accomplished. Sort of.

He did find a new life, earning a bachelor’s degree at Lawrence, a master’s at East Carolina University, and a Ph.D. from Carnegie Mellon University. He’s now on the history faculty at the University of West Florida.

But he never did escape the sea, or more specifically, his insatiable interest in the sea. The history of North American mariners, ships, and shipwrecks would dominate his career, from working as an engineer aboard a University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Great Lakes research vessel to surveying shipwrecks as an underwater archaeologist with the Wisconsin Historical Society.

Now he’s written a book, Stories from the Wreckage: A Great Lakes Maritime History Inspired by Shipwrecks (Wisconsin Historical Society Press). A book tour will bring him to Appleton Nov. 11, where he’ll talk about shipwrecks and Great Lakes history from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the History Museum at the Castle, co-sponsored by Lawrence’s Cheney Fund for Excellence in History. He’ll also meet with Lawrence students in Monica Rico’s Intro to Public History class.

For info on studying history at Lawrence, see here.

We caught up with the Lawrence alumnus in advance of his visit to Appleton, which comes one day after the 44-year anniversary of the 1975 sinking of the SS Edmund Fitzgerald on Lake Superior, arguably the most famous Great Lakes shipwreck thanks to singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot and his “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” Jensen talked with us about his own harrowing early adventures at sea and how his academic experiences at Lawrence set the course for what was to come.

Q: You’ve been immersed in maritime history for your entire career. What inspired the book?

A: In terms of the book itself, the inspiration was obligation and gratitude. Early in my career I had the extraordinary opportunity of getting in on the pioneering years of public underwater archaeology in Wisconsin. My work with the Wisconsin Historical Society led me to pursue a Ph.D. in history, and I know it was repeatedly instrumental to my success getting academic positions in a difficult job market. I have preached the gospel of Wisconsin public maritime heritage in classes, academic conferences, heritage policy forums and through public programs across North America from Alaska and Hawaii to New England, as well as internationally.

Everywhere I went, people were surprised and amazed by the Wisconsin/Great Lakes shipwreck heritage story. I wanted the readers of this book, particularly those from Wisconsin, to be equally surprised and enthused about their history and proud of their state’s public investment in preserving it.

Q: Speaking of inspiration. Your family was involved in commercial fisheries. How did growing up in that environment affect the decision to study maritime history?

A: Well, the conceptual underpinnings of the book and nearly all of the deeper ideas and themes I have explored as a scholar are inspired by my experiences growing up on Alaska’s coastal frontier as part of a Norwegian-American seafaring family. I began working with my dad in commercial fishing at a very young age, and this became really the center of my life and identity.

We often worked ridiculous hours; vile weather was pretty routine, and economic uncertainty was the norm. Ships sank and people I knew died — not regularly — but it was not that unusual. Our community was isolated — literally the western end of the American highway systems. The quality of available health care was marginal at best and services limited. The norms of behavior among those in the fishing community were, at minimum, colorful. As a child and young man, I had no grasp of how extreme our lives really were.

I was luckier than many people, but I witnessed and I experienced many things connected with life and work in a coastal community that marked and haunted me. The study of history — not just maritime history — has provided me with endless opportunities to make sense of, and derive positive benefits from, these experiences. 

Q: You are a shipwreck survivor yourself. What did that experience teach you?

A: This is a tough one. The book is a history inspired by shipwrecks. Typical shipwreck books look only at the actual wreck event and their surrounding circumstances.  Although dramatic — it is pretty unsatisfying because the wreck is often only a footnote or afterward in a much richer set of human stories of imagination, innovation, and success.

Like many people from my old walk of life, I have lived the human stories and the shipwreck — but very few people that I know have had the opportunity to spend decades dissecting and learning from these experiences. I have gotten to build a truly great life and a satisfying career on the foundations of one very, very bad day at the office.

Q: Did you come to Lawrence with a maritime history career in mind?

A: Absolutely not. I came to Lawrence during the winter term of 1983 to escape my maritime history. However, I was probably accepted in the first place because of my application essay, where I described how the lessons of my shipwreck experience made me a good fit for Lawrence. I guess it was my first written shipwreck history story.

Q: How did your Lawrence experience later inform your work and your career path?  

A: It was through Lawrence — particularly some amazing faculty — that I eventually learned to see broader value of my early life experiences, and I internalized a liberal arts/interdisciplinary approach to thinking and problem-solving. As a professor at the University of West Florida, I struggle consciously on a daily basis to live up to and pass on the high standards that Lawrence faculty set for academic excellence, professional integrity, and extraordinary mentoring.  

Q: What advice would you give to today’s students interested in history?

A: Now more than ever, the country and the world need people who can think historically and who are historically literate. The person who understands history has real advantages in coping with and finding opportunities in a world of perpetual change. I am biased, but an imaginative and hardworking student who completes a history major at Lawrence University will never lack for meaningful opportunities in the workforce and to make a difference in the world.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lighting the Way With … Terry Moran: Amid chaos, storytelling is alive and well

Terry Moran looks at a display of bees with biology professor Israel Del Toro on the set of the 2019 Giving Day webcast.
Terry Moran ’82 (left) shares a moment with biology professor Israel Del Toro during the 2019 Giving Day at Lawrence.

About this series: Lighting the Way With … is a periodic series in which we shine a light on Lawrence alumni. Today we talk with ABC News correspondent Terry Moran ’82, who returned to campus recently to host our live Giving Day webcast.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Terry Moran ’82 is enjoying his return to the United States.

The ABC News correspondent spent more than five years living and working in London before he and his family moved back to Washington, D.C., in August 2018. With his daughter, Madeleine Moran ’18, now counted among Lawrence alumni and his three youngest children — ages 7, 5, and 3 — now in or nearing elementary school, the home neighborhood beckoned. Not to mention the unfolding political drama that consumes Washington these days, a draw for any journalist with a love of history and politics.

“Living in London was an adventure, a great adventure,” Moran said. “But it was time to come home.”

Moran, an English major while at Lawrence, moved to D.C. after graduation and wrote for The New Republic and other news magazines for a decade, then transitioned to TV, first covering high-profile criminal trials for five years for Court TV — O.J. Simpson and the Menendez brothers, among others — and then going to work for ABC News for the past two decades. He co-anchored Nightline and spent nearly six years as the network’s chief White House correspondent before taking the overseas assignment in London.

“I’m kind of covering the whole city now,” Moran said of his return to D.C. “It’s really nice that I’m not assigned to one particular building. I’m at the White House a couple times a week. I’m over at Capitol Hill, I’m out on the campaign trail. I get to do the whole smorgasbord of political news, which I enjoy a lot.”

While back at Lawrence for Giving Day, the Chicago native chatted about his career, how his time at Lawrence ignited his love of journalism, and why he thinks all the turmoil in the media world might be a good thing in the long run.

On finding his career path

“Lawrence changed me in a lot of ways,” said Moran, who arrived as a freshman in 1978. “I had a career path in mind. I wanted to be a lawyer or something like that. … But then I started working at the Lawrentian, and had fun with that. A lot of fun. … The Lawrentian was where I got the bug. The Lawrentian taught me a lot. It was the thrill of it, the thrill of making a difference in your community with storytelling through news. It was exciting to see people pick it up.”

That experience, he said, led to post-graduation efforts to land a job with a news magazine. When initial rejections rolled in, he moved to D.C., took a bartending job, and started pitching story ideas to the editors at The New Republic.

“I wrote my way into a job at the magazine,” he said.

That and other magazine work led to Court TV, which led to ABC News.

Terry Moran poses with four Lawrence students in Andrew Commons.
Terry Moran ’82 met with students at Andrew Commons while on campus for Giving Day.

On how his liberal arts education continues to inform his work

“It was that sense that the world was available and fascinating and you could open your mind to it and go for it,” Moran said. “That is one of the things that drove me to journalism. It was Lawrence. Being able to write and think analytically is one of the things I learned to do here, and that was invaluable. It still is to this day.

“As a liberal arts grad, you learn how to learn. And how to express yourself and how to think about what you’re experiencing. I call on that every day. The qualities of empathy and looking past just the moment or the headline and seeing into the story. I think that comes from here.”

On covering politics during the Trump presidency

“It’s like drinking from a fire hose,” Moran said. “It’s hard to keep your perspective. One of the things that I think was helpful for me is that I had been overseas for five years. So, not every day felt like the end of the world. I did feel like journalism in general, much of it, had decided their job was either to fight Donald Trump or to cheer for Donald Trump rather than to cover Donald Trump. … I felt like everybody on all sides needed to calm down a little bit. (Trump) thrives on the chaos and our attention to the chaos and the conflict, and I like to say the real hack of the 2016 election was not what the Russians did to the DNC but what Donald Trump did to the media. He became the major producer of media in a way that no other politician had.”

As wild as the ride is, there is history happening, for better or worse, Moran said.

“As a student of American history, this is a thrilling time to be a political journalist,” he said. “Something big is happening in our country. Whatever you think of it, this is a huge, transitional moment in our country.”

Terry Moran ’82 has been with ABC News for 22 years.

On the rapidly shifting dynamics of the media landscape

“It felt like over the last 20 years the mainstream media was dying, and I know some people say it still is and they’re rooting for it to die, but, actually, it kind of feels like we came through the eye of a needle,” Moran said. “There were budget cuts and staff cuts and more budget cuts and more staff cuts and it became harder to tell the stories you wanted to tell. But now with all of these digital platforms and social media platforms and docs and ABC News as a news provider on Hulu, all these different places, it’s like all of a sudden, the horizon is opening again.”

Being a legacy brand, be it network news or a daily newspaper or a news magazine, carries some burdens as you compete with newer and sometimes more nimble outlets, but it also can be a huge advantage amid all the media upheaval, Moran said. People will often look to something familiar, something they can trust.

“All that being said, I think we’re on a learning curve,” he said. “The audience and us. It’s really hard; it’s a steep learning curve with the pace of technological and media change. It might get worse before it gets better, but at the core I don’t think one election changed the American people. And I don’t think one election changed human nature. People still look for information they can count on. So, the good stuff will find a way to its audience, and people will learn how to read through the noise and the chaos. I’m confident of that.”

On his message to college students interested in journalism

“I think there is tremendous opportunity for the next generation of journalists because the cost of entering journalism is practically zero,” Moran said. “It’s your cell phone and a wireless package. As long as you can do that, you can make journalism. Now, can you make it pay? That’s the question.”

The paths to get there are many, he tells students. The tools at their disposal are changing and morphing and expanding by the day. But the tools are just tools. Do you have a story worth telling and the know-how, perspective, and confidence to tell it?

“I always tell young people, there are only two things you really need,” Moran said. “You need to know your stuff and care about it. And that is what people will respond to. Whatever the media, whatever the platform, if people can sense you know what you’re talking about and that it matters to you, they will lean in.

“Start doing it. Right now. If you want to make documentaries, go make documentaries with your phone. You love your community? You love issues that are hot in our country right now? Go tell a story about it. Put it on your phone. For the first two of them, throw them out. And then the next one will be better. And you’ll get better at it. … You can now have that in such a ready and instant way. Of course, there’s a downside to that. There’s a lot of dumb stuff out there. Just don’t be dumb.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Sixth annual Giving Day brings record support for Lawrence and its students

Terry Moran '82 interviews Dominica Chang (far right) and the four Lawrence University students who studied abroad in Senegal during the spring term.
As the cameras roll during Thursday’s live one-hour Giving Day webcast, host Terry Moran ’82 interviews Dominica Chang (far right) and the four Lawrence University students (from left) who studied abroad in Senegal during the spring term, Bronwyn Earthman, Tamima Tabishat, Greta Wilkening, and Miriam Thew Forrester.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University saw a huge outpouring of support Thursday as alumni, faculty, staff, students and other supporters contributed more than $1.94 million on the school’s annual Giving Day, the most ever in the event’s six-year history.

Giving Day was highlighted with a one-hour live webcast on Thursday evening, hosted by Terry Moran ’82, a national correspondent for ABC News and the parent of a 2018 Lawrence graduate.

The $1,940,586 in contributions that arrived over the course of the day came from more than 3,100 donors. Records were set in the amount raised, the number of overall donors and the number of participating faculty and staff.

“Wow, what a day for Lawrence,” President Mark Burstein said. “The funds we raised will support our students in countless essential ways. Thank you to the Lawrence community for your investments in the university. Our game changers, the Classes of 2003 to 2023, and faculty and staff blew the roof off.”

Giving Day drew attention to the myriad of ways financial contributions support Lawrence students, among them campus improvements, enhanced study-abroad opportunities, burgeoning sustainability efforts, new and diverse classroom and research innovations, music and other arts activities, and athletics.

Faculty, staff, and students pitched in over the course of the day, holding engagement events on campus and reaching out to alumni around the world, capped by the evening webcast that featured videos on campus construction projects, the school’s Full Speed to Full Need initiative, the Conservatory of Music’s Presto! tour, and the athletic department’s camaraderie and enthusiasm. Burstein, faculty and students joined Moran as guests to talk about the many ways in which the funding supports the liberal arts experience for today’s students.

“We are beyond excited and grateful that the whole Lawrence community came together to break records,” said Amber Nelson, associate director of Annual Giving and a key organizer of Giving Day. “It is always impressive seeing so many people rally around Giving Day. From alumni reaching out to their classmates, encouraging them to give, to staff answering phones, to students running events on campus, to countless other ways people showed their support, it really takes so many different people coming together to make this day so special for Lawrence.”

President Mark Burstein (right) talks on the Giving Day set with host Terry Moran ’82.

The Giving Day success is the continuation of momentum that has been building since the $220 million Be the Light! Campaign first launched, quietly in January 2014 and then publicly in November 2018. Last month, Lawrence landed at No. 26 on Forbes magazine’s 2019 edition of the Grateful Graduates Index, which follows the money in terms of alumni giving at private, not-for-profit colleges. Lawrence was the only Wisconsin school to place in the top 70, one more sign of the enduring bonds between the school and its alumni.

Most of the monies raised Thursday will go to the Lawrence Fund, which is used to support the day-to-day operations of the campus and the student experience. The Lawrence Fund is one of the pillars of the Be the Light! Campaign.

Monies donated Thursday were matched by supporters who agreed to be “game changers” in the Giving Day campaign. For contributions from the Classes of 2003 through 2023, they matched $500 for every contribution, no matter the amount. For all other contributions, they matched dollar for dollar.

Lawrence’s 2018-19 fiscal report showed support topping $24.4 million, the fourth highest year to date. The Be the Light! Campaign has surpassed $185 million to date in gifts and pledges.

The Be the Light! Campaign includes the Lawrence Fund as one of its four cornerstones, along with the Full Speed to Full Need initiative to make Lawrence accessible and affordable to all academically qualifying students, the Student Journey, which has welcomed numerous endowed positions aimed at supporting cutting edge programs and course offerings, and Campus Renewal, targeting facility and infrastructure upgrade projects on campus.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence experience inspires, informs Madhuri Vijay’s path to “The Far Field”

Portrait of Madhuri Vijay
Madhuri Vijay ’09 has earned critical praise for her debut novel, “The Far Field,” including being long-listed as a semifinalist for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction. The 24 semifinalists will be narrowed to six on Nov. 4. (Photo courtesy of Manvi Rao)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Madhuri Vijay ’09 was taken aback by the critical praise that accompanied the January arrival of her debut novel, The Far Field.

Now, nine months and a multi-continent book tour later, comes the announcement that her novel, published by Grove Press, has been long-listed for the prestigious 2020 Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction, a literary honor that could push her visibility to new heights.

“The whole thing feels somewhat surreal and a bit like a dream,” Vijay said by phone from her home in Hawaii, where she and her husband are preparing for the imminent arrival of their first child. “It’s always hard to take (the honors) seriously because it always seems like someone is going to call and say, this has all been a big mistake.”

That is not going to happen.

Ten years removed from her days as a Lawrence University undergrad, Vijay has arrived as a significant young novelist. The Far Field has been short-listed for the JCB Prize for Literature, long-listed for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature, and has drawn stellar praise in book reviews from the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, New Yorker, and others. On Nov. 4, the 24 books long-listed for the Carnegie medal in the fiction category will be narrowed to six finalists.

Along with accolades from the literary awards circuit comes much admiration from faculty members at Lawrence who nurtured Vijay’s storytelling skills a decade ago, not to mention current students who see her as a rock star in the making.

“When Madhuri visited my creative writing class last winter — she read at LU on the day her novel was officially released — my students saw her as a kind of superhero: glamorous and whip-smart and on the verge of international fame,” said professor of English David McGlynn. “But they only glimpsed the end result of an awful lot of work and an endless amount of dedication and determination.”

The publishing of The Far Field came after a six-year writing and editing process that Vijay called grueling, exhausting, and exhilarating. The book, set mostly in Bangalore, a metropolitan area in southern India where Vijay grew up, and the more remote, mountainous regions of Kashmir, tells the story of Shalini, a restless young woman, newly graduated from college and reeling from her mother’s death, who sets out from her privileged life in Bangalore in search of a family acquaintance from her childhood. She runs smack into the unsettled and volatile politics of Kashmir.

When Vijay launched her book tour early this year, Lawrence was an important stop. She points to her time as a student here as the impetus to a life of writing. She will tell you she arrived in the fall of 2005 as a determined but narrowly focused freshman. She’ll then tell you she left four years later having explored, sampled, and embraced every nook and cranny of the liberal arts experience, a creative enlightenment that rerouted her plans, turned her focus to fiction writing, and led her to the story that became The Far Field.

She double-majored in psychology and English at Lawrence, but it wasn’t until she was midway through a 12-month Watson Fellowship following graduation that she called off her plans to go to graduate school for psychology, applying instead to the Iowa Writers Workshop, a highly focused two-year writing residency at the University of Iowa.

Details on Lawrence’s English major here

“Lawrence itself was one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Vijay said. “I grew up in India, and our system of learning is in some ways very good because it’s very thorough and it’s science-based and it’s very rigorous, but it doesn’t allow for a lot of experimentation and play.

“So, when I got to Lawrence, I was overjoyed to discover that I could just dabble in all of these different things. I would take biology and Latin and I would sing in the choir and I would do all of these different things, which is the foundation of a liberal arts education. But it’s also, as I see it now, the foundation for being a good fiction writer, in that you have to be interested in everything all of the time and that nothing is divorced from the other thing. … Everything is worthy of study and everything is worthy of interest. That’s the thing I discovered at Lawrence.”

McGlynn was in his first year on the Lawrence faculty in 2006 when he first encountered Vijay, then a sophomore in his English 360 class. He recalled her being smart, poised and articulate, but her writing was far from polished.

“Her writing showed promise, but it also needed to be refined and to mature,” he said.

What made her stand out, though, was a willingness to work. That was evident from the get-go.

“She recognized her intellectual capacity, but she also knew capacity was only the beginning,” McGlynn said. “She knew she needed to work. She knew she needed to walk the path. That, more than anything, was her great gift. She remains one of the most dedicated and passionate students I have ever taught in my 13 years at Lawrence.”

With additional guidance from Tim Spurgin, the Bonnie Glidden Buchanan Professor of English Literature and associate professor of English, Vijay applied to and was selected for a Watson Fellowship, funding a year of travel and study. Her Watson study was focused on people from India living in foreign lands. Her travels took her to South Africa, Malaysia, and Tanzania, among other places, and her desire to write and create grew along the away.

Details on the Watson Fellowship here

“Being on the Watson means you are alone for a year,” Vijay said. “You’re absolutely independent in that nobody is looking over your shoulder. You either do the work or you don’t, which, in a nutshell, is what it means to be a writer. No one is waiting for you to produce anything. You either do the work or you don’t. All the urgency has to come from you, and it’s a lonely profession.”

Interestingly, it was during her Watson year that she first encountered Shalini and some of the other fictional characters that would eventually become key players in The Far Field. And it was her continued correspondence with McGlynn that in part set the wheels in motion.

“I wrote a short story during the Watson that had some of these same characters in it,” Vijay said. “It was very bad. But David McGlynn read it. He is one of the few people I trust to read even my worst writing. He was the one who literally suggested, ‘Why don’t you make this a novel?’ So, I wrote about 30 pages, and that’s how I got to Iowa, on the strength of those 30 pages. But it was a very different version. It had nothing to do with the book that eventually got published.

“After I got into Iowa, I didn’t touch those 30 pages, and I didn’t think about those characters for two years. It was only after Iowa when I was thinking about what to do next that I began thinking about those characters again. … If David hadn’t said that to me, I probably wouldn’t have written this book. I may have written something different, but not this book.”

Vijay is now a year into a follow-up book project that she says has yet to fully take shape. She knows the positive reaction to The Far Field assures nothing. It’s about continuing to put in the work.

“There is no point where you arrive at some sort of certainty where you say, ‘OK, this is a guarantee,’” she said of her life as a novelist. “Every single day feels like a gamble, feels like a risk, feels like you could fall at any given moment. That point (of certainty) hasn’t arrived, and I don’t think it ever will. And I don’t think it ever should. … You should always feel like you might fall flat on your face. That is the only way to do it honestly.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Moran to host Giving Day webcast; campus engagement activities planned Thursday

Aerial shot of the Lawrence campus, featuring Main Hall in the forefront.
Maintaining Lawrence’s beautiful campus takes an ongoing commitment. The annual Giving Day, which engages alumni, faculty, staff, students, and other supporters, is a big part of that commitment. A one-hour live Giving Day webcast begins at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Story by Isabella Mariani ‘21

The sixth annual Lawrence Giving Day kicks off on Thursday, Oct. 10, and it promises to be the biggest one yet, highlighted by a one-hour live evening webcast on lawrence.edu, hosted by ABC News journalist Terry Moran ’82.

Terry Moran ’82

The schedule for this one-day fundraising event is packed with exciting events designed to highlight all that’s good about Lawrence University.

“It’s about celebrating Lawrence in general,” said Amber Nelson, associate director of Annual Giving. “I’m so happy with how it’s grown. Last year was a record-breaking year for us with dollars and donors due to the great outreach we were able to do.”

The goal is to make each year more successful than the last; Lawrence is always adapting to meet the needs of students, therefore always in need of funding. This means ramping up engagement with potential givers, and, of course, with the students who are doing great things on campus, showcasing just how important those gifts are.

Here’s a rundown of Giving Day highlights so you won’t miss a moment. Use the hashtag #LUGives on social media to spread the word.

An assist from a beloved alum

As the host of Giving Day, Moran will take the lead on the 7 p.m. live show and will meet with students throughout the day to talk about experiences they’ve had at Lawrence that are made possible by Giving Day contributions.

Moran, who has remained engaged with Lawrence through the years and frequently teaches summer seminars at Bjorklunden, has covered the world as a journalist with ABC News for the past 22 years. He is a senior national correspondent based in Washington, D.C. He was previously based in London and served as the network’s chief foreign correspondent. Earlier in his career he was an anchor on Nightline, World News, and other ABC News broadcasts.

An editor at The Lawrentian during his time at Lawrence, Moran also has written for a number of publications, including the New York Times, Washington Post, and The New Republic.

New campus engagement events

Student participation in Giving Day is of high importance for the overall success of the fundraiser. After all, it’s students who see the impact of gifts each day at Lawrence. This year, students will have multiple opportunities to get involved with engagement events, with a chance to win sweet prizes.

For one, the Student Ambassador Program will host a game of the Price is Right, where students can guess the prices of various items on campus and win some Lawrence gear. It’s happening from 8 to 9 p.m. Thursday in the Warch Campus Center.

Other events on Thursday include Spin the Wheel Trivia (11 a.m.-1 p.m. in Warch); Make Some Noise for Giving Day, a chance to play musical instruments and offer a personalized thank you to donors (2 to 3 p.m. outside of the Conservatory of Music); and What’s on the Menu for Giving Day, a food spread catered by The Jerk Joint (5 to 6:30 p.m. in the Diversity and Intercultural Center).

Giving Challenges

Giving Challenges are the key to connecting with the community on Giving Day. Keep an eye out for five challenges you can participate in on Facebook, where you can help reach a goal by sharing posts and tagging friends to spread the word about Giving Day.

Supporting the Lawrence Fund

You can give to numerous areas on Giving Day, but the Lawrence Fund is the primary repository for gifts. The fund distributes gifts to four key areas of need — affordability, academic excellence, student experience and caring for campus.

“It keeps everything going on campus” Nelson said of the Lawrence Fund.

Gifts are matched by Game Changers

The name Game Changers is no joke. This Giving Day, these generous supporters boost every gift. Every gift. Gifts from the Classes of 2003 through 2023 will be matched with $500, while all others are matched dollar for dollar. These alumni, family and friends are a huge inspiration.

“It’s wonderful to see the community coming together and supporting this,” Nelson said. “Alumni understand they’re paying it forward. It’s cool to see their willingness to give back and that they’re proud to be a Lawrentian. It’s a really uplifting day altogether.”

Exciting live shows

Don’t miss any of the live shows on Facebook that will be happening throughout the day. Student hosts will take our virtual audiences along for the ride to campus events and behind the scenes of the live evening webcast.

“Seeing the impact of (the gifts) and what they can do is one of the great things,” Nelson said of the significance of Giving Day. “Being able to hear students share about a research project they’re able to do because of the money raised or the scholarship they got. … Seeing how the support for Giving Day factors into that really plays a role.”

It’ll all be topped off by the live show on the Lawrence website from 7 to 8 p.m., hosted by Moran.

Isabella Mariani ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

VR at 50: 1969 brought much change, including debut of a beloved campus bar

Mark Catron '69, a student bartender when the Viking Room opened as a bar in 1969, stands behind the bar with Jake Yingling '20 during Reunion Weekend.
Past meets present: Mark Catron ’69, a student bartender when the Viking Room opened as a bar in 1969, joins current student bartender Jake Yingling ’20 behind the bar during Reunion Weekend in mid-June. “Fridays and Saturdays were very, very popular,” Catron said of that first year.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The Viking Room, a cherished on-campus hangout for generations of students, is carved deeply into the history of Lawrence University.

The names of students past and present cover the tables and booths, carved with affection, a metaphor of sorts for the deep bonds that alumni have with the place best known as the VR. Tucked in the lower level of Memorial Hall, it has served as a gathering place for students of drinking age — and faculty and staff — for five decades.

The VR is celebrating its 50th year as a bar. It had long existed as an on-campus lounge, but it didn’t serve alcohol until the first beer was tapped on March 7, 1969.

Mark Catron ’69 remembers it well. He was one of the original student bartenders, pouring beers during his senior year while “Bad Moon Rising” and “Sugar, Sugar” blasted from the speakers.

“The response was overwhelming. It was terrific,” said Catron, who visited the VR in early June while back on campus for his 50th class reunion. “People would come in after their afternoon classes and sit around and talk and have a beer or study.

“Fridays and Saturdays were very, very popular. There would be dances and a lot of music.”

The times they are a-changin’

When Lawrence successfully sought a city liquor license and remade the VR into a bar, it was new territory. Not many college campuses featured their own bar. The drinking age was 18 at the time, which meant most every student was a potential customer.

It arrived at a time when college campuses were hotbeds for social change and political demonstrations. There was no shortage of talking points in the spring of ’69 as students gathered in the VR.

“The four years I was here, there were terrific changes in powers, dormitory living and arrangements,” Catron said. “And clearly, this was part of the liberalization of the campus. Between the time we came and the time we left, there was a lot of turmoil, a lot of change going on, a lot of people questioning the way things had always been.”

Introducing a bar on campus amid all that, well, that was either going to prove to be genius or crazy, Catron said.

“From the administration point, maybe it was a sort of experiment to see if the students were capable of handling it in a responsible way,” he said. “I never had the impression there was ever any doubt about that. But I’m sure there had to be some questions among the adults in the room.

“This was the same time we were occupying the dean’s office. Lots of challenges were going on from a social standpoint. … The campus was different when we left from when we arrived, and the bar was just part of that change.”

Susan Jasin ’69 was another of the original student bartenders. When she went to Appleton City Hall to get her bartender’s license, she said the workers there told her she was the first woman in the city to be licensed as a bartender.

“I kind of got a giggle out of that at the time,” she said.

“It was fun to do because it was different and nobody else was doing it. I was just me. I was just Susan. I was doing it because it was fun.”

A new dynamic

While the VR remains a big part of campus life 50 years later, much has changed from its heyday in those early years. When Wisconsin’s drinking age increased to 19 in 1984 and then 21 in 1986, the dynamic in the VR changed, with much of the student body no longer old enough to legally drink.

The VR managers began to more actively market the bar to faculty and staff. A 1988 memo from the then-managers of the VR implored faculty and staff to increase their use of the bar, either as their own hangout or as an alternative classroom space.

“Keep in mind that the room is large, we play tapes upon request, and that our stereo does have a volume control if the music proves to be too loud,” the memo read. “Simply put, we would enjoy seeing more faculty and administrators using the VR on a regular basis, whether you choose to drink or not.”

Thirty years on, some faculty and staff continue to heed those words. And some jump in as guest bartenders, a long VR tradition.

The VR has gone through numerous changes in its management structure over the years. Presently, the bar is again managed by students, with oversight from Greg Griffin, director of the Warch Campus Center.

Jake Yingling ’20 frequents the VR with friends, and works bartending shifts as a student worker. While he understands the crowds in the VR may be smaller now than in the ’70s and ’80s, there are still nights when the place is hopping. And he appreciates it being on campus.

“The busier nights are the better nights,” he said.

“Now being 21, I can come here to do work, I can hang out with friends. It’s a good place to kind of hang out and relax.”

Five decades worth of alumni would raise a glass to that.

Ed Berthiaume is the director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Lawrence alum shares ‘Window’ view in global journey with secretary of state

Glen Johnson ’85 (right) traveled the world
from 2013 to 2017 with U.S. Secretary of State
John Kerry. A new book details
his deep dive into international diplomacy.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Glen Johnson ’85

When Glen Johnson ’85 first set foot on the Lawrence University campus in the fall of 1981, he was singularly focused on forging a career as a journalist.

He had opted not to attend a school with an established journalism program, preferring instead a liberal arts education that would give him the broad-ranging intellectual tools needed to pursue journalism while also prepping him for life’s unknown adventures.

Nearly three decades later, still fully engaged in a journalism career that had taken him to the Boston Globe and included coverage of five presidential campaigns, Johnson would find himself staring down one of those unknown adventures. John Kerry, freshly tabbed by President Barack Obama to replace Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, reached out to Johnson in early 2013 with an unexpected offer — join his team as the senior communications advisor.

Johnson accepted, and he would be by Kerry’s side for the next four years, traveling to 91 countries and all seven continents, getting an up-close look at diplomacy at the highest levels and gaining perspective on world affairs that he said was both encouraging and daunting.

More information on the book can be found at www.glenjohnson.com.

His experiences are now shared in his new book, Window Seat on the World, published this summer by Disruption Books. It’s garnering significant attention, in large part because of the vast differences in diplomatic style between that of Kerry and the Obama administration and that of President Donald Trump and his administration. Johnson hopes the book will shed new light on diplomacy, its opportunities and its challenges, and provide a guide for those interested in a career in diplomatic service.

As Johnson makes the rounds of media interviews and book fairs, he hasn’t been shy about singing the praises of the liberal arts education he got at Lawrence and how that gave him a base on which to build a journalism career and then deftly shift into his role with Kerry.

“I came to Lawrence with the full expectation of being a reporter,” Johnson said. “I was fascinated by it.”

He majored in government at Lawrence, drew inspiration and insight from talented English professors and studied abroad in London for two trimesters.

“When I came out, I climbed the proverbial ladder rung by rung to develop myself as a reporter, from small newspapers to the world’s largest news organization in the AP, and then to the largest newspaper in the part of the country where I lived, the Boston Globe,” Johnson said.

“When I got this call from John Kerry offering the position at the State Department, it was a huge life decision, to change careers from the only one I’d ever done or ever really wanted to do. I thought about where I was personally, sort of mid-life with my younger kid about to graduate from college, and feeling like if I wanted to pursue a second act, now is probably the time.

“And then the specifics of the opportunity, the chance to have a high-level position with a top Cabinet officer and to see the world at his side. … If there was anything worth leaving the only career I ever had known, it was for something I considered to be the opportunity of a lifetime.”

Glen Johnson ’85 took more than 100,000 photos during his time with Secretary of State John Kerry, including this one of Kerry meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In the four years that would follow, Johnson would spend the equivalent of four months on an airplane, logging enough mileage to take him and Kerry around the world 57 times. In addition to being Kerry’s lead communications officer, Johnson became the traveling contingent’s primary photographer, shooting more than 100,000 photos, many of which are featured in the book and are part of his public presentations about the book.

He had a front row seat for Middle East peace talks, Iran nuclear negotiations, and government transitions in Afghanistan and Nigeria. He witnessed the difficult diplomacy that comes with interactions with China and Russia. And he got a bird’s-eye look — and unsettling lessons — in the perils of climate change and their global ramifications. All of that is explored in the book.

“I wanted to deal with topics that really struck me and I thought had resonance and would continue to have resonance,” Johnson said.

It was climate change, and the stark reality of what’s at stake, that may have struck the rawest nerve, he said. And it came as perhaps his biggest surprise.

“At first I thought that was a strange thing for us to focus on,” Johnson said. “I knew John Kerry to be an environmentalist, but I thought it was almost a strange thing for a secretary of state to focus on when we first started. But not too long into this job, I realized it made sense because it was a problem that by definition transcended borders and was global in scope.

“And then the blessing of the job was to have the ability to travel the way we could. We ended up going almost to the North Pole, going almost to the South Pole. We saw above the Arctic Circle. We saw Antarctica. We saw all these places around the middle of the Earth. The effects of climate change were so readily apparent that you could see the effects of them on diplomacy. We have the potential now for issues with migration sparked by climate change, we have the potential for water wars between the haves and the have-nots.”

United States Secretary of State John Kerry flies in an Embassy Air Chinook helicopter from Kabul International Airport to ISAF headquarters in Afghanistan in April 2016. Glen Johnson ’85, who took the photo, says visits to Kabul and Baghdad were the two trips he and Kerry never told their families they were making.

Johnson minces no words about the abrupt change in attitude and message regarding climate change that came with the transition to the Trump presidency. He expresses other frustrations on topics of shifting diplomacy and approach, but the climate change conversation cuts particularly deep because of what he saw with his own eyes.

“It’s tremendously alarming and it’s frustrating and exasperating,” Johnson said. “I have zero patience for climate deniers because there is no factual basis for that belief. There are reams of empirical data and there is so much you can see first-hand to rebut that. The debate can’t be about whether climate change is occurring. The debate has to be focused on what to do to address it.

“If you have someone in office who talks about it as being a hoax and that kind of thing, you just can’t take someone like that seriously. And especially someone who has the opportunities that we had at the State Department, and that is to travel the world to see it first-hand. You don’t have to take someone else’s word for it. You don’t have to take 97 percent of peer-reviewed scientific studies on the topic. You can get on a plane and you can go to Svalbard yourself or you can go down to McMurdo Station like we did. The current secretary of state or the current president can do all that, and yet they choose not to.”

While the widely different approaches to diplomacy between the Obama and Trump presidencies has drawn much of the media attention surrounding the book, Johnson said he purposely didn’t weave that into the bulk of the book. He saved that for a chapter near the end.

If this were just an Obama vs. Trump comparison, the book would have a short shelf life, Johnson reasoned. He’d rather the book take a deeper run at diplomacy and the call to diplomatic service.

“I wanted the book to stand up beyond these four, or even eight, years of a Trump era,” Johnson said. “I wanted it to be more about institutional lessons of diplomacy as illustrated by a more classical diplomat like John Kerry than an us-versus-them thing.”

The art of State Department diplomacy is a mystery to most Americans, Johnson said, even though it incorporates thousands of employees in offices, posts, embassies and consulates around the world. It’s often the most forward-deployed part of the federal government, more so than the U.S. military in many cases, but most people know little about it.

“I saw this book as a chance to teach about diplomacy, have some case studies about issues that continue on today,” Johnson said. “And then also potentially to serve as a guide to inspire diplomats.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Grateful Grads Index highlights generosity, commitment of Lawrence alumni

A graduate stands and applauds during Lawrence's 2019 commencement ceremony in June.
Rain didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of Lawrence University graduates at the 2019 commencement ceremony. Lawrence alumni have a long history of staying connected to their alma mater.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The bonds between Lawrence University and its graduates are among the strongest and most enduring of any across the higher education landscape, according to a newly released report from Forbes magazine.

Lawrence landed at No. 26 on Forbes’ 2019 edition of the Grateful Graduates Index, which follows the money in terms of alumni giving at private, not-for-profit colleges. Lawrence is the only Wisconsin school to place in the top 70.

“When I meet with alumni and ask them why they give, two strong themes emerge,” said Cal Husmann, vice president for alumni and development. “The alumni reference the impact faculty members have had on their educations and lives — specifically, the strong relationships they’ve formed with faculty. Another theme is gratitude for the financial assistance they received as students and wanting to pay it forward.” 

Lawrence ranks high on U.S. News’ Best Value Schools list. Details here.

The Grateful Graduates Index takes a couple of factors into account — the seven-year median gifts per full-time enrolled student and the average percentage of alumni who give back, regardless of the amount.

“We boil down the analysis to a single factor,” Forbes says in its report. “Does your alma mater ‘spark joy’ in your heart, enough to cause you to reach into your wallet and show your gratitude in the form of a donation?”

This marks the seventh consecutive year Lawrence has made the Grateful Grads ranking. It has placed in the top 70 in each of those years, with this year’s No. 26 slot being the highest ranking yet.

From support of current and future students to partnerships with faculty and staff to enhancements of the university’s infrastructure, the generosity of alumni is critical to the ongoing financial health of any private college.

Lawrence has seen that generosity play out in multiple ways. The school’s recent 2018-19 fiscal report showed support topping $24.4 million, the fourth highest year to date.

The $220 million Be the Light! Campaign, which launched quietly in January 2014 and had its public launch in November 2018, has surpassed $184 million in gifts and pledges.

The Lawrence Fund, which plays a significant role in supporting the campus’s operation, from scholarships and study abroad opportunities to athletics and campus upkeep, is coming off a particularly strong year. Support reached $3.9 million in the last fiscal year, second only to the 2015-16 year. Without the fund, it’s estimated each student’s tuition would increase by more than $10,000 per year.

The Be the Light! Campaign includes the Lawrence Fund as one of its four cornerstones, along with the Full Speed to Full Need initiative to make Lawrence accessible and affordable to all academically qualifying students, the Student Journey, which has welcomed numerous endowed positions aimed at supporting cutting edge programs and course offerings, and Campus Renewal, targeting facility and infrastructure upgrade projects on campus.

Meanwhile, the recent $2.5 million gift from J. Thomas Hurvis ’60 to create an endowed professorship to teach the psychology of collaboration marked the latest in a string of endowed positions, supported by Lawrence alumni, that have boosted and diversified the school’s academic offerings.

Mike O’Connor is entering his first full academic year as Lawrence’s Riaz Waraich Dean of the Center for Career, Life, and Community Engagement (CLC), a recently endowed position that aims to better prepare students for life after Lawrence by, in part, enhancing connections with alumni in the students’ fields of interest.

The Forbes’ report comes one month before Lawrence’s sixth annual Giving Day, set for Oct. 10.

“Lawrence’s relationship with its alumni continues to be special,” Husmann said. “It’s a point of pride that those bonds don’t end when a student graduates. The ongoing support of current and future Lawrentians is critical, and our alumni rise to the occasion time after time.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu.

Princeton Review cites Lawrence as one of ‘Best’ colleges in the country

Students pose for a selfie before the 2019 commencement ceremony at Lawrence.
Lawrence University students hailed the school as supportive, inclusive, and empowering in a survey from The Princeton Review. Lawrence ranked as one of the 385 best four-year colleges in the U.S.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University continues to feel the love from The Princeton Review.

After being named the No. 4 Impact School in the country on a Princeton Review ranking earlier this year, Lawrence has made the education service company’s list of the best 385 colleges in the country — only about 13% of eligible four-year colleges make the “Best” book.

“The Best 385 Colleges,” published each August, has been an annual resource for prospective students since its debut in 1992. The book does not rank the schools within the list of 385, but it does include a series of Top 20 lists in a variety of sub categories. The lists come after data is gathered from school administrators and interviews are done with students from each of the schools.

See “The Best 385 Colleges” report here.

Earlier this year, Lawrence was hailed by The Princeton Review as one of 200 “Best Value Schools” in the United States. That book placed Lawrence at No. 4 in the category of best schools for Making an Impact, which focused on life on campus but also post-college work.

“The college ranking field is full of many flowers,” notes Ken Anselment, dean of admissions at Lawrence. “But one of our favorites is being shortlisted as one of the Princeton Review’s Impact Schools because it underscores the quality of life our graduates enjoy after Lawrence. It affirms that our mission of providing a transformative education is, indeed, having an impact.”

Here’s a quick guide to Lawrence’s evaluation in the most recent book:

What students are saying about academics: “Tutoring is readily available, and the school ‘places an incredible focus on mental health issues and counseling.’ Lawrence is especially good at ‘providing a creative and explorative atmosphere within the college,’ and structuring itself in a manner that allows for student flexibility, so students ‘are able to explore and study whatever we are interested in, and we are encouraged to do so.’”

What students are saying about life at Lawrence: “Many people take advantage of the school’s offered activities like dances, comedians, musicians, speakers who are brought to campus, and movies shown in the cinema, and every term has a big event, such as the Fall Festival, Trivia, Winter Carnival, Cabaret and LUaroo. … As the university houses a popular music conservatory, ‘there is ALWAYS a type of concert going on.’”

What students are saying about their classmates: “Students here ‘are not afraid to show who they really are’ and ‘truly just love expressing how every person is their own and that we all accept it.’”

What the Princeton Review editors are saying: “Lawrence University takes a holistic approach to the admissions game. The school does its best to look beyond numbers and get a full sense of each applicant.”

In addition to the Princeton Review rankings, Lawrence also was honored earlier this year by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for being among the top-producing institutions for the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. With five recent graduates teaching abroad on Fulbright awards, Lawrence landed on the prestigious list of U.S. colleges and universities that produced the most Fulbright students during the past academic year.

The 2018-19 list that features Lawrence  was published in The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information for Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

Signage a nod to strange, complicated history of Lawrence’s favorite rock

New signage has gone up next to the Rock on Lawrence’s Main Hall lawn, noting the big boulder’s ties to campus dating back to 1895.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The Rock, a 2-ton boulder resting peacefully on a stretch of lawn near the northwest corner of Main Hall, has finally had its long, strange history commemorated by Lawrence University.

Newly installed signage provides a nod to the 4,700-pound piece of granite that has been tolerated but rarely celebrated by the university that has been its home — mostly — since members of the Class of 1895 first hauled it to campus 124 years ago.

As campus traditions go, this is one that has had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the school. The Rock — not to be confused with a certain Hollywood celebrity of the same nickname — has been the subject of pranks, fraternity feuds and deep mysteries through the decades. It was returned to campus in the spring of 2018 after having gone missing for 20 years.

Now it’s home, and there’s nothing but love. Thus, the new signage recently placed next to the Rock:

“Members of the Class of 1895 found this boulder on a geology field trip in New London, WI, and brought it to campus to serve as the senior class gift. In the years since, the Rock has been painted, buried, moved around, and even removed from campus. After a 20-year stay on the Nickel family farm (Michael Nickel ’02, Adam Nickel ’03), it was returned to its original placement in front of Main Hall in spring 2018.”

The Rock, now painted green with the white lettering of the Class of 2019, has a history that started out combative, if all in good fun. Consider this dispatch in The Lawrentian in July 1895:

“Tuesday afternoon was Class Day and the big boulder of the Class of ’95 made its debut in college history. Somehow the seniors had an idea that the giddy juniors would not allow it to become a landmark on the campus and they watched all night till the day of its dedication, lest some festive ’96er should come along and carry the pebble off and throw it in the river.”

That would set a tone that would become part of the Rock’s tradition, one of mostly harmless rivalry and midnight escapades stretching across more than 100 years, frequently chronicled by The Lawrentian and sometimes The Post-Crescent.

Among the highlights:

With concerns the pranks had gotten out of hand, the Rock was moved to a mostly out-of-the-way spot near the Fox River in 1939; it would be returned to the Main Hall green by ambitious students three years later.

It would go missing in 1964, finally retrieved in 1983 (it had been buried behind Plantz Hall by members of the Class of 1967, so, technically, it was still on campus).

And it would once again disappear in 1998, discovered 20 years later by students Sarah Axtell ’17 and Jon Hanrahan ’16, who had launched an entertaining, Serial-style podcast in hopes of solving the mystery of the Rock’s whereabouts.

In between all of that, the Rock was at the center of some much-chronicled campus rivalries and shenanigans that included students hiring towing companies to move the rock around campus in the dark of night, tossing it into the Fox River on multiple occasions, placing it in cement, and building a papier-mache replica that would appear one morning in 1957 on the roof of the former Stephenson Hall.

As the location of the Rock became a competition among fraternities, there was an unwritten rule that said wherever the rock was located on the morning of homecoming, that is where it would stay for the rest of the school year.

The 1998 disappearance came not long after the Phi Delta Theta and Delta Tau Delta fraternities had a bit of a public showdown, one that involved a front-end loader and required the dean of students to negotiate a compromise as local media looked on.

The engraving of Class of '95 can clearly be seen on the Rock, which sits on the Main Hall lawn. The rock is painted green with Class of 2019 in white.
A paint job by the Class of 2019 does not obscure the engraving from the Class of ’95 (that’s 1895) on the Rock, which sits on the Main Hall lawn with newly installed signage commemorating its history.

A search and a podcast

The Rock was then mostly forgotten for nearly two decades until Axtell and Hanrahan launched their No Stone Unturned podcast in 2016.

“Sarah and I were real dorks about Lawrence history,” Hanrahan said.

Their sleuthing eventually took them to a farm in Calumet County where the rock was found behind an old barn, the carved Class of ’95 in plain sight. It turns out there were a lot of complicated emotions tied to the Rock and how it ended up on that farm.

Lawrence and the Nickel family would eventually reach agreement that the Rock should return to the Main Hall green. It came home in 2018.

The ongoing fascination with the big boulder speaks to college students’ need to feel connected to their school’s history, said Hanrahan, who now works as an associate producer for New York Public Radio. He points to other schools with similar objects that have served as traditions that tie together generations of students — Rutgers’ cannon, Carnegie Mellon’s fence painting, and Northwestern’s own version of an oft-painted rock.

“There’s definitely that element of college students wanting and needing that quirky sense of identity,” Hanrahan said.

The podcast not only gave Hanrahan and Axtell the chance to fixate on Lawrence history — “This project was one of the first real moments when I fell in love with archives,” Hanrahan said — it also provided an opportunity to connect with alumni in a meaningful way.

“We got a sense of what life was like at Lawrence, especially in the ’90s, which was when the disappearance occurred,” Hanrahan said. “… We got a taste of life in the ’60s when the Rock disappeared then. That was very, very different from what life was like in the ’90s, which was also very different from what life is like in the 2010s.”   

An uneasy history

Erin Dix ’08, the university’s archivist over the past nine years, said the many Rock-related pranks left some past university administrators uneasy. That’s why the new signage is notable.

“The administration at Lawrence has not always embraced the disruptive elements of the Rock’s tradition,” she said. “In 1939, college officials moved the Rock to the tennis courts at the bottom of the Drew Street hill to try to discourage the constant pranks. But students managed to hoist it back up the hill three years later. During the Rock’s most recent absence, I often heard the theory that the administration had purposefully removed it from campus.” (It had not.)

“My favorite anecdote about the Rock comes from a Post-Crescent article published when it was being exhumed from the parking lot behind Plantz Hall in 1983,” Dix said. “‘Richard Warch, president of the university, was there, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from his sack lunch during the noon-hour event. “What a great day for Lawrence University,” he said with mock enthusiasm as a big P.G. Miron crane lifted the rock from the ground.’”

Hanrahan believes that kind of history should be celebrated. Students today should be aware of the school’s deep history and the student experiences that preceded them, even if it’s just a goofy old rock. That it has Class of ’95 carved into it is reason enough to acknowledge that connection, he said.

“That’s not 1995, that’s 1895, this unimaginably distant group of people,” Hanrahan said. “And it has these classes from the 1930s carved on the side as well. So, it’s a rock and it’s obviously this old geological artifact, but it broadcasts its oldness and it’s Lawrenceness right there on the side. It’s hard to look at it and not think of a Lawrence from 100 years ago.”

New signage now accompanies the Rock on the Main Hall lawn.

Axtell, now working in New York City for Accomplice the Show, an immersive theater company, applauds the university for formally recognizing the history of the Rock, calling it an important connection between generations of students.

“I don’t think the university can always take an official stance on some of the goofy things that have happened in the past, but I think the university should be proud of the ingenuity and creativity of its students,” she said.

“It gives people a reason to connect back to the history of the place. People need to pay more attention to the history of the areas around them, for better or worse.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu