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Homecoming adds to list of ‘precious moments’

Barry McNamara
10/06/2018
April Zorn Memorial Stadium was the center of the action for Friday night's Spirit Shout and Saturday afternoon's 55-0 victory over Grinnell College.
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MONMOUTH, Ill. – This year’s Monmouth College Homecoming weekend wasn’t officially given a theme.

But in her remarks to a crowd of alumni, faculty, staff and friends of the College, Bonnie Bondurant Shaddock ’54 expressed a theme-worthy sentiment.

“There have been so many precious moments,” she said, as the Bonnie Bondurant Alumni House at 701 E. Broadway was formally dedicated. “I’ve been filled with them all weekend.”

Saturday morning’s three inductees into the M Club Hall of Fame could relate to what Bondurant meant.

Standout distance runner Doug Carlson ’66, who could’ve recounted several tales of dominant individual performances, instead recalled crossing the finish line of a one-mile race, arms linked with two of his beloved teammates, Jim Whalen ’64 and Steve Pettit ’66.

Jonny Henkins ’08 recalled visiting Monmouth as a prospective student.

Track and field coach Roger Haynes “brought me into the Hall of Fame area,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘How much of a bad ass do you have to be to get into this?’”

During his time at Monmouth, Henkins got a pivotal nudge at just the right time from Haynes.

“It took him about 60 seconds to change my perspective and what I wanted to accomplish in life,” said Henkins, who went on to capture two national championships in the pole vault.

Rob Purlee ’04 also humorously recalled his recruiting visit with his presenter, former football coach Steve Bell, but his precious moments with Monmouth go back even further – to his parents and 1978 Monmouth alumni Dave and Joela Blender Purlee.

“I close my eyes, and I’m back at the Knox Bowl for the 100th Bronze Turkey Game,” he said. “I was 6. I close my eyes again, and it’s November of 1991, another Monmouth-Knox game. I was 9. Monmouth was a part of my childhood. It’s been special to me for that long.”

Monmouth as a special place was a sentiment shared by several other alumni, including those honored at the Alumni Impact Awards ceremony Friday evening.

“I’m grateful for how this experience here shaped my life for the next 50 years,” said Robert Brink ’68, a former member of the Virginia state legislature who received the College’s Distinguished Alumnus Award. “Monmouth gave me the tools for living that I believe a small, liberal arts college is uniquely qualified to give.”

He said that one of those tools was the gift of empathy.

“Monmouth taught me to see the world through someone else’s eyes,” he said. “I’d like to think that I got into politics and government for the right reasons, and I’m grateful that Monmouth College taught me how to do it right.”

David Bowers ’60, one of two inductees into the Hall of Achievement – the highest honor the College bestows upon its graduates – shared Brink’s view about Monmouth’s size, a lesson he learned after transferring from a large public university.

“The mega-format of lectures wasn’t for me,” he said. “I had a feeling that the personal attention Monmouth offered would fit me better and, boy, was I right.”

Bowers served as president and CEO of CompX International, Inc., retiring earlier this year.

Won Yang Everett ’68, the other Hall of Achievement inductee, was one of several alumni who discussed the impact of Monmouth faculty and staff, sharing how important former political science professor Carl Gamer had been in the life of her father, Key Yang ’50.

“There were many who went the extra mile at Monmouth, including Professor Gamer,” she said.

Another cited for making an impact was Bruce Haywood, who served as Monmouth’s 10th president from 1980-94.

“When I was first starting out, he saw things in me that I didn’t see in myself,” said retired dean of students Jacquelyn Condon, who received the College’s Distinguished Service Award.

Condon, who served the College from 1980-2017, also thanked the students she encountered as a Monmouth administrator.

“You can’t be the dean of students if the students don’t let you,” she said. “What gifts you all have been.”

Other honorees during Homecoming weekend included: Ryne Sherman ’06, Distinguished Young Alumnus Award; English professor and interim dean of the faculty Mark Willhardt, Hatch Excellence Award for Distinguished Teaching; and the Pepper family, Family of the Year. Inducted into the Greek Hall of Fame were Susan West ’82, Tom Sargent ’85 and Lt. Col. Christopher Heatherly ’94.

Another person credited for seeing things in people they didn’t realize in themselves was political science professor Ira Smolensky, who died last March at the age of 69.

Longtime department colleague Farhat Haq paid tribute to Smolensky on Saturday morning as part of the College’s Great Lectures Series, and several others took the podium at a second event later in the morning celebrating Smolensky’s life and legacy.

Vietnamese refugee Thao Dang-Williams ’93 told how her protective mother was ready to retrieve her from Monmouth after barely a week away from home.

“I went to talk to Ira about it, and he said, ‘What’s your phone number?’ He spent an hour on the phone with my mom. He told her, ‘She’ll be OK. I’ll watch out for her.’ Without Ira making that phone call, I wouldn’t be in the position I’m in now.”

“In this time of our great (political) divide, I often find myself thinking, ‘What would Ira do?’” said Anita Ridge ’88. “’And how can I be a little more like him?’”

The unofficial theme of precious moments spilled over to the athletic fields, where the Fighting Scots men’s soccer team used three first-half goals to roll to a 3-0 victory over Illinois College at Peacock Memorial Athletic Park. And the football team unveiled a slick bounce-pass trick play for a touchdown en route to a 55-0 win over Grinnell College at April Zorn Memorial Stadium.

In his Hall of Fame remarks, Purlee referenced proposing to his wife, Jenna Carson Purlee ’04, on the football field’s 50-yard line. Two other couples had precious moments to last a lifetime on Saturday, adding their names to the list of proposals at College events: Bethany Meyer ’17 said “Yes” to classmate Luke Kreiter on the steps of Wallace Hall; and Erin Barnett ’16 and Brodie Welker ’16 were engaged at the pre-game tailgate party.