Barry McNamara  |   Published October 10, 2020

‘All in It Together’

Love of Monmouth College shines through despite pandemic-altered Homecoming schedule.

Friday's Homecoming festivities concluded with a fireworks display over campus, an annual Homecom... Friday's Homecoming festivities concluded with a fireworks display over campus, an annual Homecoming tradition that was able to continue, despite the pandemic.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – “We’re all in this together” is a familiar refrain during 2020.

It was also a sentiment shared by recipients of Monmouth College’s annual Alumni Impact Awards, one of the highlights of Homecoming weekend. The recipients each in their own way praised Monmouth and the campus community for having a profound impact on their lives.

HOMECOMING QUEEN: Abierre Minor, a political science and international studies senior from Chicag... HOMECOMING QUEEN: Abierre Minor, a political science and international studies senior from Chicago, was crowned queen.This year’s awards ceremony was recorded in advance and shown online Friday evening, which, because of COVID-19 restrictions, was the norm for this year’s “Homecoming @ Home” theme.

Other virtual activities for Homecoming week included a 5K run; an informative session on Scotch whiskey; an outdoor chapel service; “coffee chats” with current and emeriti faculty; a roundtable discussion about diversity and inclusion; and a “Best of Game Day” program with Fighting Scots football coaches, which stood in for the traditional Homecoming game. The Homecoming Court was also crowned at a socially distanced Friday afternoon campus ceremony.

“This year, we bring Monmouth College to your home,” said Jen Armstrong, the College’s director of alumni engagement, while emceeing the Alumni Impact Awards ceremony.

The recipient of the Distinguished Young Alumnus honor was Zak Edmonds ’08.

A member of the College’s Alumni Board, Edmonds used his video platform for a bit of magic, showing off several outfits in his diverse collection of Monmouth apparel before settling on a red and tartan ensemble to deliver his acceptance speech.

“It’s a real special place, and it’s really hard to put into words, but at the same time, everybody knows what you’re talking about,” said Edmonds of another type of magic – the “indescribable” feeling of the Monmouth experience. “This award speaks volume about my pride in the College and about being a Fighting Scot for life.”

The Distinguished Alumnus honor went to retired Army Col. Steve Bloomer ’83, who was the College’s vice president for development and college relations after serving nearly three decades in the military.

“This will be a very positive memory during what has been a very challenging year,” said Bloomer, gratefully acknowledging the “rich residential college experience” he had at Monmouth and the many people who made his career success possible by investing in him during his formative years. “No woman or man goes it alone, at least not happily, I expect. Life is enjoyed, really, in the fellowship and health of others.”

While congratulating the honorees – including two inductees into the College’s Hall of Achievement – Monmouth President Clarence R. Wyatt also acknowledged the challenges of 2020. Wyatt’s Wallace Hall office is directly across from the Hall of Achievement and the plaques of individuals who have received the College’s highest honor since it was founded in 1992.

HOMECOMING KING: Bryson Pillow, an environmental studies and sustainability senior from Indianapo... HOMECOMING KING: Bryson Pillow, an environmental studies and sustainability senior from Indianapolis was crowned king in a virtual setting.“Passing those names and those faces every day has given me confidence that this College, even in these tough times, will continue to be a force for good in the lives of young people for generations to come,” he said.

Seventy years ago, one of those young people was Bonnie Bondurant Shaddock ’54. A pioneer in educational television programming, Shaddock used a multimedia presentation to share the story of the impact that Monmouth made on her life. The presentation included a photo of her during her four years on TV as a grade-school science teacher. Her role grew into helping to draft legislation that brought educational technology – including computers – into classrooms, and then into a production company she co-founded that specialized in instructional television programming.

The other inductee was venture capitalist and entrepreneur Larry Gerdes. Growing up on a small farm near Walnut, Ill., all Gerdes knew was agriculture, so he chose to study the subject at the University of Illinois.

“While I was there, I did something that Monmouth has now done extraordinarily well, and that is combine a couple of different avenues,” said Gerdes, who merged an agriculture degree with business courses before obtaining his MBA. “That’s a lot like we do in our new science and business programs at Monmouth.”

“It’s a real special place, and it’s really hard to put into words, but at the same time, everybody knows what you’re talking about.”
– Zak Edmonds ’08

In his professional life, Gerdes soon found a business partner, mentor and lifelong friend in 1956 Monmouth alumnus Walter Huff. He watched as Huff made significant contributions to his alma mater, and was “honored” when Huff asked him to take his place on the College’s Board of Trustees. His nine-year Board service helped Gerdes appreciate what Monmouth stood for, and the experience “was more than I expected it to be. The school … gave more to me than I ever gave to it.”

Other honorees were longtime admissions counselor Peter Pitts, who received the Distinguished Service award, and art professor Stacy Lotz, who received the prestigious Hatch Award for Distinguished Teaching.

“My students have been fabulous for 25 years, and they continue to be fabulous,” said Lotz. “I want to thank all of you for helping me be the best that I can be.”

Said Pitts: “It takes a village to recruit students. The maintenance staff keeps the campus looking beautiful. The receptionist in the admissions office is warm and welcoming. My fellow admissions reps have wonderful visits with them. The current students give them the tour. They go in the (cafeteria) and Penny makes them an omelet, just for them. The alumni help out for receptions and (at) coffee shops. I could go on and on and on.”

The Family of the Year honor went to the Riggs family. There are 19 Monmouth alumni in the Riggs family tree, including eight business people, three teachers, two ministers, two historians, a doctor, a lawyer, a chemist and a nurse. Their support through the years represents, in the words of 2013 graduate Rebecca Riggs, “our family’s devotion to the school we love so well.”

On Friday afternoon, the College announced the 2020 Homecoming Court, which included: Abierre Minor, a political science and international studies senior from Chicago, was crowned queen and Bryson Pillow, an environmental studies and sustainability senior from Indianapolis was crowned king. Miracle Sims, psychology junior from Chicago, was crowned princess and Mason Sanford, a neuroscience junior from Peoria, Illinois, was crowned prince.

Friday’s festivities concluded with a fireworks display over campus, an annual Homecoming tradition that was able to continue, despite the pandemic.

PRINCE & PRINCESS: Mason Sanford, a neuroscience junior from Peoria, Illinois, was crowned pr... PRINCE & PRINCESS: Mason Sanford, a neuroscience junior from Peoria, Illinois, was crowned prince, and Miracle Sims, psychology junior from Chicago, was crowned princess.

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Did you know?

  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> We’re no stranger to winning. Last year the Fighting Scots won Midwest Conference championships in Football, Women’s Soccer, Women’s Basketball and Men’s Track and Field. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_urls"><a href="https://monmouthscots.com/" target="_blank">Fighting Scots</a></li></ul></div></aside>
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  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College is proudly test optional. Applicants may choose whether or to submit SAT or ACT scores for admission and scholarship consideration. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/admission/apply/test-optional/" target="_blank">Test Optional</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Textbooks are included in the cost of tuition at Monmouth College. No need to try to plan for an additional expense, and our students start each semester fully prepared for classes. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/offices/student-financial-planning/tuition-fees/" target="_blank">Tuition & Fees</a></li></ul></div></aside>
  • <aside class="factoid-item"><div class="factoid-item-text"><p> Monmouth College is the birthplace of the women’s fraternity movement. Kappa Kappa Gamma and Pi Beta Phi, two of the oldest sororities, were founded at Monmouth in the 1860’s. </p></div><div class="factoid-item-links"><ul><li class="lw_related_page"><a href="/student-life/sororities-fraternities/" target="_blank">Sororities & Fraternities</a></li></ul></div></aside>
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