Return To Evergreen
Over 270 alumni and students attended the Second Annual Return to Evergreen event on Oct. 19. Among the speakers and seminar leaders were Maia Bellon (’91), the director of the Department of Ecology for Washington State, Craig Chance (’81), a senior vice president at Columbia Bank, and Dan Black (’91) a lead developer account manager at Xbox.
Black led a seminar called Changing the World Through Gaming, which filled the Seminar II room almost to capacity with alumni, current students, emeriti, and even high-schoolers and middle-schoolers. “I love to see in the eyes of people who might come here, or are here already, going, ‘Oh, ok there is a light at the end of the tunnel. There is something good after this. It’s not just a liberal arts education that I will never get a job with’,” commented Black. “There are examples of career paths and a room full of people that have had careers coming out of Evergreen, and I think that is a good thing.”
POSTPONING THE RETURN
Return to Evergreen was originally scheduled for June 1 of last year, but was rescheduled because of the Student Support Services Staff Union’s strike and picket line last year on May 28.
“We couldn’t predict how things were going to go, so we decided to cancel,” said Todd Sprague, Evergreen’s executive director of college relations and communications. “We wanted to be fair to people who came, to make sure we could deliver what we thought we could deliver to them.”
Several speakers that were scheduled to seminar at the Return to Evergreen in June, including John Stocks (‘81), Brian Rainville (’90), and Ray Goforth (‘95), said that they were not going to speak at the event until the strike was resolved in favor of the union, which may have pressured the college to reschedule the event.
While all three speakers were not listed to speak at the rescheduled Return to Evergreen Event, Sprague commented that it wasn’t an intentional change, and that there were calendar issues trying to schedule alumni around the new event.
Sprague concluded that even though the event was rescheduled, the event was made stronger because of it. “We had but on the 40th anniversary before this, so we learned the system and processes,” he said. “We were more actively engaged with students this time. But we put on at least as strong or a stronger event because we had more time to do it well.”
BEHIND THE SCENES
“Students are future alumni. Alumni are former students. You are all the same people. It just depends when we are looking at you on the continuum of life,” said R.J. Burt, who has been a part of the Alumni Programs at Evergreen since 2006.
Burt said the alumni department focused on connecting current students to alumni to the event, and that philosophy was a driving force behind the Evergreen-styled event.
“Traditional institutions (I’ve been to two of them, and I’ve worked at a very large traditional institution), their alumni reunions are wonderful things. They involve athletic football games and beer tents and people coming in by class, with their big class buttons. The band plays, the mascot marches, and that is all wonderful stuff. That was a big part of that experience for those schools. And alumni love that.”
“It isn’t the experience of an Evergreen student,” Burt continued. “What we are trying to do is reflect on what that experience was, for the first 40 years of this institution. Listen very carefully to as many alumni as we can, about how that experience benefited them. And then present programming that echoes that incredible experience. So that is what this is about, and that is why we don’t call it the ‘Evergreen Alumni Reunion’. We don’t call it that, because it brings a whole different image to mind.”
Alumni’s Favorite “Greener’ Moments
“My parents, and my father especially, didn’t quite get what I was doing. And a project we were doing was called the “Experimental Structures” project. We got about an acre and a half, off Overhulse, and we convinced the school that we were going to build this experimental structure, which would be made out of recyclable materials. We designed it, and we were tearing down old barns and old buildings. Somehow, one of the television stations found out about what we were doing, and came down and they did this film of us, unloading all this recycled stuff. And I remember my mother saying, “Your father was watching the news just before we went to bed, and you guys were on T.V., and his only response was, ‘He’s paying tuition to tear down buildings?’”
“I remember when we called off school for a couple of days to have a teach-in on what was the best way to run the academic curriculum. These were the early days of Evergreen, and it was a great opportunity for all of us students to weigh in on how the education was working for you. I don’t remember the outcome that much, but it was the style that then, finding things that were important enough to turn the entire Evergreen communities attention to. We filled the library up, both floors.”
“When I started here in September of 1972, within the first month, there was an all campus retreat. I’m talking about all of the faculty – all the staff, the president, the vice president, everybody. We went to Millersylvania State Park, and we divided into groups, so that there would be an administrative person, a faculty person, a clerical person, a maintenance person, in these groups. What struck me was that they were asking my opinion. I had been working for other hierarchies before, and nobody had ever asked me for my opinion on how the college should be run, and I was so surprised. I can’t even remember what I said, and I had only been here for just a short time, but it told me how very different this college was from any other place I had been.”
by Ray Still and Gus Sampaio