Story by Barry McNamara / Photos by Kent Kriegshauser  |  Published June 11, 2024

A Monmouth Sampler

Golden Scots get a taste of their transformed alma mater during event-filled weekend June 6-9.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – One of the meal options for the 78 Golden Scots who returned to Monmouth College June 6-9 was Friday’s “Taste of Monmouth,” where the alumni from 45 years ago and longer sampled such fare as pulled chicken sliders, elote, sparkling lemonade and mini cannoli.

Really, the entire Golden Scots Celebration could’ve been called “Taste of Monmouth,” as the alumni were treated to a variety of lectures, tours and activities that allowed them to sample the College as it is today.

Check out the Golden Scots media home page for more pictures and videos.

One local establishment – the Maple City Restaurant – holds a special place in the heart of John Courson ’64, part of the 60th reunion class. The homestyle Main Street eatery was Courson’s first stop in town as a freshman after he got off the train from Colorado with a pair of foot lockers and two suitcases.

“It’s one of my favorite restaurants in America,” said Courson, who in 1960 then made his way to campus, where he said he was the first student given keys to a room in the brand-new Graham Hall.


A fresh take on Monmouth

Teaching the history of when the Golden Scots’ alma mater added new facilities such as Graham Hall was the objective of Jeff Rankin’s Friday talk, subtitled “Monmouth College’s Changing Landscape.” The retired College historian noted that during a 12-year span around the turn of the 21st century, Monmouth spent $120 million on building projects and to expand the campus.

“The campus is incredible. The transformation from when we were students is magnificent.” – Mark Goodman


“This isn’t the same campus it was in the 1960s,” noted Chuck Rassieur ’60, as a campus tour made its first stop at the Center for Science and Business, the $42 million facility that opened in 2013.

“This isn’t the same campus it was in 1996, when I graduated,” said the tour’s leader, development officer Michael Blaesing.

SEEING THE SITES: A campus tour departs from Bowers Hall on Saturday morning. SEEING THE SITES: A campus tour departs from Bowers Hall on Saturday morning. Given the option of a golf cart for the tour or setting out on foot, Damaris Blansfield, a friend of Kristina Azbell ’79, said, “I’m going to walk. That’s what we just learned” from the prior Saturday morning session, “Wellness and Movement,” led by kinesiology instructor Jen Braun.

On that first stop at the Center for Science and Business, Braun opened up the College’s greenhouse, telling the tour group, “This is our hidden treasure.”

A few stops later, the group was at Dahl Chapel and Auditorium, where some of the more senior alums recalled attending daily chapel.

“What were the consequences if you missed?” asked Susan Helton Haley ’74.

“I don’t know. I always showed up,” replied Mary Bailey Marshall ’64.

Daily chapel might’ve been gone by the time Haley was a student, but the hill behind Wallace Hall was still there, with no steps yet installed to break up its steep slope.

“I remember one year, there was an ice storm,” she said. “We didn’t go to class. We just stayed at our window and laughed at all the people trying to make it up the hill.”


A fresh taste of Monmouth

The morning before, the Golden Scots were driven to the College’s Educational Farm and Garden. At the farm, biology professor Eric Engstrom told the group that “nutritious and delicious” eggs, blueberries and honey are the main products sold by the summer crew of students at the local farmers market.

STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE: Chuck Rassieur '60 samples some honey from the bees housed at the Monmouth College Educationa... STRAIGHT FROM THE SOURCE: Chuck Rassieur '60 samples some honey from the bees housed at the Monmouth College Educational Garden. One of the attractions of the farm visit was the opportunity to pick blueberries right off the bush and eat them.

“Oh my gosh, these are good,” said Cathy Blake Trent ’70. “You can’t beat that.”

It wasn’t Trent’s only taste of fresh produce.

“The young man in charge of the asparagus took me over to where it was and snapped off a stalk,” she said the next day. “I ate it raw, and it was fabulous.”

Asked about earning extra credit for their summer roles, Jaydon Wilbon ’25 replied, “No, but we get personal extra credit. It’s a lot of great experience.”

Later on Friday morning, the Golden Scots heard from four Fighting Scots coaches and from another longtime coach, Director of Athletics Roger Haynes ’82, who’s nearing Golden Scot status himself.

“How do you find another Caitlin Clark to go to Monmouth?” Rassieur asked women’s basketball coach Michelle Decoud.

Decoud replied that building relationships with high school and club coaches was a major step in the process.

Haynes highlighted some athlete successes, including national sack leader Anthony Cikauskas ’26 from the football team and record-setting swimmer Cally Tate ’26, who had spoken earlier in the morning to the Golden Scots about how quickly she’s taken to handling bees at the garden and farm.

“I enjoyed talking with the coaches on Friday morning,” said Tom Rezner ’64, who said he served as the de facto track coach his sophomore year in school, assisting Moose Corgnati in his only year leading the program. “I asked a couple questions, and Haynes had the answers.”

After finishing in the third quarter of his 800-student class in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, Rezner came to Monmouth and finished “in the top 15 or 20%” before getting in on the ground floor of Carl Sandburg College in 1966, teaching there for 12 years before starting a career in industry.


A ’65 freshman’s take on Monmouth

One of Saturday’s programs was retired veterinarian Lou Herrin ’69 discussing his collection of animal skulls – including, to name a few, a wallaby, a hedgehog and an armadillo – which he donated to the College in 1996. As he told stories related to the collection, Herrin drew plenty of laughs before tugging on the heartstrings.

SKULL SESSION: Lou Herrin '69 discussed his collection, which he donated to his alma mater in 1996. SKULL SESSION: Lou Herrin '69 discussed his collection, which he donated to his alma mater in 1996. In the process of acquiring the skull of Mike the baboon, Herrin said he had to drive the frozen corpse across Peoria, Illinois. Since Mike was frozen in a sitting position, Herrin placed him in the front seat of his car, but then he realized that, in the days of full-service gas stations, he needed a fill-up.

“I looked up, and gas was going everywhere,” said Herrin. “I think the gas station attendant thought I had the world’s ugliest girlfriend.”

But Herrin also became emotional when talking about how essential his college education was.

“My postscript on all this is the value of an education at a small college,” said Herrin, who dedicated his collection to the late biology professor David Allison, who not only bailed out Herrin out of jail in his first few days on campus but provided a transformational experience later on. “Dr. Allison invited me on a study-abroad trip to Costa Rica, and I can’t tell you how much that trip changed my life.”

“Dr. Allison invited me on a study-abroad trip to Costa Rica, and I can’t tell you how much that trip changed my life.” – Lou Herrin


Another member of the Class of 1969, Mark Goodman, also went into the medical field. He said what he enjoyed about being back on campus this year was “meeting the people – the ones I knew and the ones I really didn’t know – and how gracious and friendly they all are. When you’re in college, you have cliques, so to have that chance now to meet new people is special. … The campus is incredible. The transformation from when we were students is magnificent.”

His wife, Elsa, added: “The athletic facility is phenomenal. The campus is so beautiful, and everyone is so friendly. I can’t get over how beautifully maintained the grounds are. And there are plenty of places to sit and enjoy the scenery.”

Asked his favorite part of the weekend, Courson replied: “Being back again. I love coming to Monmouth College. And my wife (Marcia) might enjoy being here even more than I do.”

The most senior alum in attendance was 97-year-old Ralph Whiteman, a member of the Class of 1952.

“You are an institution here,” Barb Trubeck Clark ’66 told Whiteman, just prior to Rankin’s talk on the College’s evolution.

“Maybe I belong in an institution,” replied Whiteman, in his typically self-effacing manner. BREAKING BREAD: The Golden Scots had plenty of opportunities to gather and socialize, including Friday evening&#3... BREAKING BREAD: The Golden Scots had plenty of opportunities to gather and socialize, including Friday evening's progressive dinner.

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