Barry McNamara  |  Published October 11, 2023

Emptying the Homecoming Notebook

Alumni referrals, freeing the possible and checking the final Monmouth College box.

DOING GREEK LIFE RIGHT: This year's Fraternity and Sorority Hall of Fame inductees were John ... DOING GREEK LIFE RIGHT: This year's Fraternity and Sorority Hall of Fame inductees were John Courson '64, Don "Mac" McKinley '50 and Hilary Hawkinson Stott '07. Also pictured is Cullen Marshall '22, the College's assistant director of fraternity and sorority life.MONMOUTH, Ill. – Last weekend’s celebration of Monmouth College’s Homecoming – known affectionately on campus as MoCoHoCo ’23 – was another great success, and I tried to capture some of that spirit in my “Homecoming roundup” story.

For that assignment, I tried to tie all the weekend’s content with a neat little bow, and that bow was the theme I heard over and over again throughout Homecoming – the importance of relationships. If you had to condense everything that’s wonderful and meaningful about the College into just one word, “relationships” would certainly be a strong contender.

But the weekend was full of plenty of other interesting happenings that perhaps didn’t directly fall into that category. As I reviewed my notes one last time before filing them away, here are some of the other tidbits that caught my attention.

Check out the Homecoming media home page.

Alumni referrals

During Friday’s Alumni Impact Awards, Roy Sye ’13, who received the Young Alumnus Award, said that it was one of his teachers at Buffalo Grove High School, Kevin Trow ’02, who introduced him to Monmouth.

“Mr. Trow challenged me to think about a smaller school, where I could experience more,” said Sye.

After his mother researched Trow’s suggestion, Sye scheduled a visit and got “the feeling” when he pulled up to campus.

“I still get this feeling every time I pass the baseball fields off (U.S.) 34 as I pull into town,” he said.

One of the award recipients who followed Sye to the podium was Dick Yahnke ’66, who received the Distinguished Alumnus Award.

Before Yahnke became a vice president for John Deere Co., he was contemplating college – although neither of his parents had completed high school – but he had just $6 to his name.

“All people possess greatness. It’s up to us to help them see it.” Brig. Gen. Chris Lawson ’88

Enter Keith Follett. If that name’s not familiar, this one surely is – Sam Thompson. Follett, who was Yahnke’s teacher and coach, was the son-in-law of the legendary Monmouth philosophy professor.

“He told me I should consider Monmouth College, and that he would help me get there,” said Yahnke.

Freeing the possible

Yahnke, who would later serve on the College’s Board of Trustees for 25 years, enjoyed all Monmouth had to offer.

“I never let books interfere with my education,” quipped Yahnke. “But the truth is, Monmouth prepared me for a career in business” – a career in which he held a variety of management experiences in numerous marketing and manufacturing locations for John Deere, including an assignment as marketing manager for Australia and New Zealand.

Another honoree from that ceremony also remembers when times were tough, and his story proved there’s no such thing as a free lunch.

CHRIS LAWSON: Hall of Achievement inductee said, All people possess greatness. It's up to u... CHRIS LAWSON: Hall of Achievement inductee said, "All people possess greatness. It's up to us to help them see it.”“My family came from nothing,” said Brig. Gen. Chris Lawson ’88. “I remember being in school, and there were two colors for the lunch cards. The normal one was blue, and the ones for students who were in the free lunch program (because of their family’s circumstances) were pink. I remember running to the lunchroom to get there before anyone else so that no one could see I had the pink card.”

If only they could see him now. Roughly 45 years after those lunchroom days, Lawson was inducted into the Hall of Achievement, the highest honor that Monmouth bestows upon its graduates.

During his acceptance speech, Lawson offered the moral to that story, which also serves as a multi-word version of what makes Monmouth College wonderful and meaningful.

“All people possess greatness,” he said. “It’s up to us to help them see it.”

Monmouth President Clarence Wyatt had several speaking opportunities during the weekend, and at the close of the Alumni Impact Awards, he told the honored guests, “It is you who honor us as an institution.”

Greek life and athletics

Wyatt was back at the Mellinger Commons podium the next morning to speak at the Fraternity and Sorority Hall of Fame induction ceremony.

“In a lot of places, Greek life has strayed from where it’s supposed to be,” he said. “This isn’t one of ’em. Monmouth College does Greek life right.”

John Courson ’64, Don “Mac” McKinley ’50 and Hilary Hawkinson Stott ’07 were then inducted. When presenting Courson, her longtime family friend, former Monmouth chaplain the Rev. Dr. Teri Ott said: “John is the kind of leader that we need more of today. He has the moral character that is sorely missing today.”

Courson was a Monmouth student for just one year, completing his education in Colorado so his parents could afford to buy a house.

“I soon found out that everything I’d learned at Monmouth was portable,” he said.

“We listened to each other and we helped each other. We were always striving to do better and to be better. We were striving to make Monmouth College proud of us.” Don “Mac” McKinley

McKinley, a founding father of the College’s Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter, picked up on Wyatt’s theme of doing Greek life right.

“SigEp provided a feeling of security and belonging,” he said of the fraternity chapter that was founded May 23, 1948. “We listened to each other and we helped each other. We were always striving to do better and to be better. We were striving to make Monmouth College proud of us.”

Earlier that morning, former Fighting Scot standouts Michael Blodgett ’11, Kendra James Peurach ’08 and Luke Reschke ’09 were inducted into the M Club Hall of Fame.

Reschke became a nine-time All-American sprinter, but not before learning an important lesson early on after he’d fallen short of his goal.

“If you want to be an All-American, you have to go out and take it,” he said. “They don’t just hand them out.”

Reschke also shared the story about his decision to return to football as a senior after not playing since high school. The defensive back had to shake off some rust, and it shed pretty quickly, as each day he had to defend against future NFL quarterback Alex Tanney ’11 and his talented receiving corps, which included Blodgett.

“I remember that I told Coach (Kari) Shimmin that I wanted jersey No. 3. She said no one had it. That was the last box that Monmouth checked.” Kendra James Peurach

Peurach described how a visit to Monmouth checked most of her boxes as a prospective student. However, there was one box still to go.

“I remember that I told Coach (Kari) Shimmin that I wanted jersey No. 3,” said Peurach, who went on to slam 1,347 kills, good for fourth on Monmouth’s career list. “She said no one had it. That was the last box that Monmouth checked.”

Fresh off helping her Fulton High School team reach the Elite Eight, Peurach was one of Shimmin’s prize recruits – along with her presenter and lifelong friend, setter Colleen Wilkin ’08. The longtime Monmouth coach was more than willing to accommodate the request.

“If anybody had had that No. 3 jersey, they wouldn’t have had it the next year,” Shimmin said with a laugh.

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