The Gifts that Keep Giving

A Periodic Column by Steve Duffy ’77, Library Circulation Specialist

Steve Duffy Fellow Antiochians and friends! Happy New Year from the busy Olive Kettering Library and a busy Antioch College campus during the library’s final “Super Sunday!” How amazing it is to be already heading to the end of Fall 2012! The holidays, the quarter’s end, the New Year, and a first national co-op experience are rapidly approaching for some fairly new Antiochians.

As an end of the quarter gift, the library has added extra hours onto the end of the library’s Sunday hours, and may be also adding some extra spoons of coffee in the community coffee pot as some folks need a little extra energy to finish their academic pursuits.

Four years ago around this time, the campus was depressingly dark, dormant, and desolate with the exceptions being a large but lonesome library, the Antioch Review, WYSO and Glen Helen. Nonetheless there was also an abundance of hope as to what the possibilities could be. Now, in stages, much is being refurbished and those imagined possibilities are becoming realities. For example, this past weekend some final major electrical work was finished to bring some of the labs in the Science Building back online. Maybe the next Mario Capecchi, Steven Jay Gould, or Andrea Turkalo will soon be hanging out in these new state-of-the-art labs. Even a simple constitutional through campus during a cold December day at dusk finds North Hall, the Coretta Scott King Center, and other buildings warmly lighting a dark early winter’s eve. These lighted windows seem warmer and more festive than any seasonal lighting. There is a story in every one of those North Hall windows!

Moreover, the horseshoe near North’s dining hall at intervals is filled with the sensuous smells of garlic, curry, cumin, and many other delicious culinary aromatics. And that formerly lonesome library is full of students and others during all hours of the day! All so different from the same season four years ago!

Thanks to all of YOUR help, with alumni chapter organizing, phone banking, fund-raising, student recruitment, Volunteer Work Project, and other forms of grassroots activities, Antioch College is becoming an ever more vibrant place. This feels like a great gift. It is one that sometimes may not seem to be the ultimately perfect gift, which we imagined, but nonetheless it is a great one that will keep giving. Sometimes we may not immediately appreciate the gifts that are given us.

A few years ago when Valentine’s Day came around, my significant other gave me a present, which at first I didn’t totally appreciate. When I opened the box it was a pair of “Neos,” which are tall, boot-like things that slip over one’s street shoes. My first internal bristling response was that I did not perceive that to be anywhere near close to what I thought of on my list of what was romantic. However, after some very snowy and slush-filled Ohio days and comments from others like, “Where did you get those crazy cool boots?” I began to realize that indeed what I had been given was really romantic in a practical way and was a gift that kept giving—especially during the worst of Ohio winters.

Antioch College feels a little to me like those Valentine’s Day “Neos.” It may at times not be totally what I had imagined, but it is a great gift and one that will keep giving as people start to win their “victories for humanity.” In some ways it is actually more wonderful and diverse than I have could have imagined, but know it’s not yet perfect. Could it be because humans are so imperfect? Oh well, isn’t that always the collective destination—perfection and utopia? All aboard! The journey is the destination too!

In between finishing up coursework, there is much chatter about solidifying co-ops. Elijah Blanton ’15, Community Council president, seems to be heading to New Orleans to work for the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal, a Unitarian-based organization that will network with different New Orleans churches to promote racial mediation and understanding. (By the way, while Elijah is on co-op, Eric Rhodes ’16 will act as Community Council president; Comcil members are elected in pairs, so when someone goes on co-op there is an instant alternate.) Seth Kaplan ’15, may be also going to New Orleans to work with the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

Jenn Wheeler ’15 may be going to Google. Rachael Smith ’15 will be working in the Bahamas on Andros Island with International Field Studies where she will be helping Ohio school children learn marine ecology and experiential education. Eros X ’15, has the possibility of working for Prometheus Radio Project in Philadelphia (created by Antioch alum “Pete Tridish, Petri dish” a.k.a. Dylan Wrynn ’91), which is helping hundreds of local groups get ready to file applications at the FCC for new community radio stations. Guy Mathews ’15 will be in New York City working at the prestigious Park Avenue law firm, Outten and Golden, who are advocates for workplace fairness and employment law. Nargees Jumahan ’15 will be going to work at a Navajo reservation in Arizona.

Like co-ops in the past, some are paid and some are internships with or without stipends and with or without room and board. In Nargees’ case, her co-op would provide a wealth of cross-cultural experience but nothing monetarily.

Through the advocacy of Maya Nye ’99, resident life manager, the co-op education department, an Antioch alumni chapter, and the AOC (Antiochians of Courage for Diversity) has been engaged for an assist to make Nargees’ co-op a reality. The AOC is a group of Antiochians who wish to strengthen Antioch College’s support for alumni and students of color(s). There is a first AOC fund; perhaps others could be started. If there’s a dimension missing, perhaps a way to fund that gap might be in order.

A while ago, the AOC concept may have had more of an Afro-centric twist, but like much in America, color now has more nuances and shades than many of us older folk, like me, might ever have imagined. However, this is also to say that we shouldn’t forget that perhaps those older problems still plague us! This first AOC fund (Alumni of Color Fund; under the “Antiochians of Courage for Diversity” umbrella) was created after the 2006 Reunion and then re-created in a parallel way at the 2010 Reunion.

It is a subset of the Annual Fund and several people have been contributing. The AOC affinity group itself is a travelling virtual affinity group type of alumni chapter of like-minded Antiochians. There is finally enough in this first fund to start doing some meaningful activities.

Getting Nargees to this Arizona co-op is a first meaningful use of this fund. That Nargees, an Afghani-American, is going to work at a Navajo reservation makes me wonder if there will be some learning experiences in every direction. Perhaps Nargees will share her co-op story with us when she returns and share any new accompanying wisdom. And perhaps everyone else will share their co-op stories, just as we always did. I am hoping everyone who goes on co-op (hint, hint) will mail us postcards to “transient-mode” home. Once we had a huge library corkboard with postcards from world-travelling Antiochians, whether it was co-op or Antioch Education Abroad.

Any seasoned Antiochian knows that co-ops are also gifts that keep giving. At an event at the Coretta Scott King Center a few years ago, I heard Jim Rose ’56 talk about how he could remember in perfect sequence every one of his ten co-ops. Soon thereafter, as a test, I made it a Facebook status question and within one day found 28 people from varying decades listed every one of their co-ops in order. Those things we all learned from co-ops about work and even ourselves are deep and meaningful experiences that keep giving back in the classroom or laboratory, or even in everyday life, many years later. They are really gifts that keep giving.

As we finish this old year and head into a new one, perhaps you might think about whether you can provide any sort of gift and even one that keeps giving. Of course, the simplest and most straightforward is a gift to the Annual Fund that sustains the College on an everyday basis. However, maybe you can also help give the sort of gift that keeps giving in other ways. Know of any good leads to a great co-op experience? Can you connect or reconnect someone to a local chapter? Maybe your chapter can help an Antiochian land a job or help an Antiochian when their job lands them in your neck of the woods. Know of a teenager would might be a great fit for our perpetually perfecting utopia? Can you get some friends to join any of the Volunteer Work Projects or come to Reunion? Well, there are endless possibilities.

Happy end of 2012 and a marvelous 2013 to all you far-flung Antiochians. It is only 26 weeks/ two seasons or so until Reunion! Maybe you will start planning some sojourn to Yellow Springs early. We are still somewhere between where you are and utopia, and amongst rolling green summer hills. Season’s greetings, whether it be winter or summer!