The Cavalry Keeps Coming

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

Steve DuffyJune 28, 2012

Monday, June 12, marked the fifth anniversary of the announcement of what Tendaji Ganges ’71 has whimsically termed “the great interruption,” the day when the University announced the upcoming suspension of Antioch College on June 30, 2008. On June 12, 2007, all College employees were summoned to Kelly Hall in Main Building and received news that both shocked and grieved us. At home that night, while doing dishes, my other half caught me staring into some cosmic space and asked what was wrong with me. He said it was only a job; why was I acting so crazy?

I knew, though, that working at the College felt so much more than just a job. I knew how much the College had done for all those who had passed through it for decades, and even with its decades of poverty and tumult, Antioch College was an institution with a real soul. By that week’s end, hundreds of Antiochians starting talking with each other both on and off campus, as well as electronically. The Antioch masses found out we were having all-too-similar gut feelings.

One day that first week, I took an hour walk in the Glen to clear my head. I came back to find 123 new e-mails from alums. You could feel that everyone was grappling with ways to solve this huge problem.

A few days later, a teddy bear with a giant bouquet of helium balloons was delivered to the Olive Kettering Library’s circulation desk. A card was attached that said, “The Cavalry is coming!” Ellen Borgersen ’72, a tireless alumni board member, sent a symbolic message that we could soon have a cavalry of Antiochians to pull Antioch College from the abyss. It turned out other departments received similar bouquets. And indeed, less than a fortnight later was Reunion 2007—and instead of the normal 200–300 attendees, an amazing 700 people had come! It was the “cavalry’s” first wave.

And now, here it is, five years later, and on this anniversary was the start of this year’s Reunion Work Week Project.

Around 70 Antiochians came back to give the campus some wonderful sweat equity. Campus projects included work on the amphitheater, the library, and the Antioch Farm; installing waterless urinals across campus; and refinishing cabinets in the Science Building. Everyone was so busy that, even though they were happily laughing, bonding, and working, no one really had time to think about that day five years ago. Everyone was living in the current moment and working to make the future better.

About twenty or so Antiochians were in the library all week. They were painting, cleaning, helping with a collection review, and changing thousands of lighting fixtures to greener, energy-saving bulbs.

Members of the work crew are, for the most part, “the usual suspects.” Many volunteers are so stalwart, they seem like family. But we’ve got new folks, like Ben Garcia-Spitz ’06 and John Kubale ’08.

To make this Reunion Work Week extra stimulating, the current students were here as well. Antiochians of all eras seem to connect the dots with each other. Katie Wiebke ’15 spent an afternoon working on a presentation for Reunion about our non-sustainable way of life. Before you could say, “Media is the message,” Mike Kittross ’51, a world-class editor, and Michael Casselli ’87, an expert in media and graphic arts, spent quite a bit of their time being mentors to her and provided tips about text and visual presentation.

At one point this week, Victor Ayoub ’49, professor emeritus of anthropology, came in to return his interlibrary loan volumes. It was a matter of seconds before a volunteer, Kathy Huff ’67, came up to him and said, “Do you remember me? I took two courses with you!” Later that day, Pauline Segal ’83 was sitting next to Bill Houston, professor emeritus of mathematics. She tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Oh hi, Bill. I didn’t know that was you sitting next to me. I loved taking math courses with you!”

Elijah Blanton ’15, currently co-oping in the library, has been networking with both Philadelphia (Robert Hernblad ’62) and Chicago alums (Roger Huff ’69 and Kathy Huff ’67) about co-op possibilities and travels. Networking and connecting comes so naturally to Antiochians.

The total Reunion Work Project experience has to include the wonderfully whimsical poetry of Penny Storm ’65, fearless and awesome work project leader, whose muse is like the Yellow Spring—it flows 365/24/7. So let’s end this missive with some fun notes. Get your pitch pipe ready and sing along!

“Antioch College” (sung to “O Sole Mio”)

Antioch College,
We toil for you.
For work project
Is love that’s true.
Answered the question:
What can we do?
We do give money.
That helps a lot.
But lots of that,
We haven’t got.
We’ve elbow grease
To give to you
We’ve elbow grease
To give to you.

And song number two—a great song for the Antioch Cavalry.

“The Battle for Antioch” (sung to “The Battle of New Orleans”)

In 1986 the work project began
When 37 people gave their Antioch a hand
Fixing up the rooms in Rice, 400 hours in all
And at the end those 37 were tired but feeling tall.

We grabbed our tools and we all just kept a’comin’,
Cause we kept finding there were needs in very many things,
We came again and we just kept on runnin’
To Antioch College in the town of Yellow Springs.

We worked on Main Building where big shots hung around,
And then we started working on the plantings and the grounds
The theater was calling - needed lots of help and care
And Willett Hall in Birch required us to labor there.

We grabbed our tools and we all just kept a’comin’,
Cause we kept finding there were needs in very many things,
We came again and we just kept on runnin’
To Antioch College in the town of Yellow Springs.

Norment, North, Rockford, Spalt, Sculptor Annex and more
We painted all the insides from the ceiling to the floor
Built info kiosk in Red Square so folks could hear about
Things happening on campus and they didn’t needing to shout.

We grabbed our tools and we all just kept a’comin’,
Cause we kept finding there were needs in very many things,
We came again and we just kept on runnin’
To Antioch College in the town of Yellow Springs.

We painted dorms, and the amphitheater too
Fixed the seats, rails, masonry before that job was through
Replaced bad bricks in Red Square and we sold quite a few
Internet wired Spault which was something new to do.

We grabbed our tools and we all just kept a’comin’,
Cause we kept finding there were needs in very many things,
We came again and we just kept on runnin’
To Antioch College in the town of Yellow Springs.

We worked on ev’ry building ’cept for poor old Mills
Painted insides and the outs, fixed windows and the sills,
We built decks, shelves, sheds, picnic tables, fences too
We even counted all the trees, that’s what we had to do.

We grabbed our tools and we all just kept a’comin’,
Cause we kept finding there were needs in very many things,
We came again and we just kept on runnin’
To Antioch College in the town of Yellow Springs.

We’ve pulled out poison ivy so you don’t have to itch
And that’s one job we have to say that’s really quite a bitch
Fixed gutters, ceiling tiles, so long graffiti
Have helped to make our Antioch a better place to be.

We grabbed our tools and we all just kept a’comin’,
Cause we kept finding there were needs in very many things,
We came again and we just kept on runnin’
To Antioch College in the town of Yellow Springs.

When they closed us down, Birch Manor was our key
We worked on McGregor, furniture for faculty
Pennell House is lovely now, please go and see
Worked at Antiochiana, housing our history.

We grabbed our tools and we all just kept a’comin’,
Cause we kept finding there were needs in very many things,
We came again and we just kept on runnin’
To Antioch College in the town of Yellow Springs.