Spring 2007

Welcome Home

“Welcome Home” is adapted from Geraldine Hammond’s address to fellow Class of 1931 members on the occasion of their 50-year reunion in 1981. The award-winning English professor died Jan. 14 in Wichita.

Do you realize that we lived among priceless antiques like Model A Fords with rumble seats, Buick Sixes, Studebaker Flying Clouds, streetcars, sets of dishes from the Friday night movie house drawings and even clothes that have been in and out of style at least 20 times since our graduation from the University of Wichita back in 1931?

We also lived with and learned from a lot of people who are now only building names to this year’s graduating seniors: dear Dr. Clough, who gave a 10-minute quiz in Lit at the beginning of every class and who invariably talked steadily through the whole 10 minutes; Dean Neff, who tried single-handedly and in vain every fall to hold back the tide of a football victory walkout; Dean Hekhuis, who for every class put on the board an elaborate and complicated diagram — and seldom referred to them at all; George Wilner, who took over the role of the nurse in Romeo and Juliet when illness struck down the actress at the last minute; Dean Hildebrand, who began every class with a joke he had written out on yellow note paper just for us. Dean Neff, Grace Wilkie, George Wilner and our own Walt Duerksen have all become buildings to other people, but not to us.   

(I have always wished someone would name a building after Hugo Wall so the campus would have a Wall Hall.)

You and I knew almost all the people for whom streets, scholarships, rooms and centers are named: Elizabeth Sprague, Clayton Staples, Hazel Branch, Alice Isely, Worth Fletcher, Flora Clough and others.

We remember Pop Wright, Eve Hinton, Lloyd McKinley, Mary Haymaker, handsome John Rydjord, Gladys Taggart, Dean Hoare, absent-minded William Mikesell, whom his wife had to check on when he was dressing to go out for the evening lest she find later that he had put on his pajamas and gone to bed by mistake, Dean Thurlow Lieurance and his lovely “Waters of Minnetonka.”

And President Foght. Do you remember the time when he was giving one of his convocation talks and was recounting events on his recent trip to Japan, one of which was his partaking of the famous Japanese baths? A maid came into the room, he told us, looked at him and passed out.

(I may have made that up, but I don’t think so!)

Well, so we had the Jinx, the stone football, the Bucket, the new Science Hall, where they forgot to pipe gas and water to the labs, good old Fiske Hall that has held almost everything in its time and is today the oldest — and probably the best built — building on campus, Henrion Gymnasium, home of all our indoor sports — or most of them anyway — and home of our convocations, even our own graduation, and Fairmount Hall, which burned down in 1929.

We had Thanksgiving-eve bonfires, nightshirt parades, sorority and fraternity feuds, friendships, politics and parties, wonderful May Days with May Queens, Maypoles and Maypole winders (and real rain, of course) — and then at the end of our collegiate years, commencement. It’s all there, and if we had time enough we could put it together and bring it all back because in a very real sense everything still exists in some form or other.

The past is necessarily part of today or there is no continuity. So you see, what we were and what we did was part of the structure that is the present institution. The faculty affected us and we affected one another. Nothing was or is ever too small to be part of a greater pattern.

And institutions are not manufactured but grow out of the kinds of people who lived them. You and I can be proud of this university and of our very real part in its growth toward greatness.

I know I have left out your favorite memories of your favorite people, places and events, so you have to fill in. A lot has happened to the institution and to us in the half century since we left here. But even so I don’t feel old, and you don’t look old. We had good times. We did good things. We had good friends, and now here we are again. So welcome home for a little while.


Welcome Home

“Welcome Home” is adapted from Geraldine Hammond’s address to fellow Class of 1931 members on the occasion of their 50-year reunion in 1981. The award-winning English professor died Jan. 14 in Wichita.