Reunion Weekend: It’s About Time, It’s About Space, It’s About… Class!

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Reunion Weekend is all about what Davidson alumni have in common: A wonderful place in a wonder-filled time of our lives. And what a time and place Reunion Weekend is, for coming back and sharing present love and laughter about past moments sublime and intervals hilarious, good food and drink and late-night moments reminiscing about that time…. well, you remember.

One of Reunion’s richest offerings in recent years, “Back to School,” has also helped me see our commonalities (and our particularities) more universally as well. Here are three examples from recent Alumni Reunion 2014 “Back to School” classes (“All the rigor, none of the tests!”):

• William Ferris ’64 gave a multimedia tour of his book The Storied South. Ferris’s friend, the late Eudora Welty, graces the cover of his book of interviews with scholars, writers, musicians, photographers and painters from his own long career, storied in itself from Ole Miss to Chapel Hill. The book includes a companion CD of original interviews and a DVD of original film. Ferris’s Reunion Weekend class was so popular, he gave it again the next hour to overflow “students”!

As old-school as the presentation felt in all the best ways, it also brought the best of technology to bear in a suitably fully wired Chambers classroom, too.  “Technology moves the concept of what a book is to a whole new level. It gives a whole new meaning to the classroom, too. I backed into this (interest in music) in a non-academic way, learning to play guitar in the basement of the KA house here—and a lot of people never forgave me,” he said to laughter.

Ferris, a former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, said the liberal arts perspective is as important as ever. “You build that in the classroom. There are very few places that do that as well as and on the scale of Davidson.”

• Laura McCarthy ’94 offered an entrepreneurial look at her personal and professional passion: teaching yoga to homeless, incarcerated and/or addicted men in the Charlotte region. With a history degree, a fine arts degree and a working artist’s studio, McCarthy said she came to a place in life of lines blurred with underlying purpose, where yoga and critical analysis of demographic numbers on incarceration and addiction led her to begin offering yoga for male populations in trouble.

“Being entrepreneurial has gone viral,” said the whiteboard behind her, a quote President Carol Quillen had recently used in her Huffington Post blog. McCarthy’s yoga business Svaraj has gone viral, recently gaining official non-profit IRS status and currently offering yoga at some eight different settings per week.

“Body and breath will tell you where your mind is functioning from; below the level of the mind is the objective functioning of neurology,” McCarthy said. She repeated an acronym familiar in her work with Swaraj, which means “self-rule.” “SOBER stands for Stop, Observe, Breath, Expand, Respond…. One of my favorite days was when I came in for the weekly class, and one of the prisoners in recovery said to me, ‘That breathing s— really works, Laura!”

Sheri Reynolds ’89

• Sheri Reynolds ’89, a successful author early and often since graduation, had a packed house rolling on the floor—literally, we ran out of chairs—at the ribald passages she read from her latest book, The Homespun Wisdom of Myrtle T. Cribb. Why, it even came with a parental warning (the class, not the book)!

It’s notable that the three classes I attended were offered by different vintages and varietals of Davidson alumni, yet I had something in common with each. For instance, my mom and Bill Ferris share the native state of Mississippi, and he knew my grandfather. As for Laura, like her I’m a yogi, too, and I asked her to go to a local yoga class with me the next day. And Sheri? Oh, Sheri, you tell it, in the words of your  1995 essay of campus observances from the vantage point of the Old Well—where nearly all of us have sat, and many will again on Reunion Weekends to come:

“I didn’t know music or the woman singing. I didn’t sketch, know much about Euclid or birds. But I knew about brick, and I knew about ivy, and I knew they made a marvelous combination for the Davidson community—a foundation so secure, but a willingness to grow into ourselves, a willingness to open and thrive. And I’d listen to those church bells chiming into the night, each not separate at first, as we are, but coming together to count the time. At Davidson, we can be different, and we can still be magically joined. We can grow like ivy from the same strong roots, sprouting off anywhere as we circle the fountain, harmony in a thousand shades of green.”

 

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