100 Things We Love About Denison
100 Things We Love About Denison
The Snagel at the Bandersnatch
“The what at the what?” A bagel, perfectly toasted and topped with smooth cream cheese and a healthy sprinkle of brown sugar, is just one of the eclectic late-night snack menu items you can find at the Bandersnatch, Denison’s student-managed coffee house. A favorite hang-out for many, the Bandersnatch is a hopping place to stop for live music (from open-mic and jazz nights to up-and-coming singer-songwriters like Mike Perkins ’98), poetry-readings, or even just a milkshake, pizza bagel, or peanut butter-smothered waffle with friends. It began in 1968 in Colwell House, and in 1988 moved to its current location in Huffman Hall, where its walls are now covered with abstract student graffiti and artwork loosely centered on an Alice in Wonderland theme.
The Compost Heap
On Pearl Street, behind facilities headquarters, is a giant pile of waste. That heap of compost is made up of what folks call “preconsumer food waste,” which basically means it’s all the food prepared on campus that isn’t dished out onto someone’s plate. That pile of leftover meatloaf, mashedup bread, and chocolate pudding eventually decomposes along with leaves, grass, and twigs collected from campus. It’s a recipe for fertilizer– 43,000 pounds annually– which is then recycled back to campus flower beds. So all that garbage actually makes Denison prettier. We love that old heap of decaying food (though we can’t speak for the folks who work downwind of it).
The idea behind Chowder Hour is to give faculty and staff the chance to show off their scholarly expertise and their culinary skills. Several times during the semester, a couple dozen hungry folks get together in the Gilpatrick Center to hear a presentation by a member of the faculty or staff and dine on a meal prepared by another. Just this year, we’ve heard about streaking in cultural politics in the post-Vietnam era while dining on Tunisian chicken and vegetarian dishes from northern Africa, and we’ve feasted on Latin American food while hearing details of a recent service learning trip to Nicaragua.
Steve Carell ’84
Although these days we know him best as the cringe-inducingly awkward Michael Scott on The Office, some will always see Carell as one of the many funny guys in Burpee’s Seedy Theatrical Company, Denison’s improvisational comedy troupe.
Hop on your bike, run down to the Granville Milling Company, slip onto the bike path, and you can ride more than 36 miles of paths all the way to Alexandria, Johnstown, and Newark. O.K, not the most thrilling of destinations, but a great way to get off campus and pedal away those Whit’s frozen custard calories.
From poets to biologists, chemists to psychology Ph.D.s, Denison faculty are great at what they do; they care about the students they teach; “and they actually know our names,”says Alison Waldman ’10.
You’re on Facebook. So are your friends, maybe even your parents and grandparents. Denison is too, and, since last summer, nearly 4,000 students, alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the college have been logging on to keep up with campus news, share their favorite Denison memories and stories, even argue about which Mexican food joint should be in Slayter.
That great day in May
when seniors officially
become college grads.
Our, um, Mascot?
Over the years, Denison students and faculty have tried to adopt a formal mascot. Something beyond “Big Red.” Something tangible. Back in 1953, Rix Yard, chair of the physical education department, suggested Indians (which became official into the 1970s, when Denison went back to Big Red deeming the mascot to be offensive to Native Americans). Since then, other folks have suggested Bulldogs, Cardinals, Bears, even Devils and Dragons. But the closest thing Denison has ever come to adopting a mascot that stands up, walks around, and falls down on purpose, is the Big Red Buzzard, which appears every now and again at events. Still, even that poor buzzard doesn’t have a catchy name, and must perform his (or her, who knows who’s under there?) self-humiliating stunts to calls of, “Hey bird! Over here!”
Every couple of years, a group of students band together to encourage the campus community to take a hard look at our missing mascot. This year, they’re at it again, having created a Facebook page asking students, faculty, and staff to place their votes for a new “unofficial” mascot. As of press time, we were still considered Big Red.
What a Weekend
Think of Big Red Weekend as Homecoming on steroids. That was the idea behind combining Parents Weekend and Homecoming to create a weekend that highlights all that Denison has to offer. Launched in 2008, the three-day fall event is for everyone–parents, alumni and friends of Denison, says Steve Crawford, director of alumni relations. “It gives students a chance to show off to their parents and lets alumni see what’s new.” Although events change from year to year, a few are annual affairs. The Varsity D Association holds its Hall of Fame induction ceremony and visitors get the campus low-down while attending “Coffee with the President.” Another fan favorite is the Department of Music Showcase, which introduces audience members to the music–from jazz to orchestral–of several student ensembles.
Pinning and Serenades
Pinning and serenade ceremonies have been lost on many campuses around the country, but after a respite of more than two decades, the romance is back at Denison. Here’s how it works: The man, a fraternity member, formally gives his national chapter pin to his girlfriend, who wears it as a symbol of the couple’s pre-engagement. Then the couple’s closest friends create teams that organize a week-long celebration, complete with parties, costumes, and games. (They’ve been known to require the couple to dress up in each other’s clothes.) At week’s end, the teams serenade the happy couple. Old-fashioned as the tradition may be, and crazy as the celebrations have become, we’re still glad to see that, at least at Denison, chivalry is not dead.
Sure, there are plenty of students who go Greek for the social life, but fraternities and sororities make service to others a part of their mission, too. Last year it all piled up to make 7,000 hours of donated service and $37,000 raised for good causes. It’s all Greek to them.
Which Comes First–
the Cheese or the Egg?
Who doesn’t love made-to-order omelettes for Sunday brunch at Huffman? Take your pick: grilled onions, peppers, cheddar, mozzarella, mushrooms. Or load ’em all on there. The only things that are uniform from plateto- plate are the eggs. Not a bad way to start a Sunday.
After Work with Denison… Everywhere
One night each year for the last half-decade, Denisonians have been taking part in a new Big Red tradition: “After Work with Denison…Everywhere!” In more than 30 cities nationwide, Denison grads have been gathering in restaurants, inns, and bars, meeting fellow alumni, networking, and raising their glasses to the fair college on the hill. This year, “After Work” even went virtual–Denison alums Facebooked, tweeted, and photo-shared the night away.
Woody Hayes ’35
He played tackle for the Big Red and served as his team’s captain as a student, and after his stint in the Navy during World War II, Hayes accepted Denison’s head coaching offer in 1946. Despite his somewhat volatile temper, he earned his legendary status at Ohio State University, where he coached from 1951-78, earning four national championships and 13 Big Ten titles.
That’s Right, the Parking Garage
Fine. It’s kind of a crazy thing to love, but Todd Jamison, director of institutional research, said it best on Denison’s Facebook page. In response to the question “What’s your favorite spot on campus,” Jamison offered up the parking garage. He wrote: “If you have worked at another college where parking is an issue, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.” It’s true–the new parking garage, which resides under the Reese~Shackelford Common, not only makes life easier for faculty, staff, and visitors, but also, by putting cars underground, makes Denison a pedestrian friendly campus, complete with long pathways and wide-open spaces.
Four groups. Dozens of singers. Everything from gospel music to heavy metal. All without background music. That’s Denison a capella.
Those Pesky Buzzards
Denison’s hilly location among woodlands and fields and a changing climate seem to have created an ideal habitat for vultures despite the fact that, scientifically speaking, these birds do not belong in this area year-round. But it sure seems they like it here. The turkey vultures and black vultures that ominously circle campus have been a familiar sight in the Denison skies for more than 20 years. An eyesore to some and an interesting research subject for others, the uncharacteristically large population of buzzards (there were more than 400 of them at last count) inspired the name of The Roost–the campus pub–and the notorious bird is often referred to as Denison’s unofficial mascot. (See No. 9.)
The Last Week
Both melancholy and full of excitement, Senior Week acts as a buffer between final exams and commencement. Graduates-to-be experience one last dinner with the President, battle in a late-night bowling party, or just enjoy the spring weather while hanging out at Lamson Lodge.
Esprit de Corps
Denison has been recognized again this year as a top producer of Peace Corps volunteers. Right now there are 14 Denisonians serving in posts around the world and 230 DU grads have taken this less-traveled road since 1961.
That Giant Orange Thing
Love it or hate it, this sculpture, “Path,” by Alexander Liberman has been a part of the campus landscape since it was purchased back in 1973. Then-Denison president Joel Smith and Steven Rosen, professor of art history, acquired the sculpture as a complimenatry piece to the newly opened Burke Hall. Though some art critics may cringe at the thought of grimypalmed children using the sculpture as a jungle gym, it has often served that purpose for kids from the village as well as students looking for a fun photo-op.
Follow the Leader
After graduating from Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, Richard Lugar ’54 rose from a school board member and then mayor of Indianapolis to a U.S. senator from Indiana in 1977, a position he still holds today. Fifteen years ago, Denison established the Richard G. Lugar Program in Politics and Public Service for students who are interested in government, public service, Congressional internships, and the formulation of U.S. foreign policy. The program also brings former members of Congress to campus every other year.
Students in the program can pursue one of two tracks. The first combines coursework in American politics and public policy with a Congressional internship in the House or Senate. Track Two focuses on international affairs for students with an aptitude for foreign languages and an interest in fields like international security, homeland defense, and foreign affairs.
R.I.P. on Sunset Hill
If your blood truly runs red and white, there’s no need to leave the fair college on the hill. Ever. At least not if you’ve been a Denison president, a longtime professor, or a spouse or child thereof. Denison has one of the few remaining college cemeteries in Ohio, and there are more than 300 vacancies remaining in the graveyard called Sunset Hill, just behind Smith Hall. A few students are buried there, too, like Isaac Iambs, who died in 1846, and Harman Montgomery, 1848, whose graves on the original college campus south of Granville were moved to the new site in the winter of 1859. With them also came the grave of the second president of (then) Granville College, Jonathan Going, whose formidable monument was carried up the hill by oxen, and became prized in the early 20th century as a secluded spot for student canoodling.
We love pizza buffets and ginormous bowls of salad, and we like them even better at “family dinners.” Denison finds reasons to invite the whole campus for a big feed–whether it’s picnics with the summer scholars on the Academic Quad, or the MLK celebration working lunch in Mitchell, or pasta-fueled poster sessions in Curtis where students show off their research. Thinking hard burns carbs. So bring on the tire-sized trays of cookies. Oh, and that little ice cream cart on wheels.
Career Services and
the Alumni Network
Career counselors conduct practice interviews, read over resumés and cover letters, and keep students from freaking out about their futures. Career Services even has a LinkedIn account, so Denison students can connect with grads in their field.
Art from the Ground Up
Walk inside the new Bryant Arts Center and look up. Hanging there, high on the wall, you’ll find something unexpected–the floor. When it came time to renovate the old Cleveland Hall into a new space for art and art history, the college decided on a green process, reusing as much of the old structure as possible. That decision left room for a lot of creative thinking, like displaying parts of the old floor on the wall. It’s art of the most important sort, created by generations of individual Denison students and faculty, scuffing the soles of their “sneaks” across the basketball court inside the old gym and then, decades later, drizzling paint on that same wooden floor when it became the painting studio. And just think, if you took a painting class at Denison, you had a hand in it.
Hal Holbrook ’48
His senior honors project on Mark Twain was what led Holbrook to develop his one-man show, Mark Twain Tonight, for which he won a Tony Award and an Emmy.
Laid with approximately 46,000 bricks, the distinctive pathway of red that leads from the edge of the East residential quad to the academic quad has become a photogenic landmark of campus. The walkway was first constructed in 1926 and included the building of another one of Denison’s architectural gems, the bridge that arches over President’s Drive, (nicknamed the “Bridge of Sighs” after the famous prison bridge in Venice, Italy). After decades of trying Ohio weather and thousands of sets of Denisonian feet trudging to class by way of the walkway, it had become noticeably uneven and the cause of many trips and falls. It was reconstructed and smoothed-over in the summer of 2008.
The Liberal Arts and Sciences
Yes, we know there have been attacks on the liberal arts from naysayers who think a broad curriculum doesn’t fly in a rugged economy. Frankly, we don’t buy it. The liberal arts are more relevant than ever. Here’s why: Denison students have to step up–there’s no hiding in the back of a 300- seat lecture hall, no anonymity, no flying under the radar. They’re prepared for lives of consequence by the best faculty. And learning reaches outside the classrooms, labs, and studios, into the halls where students live. The outcome is an old term that we take for granted: “well-rounded.” But consider what it means: Denison graduates can speak, write, listen, collaborate, innovate, take responsibility, problem-solve, and adapt. Americans change jobs, even careers, something like seven times during their lives–a number that seems likely to rise. The liberal arts’ broad curriculum ensures that Denison graduates have studied across disciplines, so they are not narrowly trained in one field. And when the going gets tough, the tough can go with the flow.
The Posse Program
I grew up on the streets of Humboldt Park in Chicago. My mother was an alcoholic and a drug addict, and my father left me when I was very little. I was living in a world where no one thought college was for “Humboldt Park Trash,” as my family called it. We lived on welfare and went to bed hungry at times. When the food stamps didn’t arrive, I remember eating peanut butter out of a jar with tap water for four days straight. I had a dream, and that was not only to graduate from high school, but to attend college. While all of my female cousins became pregnant and dropped out of high school, and my other cousins were not motivated to learn, I woke up every day and went to school and got straight A’s. I would do my homework in the apartment where my mother was drunk and high. She often would throw her vodka bottles at me. My aunt offered me a room in her home, so I went to live with her. Two weeks later, my grandmother, who had basically raised me, passed away while I held her hand. Two months after that, my mother overdosed and was found dead. My high school teachers were a big reason why I was able to succeed and earn a full-tuition scholarship from Denison through the Posse Program, which assists promising kids who wouldn’t otherwise make it to college without financial help. Because of that scholarship and hard work, I am the first in my family to go to college.
The First Warm Day
of Spring Semester
There are some years when winter feels like it just won’t quit. Snow over spring break. Bitter temperatures through March. Chapped lips. But it all really just makes the first warm day of spring semester that much more welcome. And boy, when it comes, the whole feeling of this place shifts. Students are out throwing frisbees on the Quad, the lacrosse players are practicing on Deeds Field, and the windows of the residential halls are wide open, usually with music pouring out onto campus. The girls don sundresses and flip-flops re-emerge. It’s a glimpse of the weather to come, and a precursor to the joy of finals week.
The campus pub, located on the third floor of Slayter Union, was installed in 1992 after the removal of the outdated bowling lanes. (Didn’t know about those bowling lanes? See our “From the Archives” article.) Open Monday through Saturday evenings for students over the age of 21, the Roost has pool tables, darts, and a big-screen TV. The pub’s name was inspired by the frequent appearance of the buzzards in Denison’s skies, who have chosen campus grounds as their unusual “roost.”
Sugar Loaf Park
O.K., it’s not technically a part of Denison, but that doesn’t mean you can’t find a student there every once in a while taking a break from classes. It’s nice to get away for a stroll, without leaving home (and homework) too far behind.
Constructed with a white marble exterior and equipped with advanced telescopes, the Swasey Observatory was considered one of the most impressive observatories on a college campus when it was built in 1909. The building was a gift of trustee and friend of the college Ambrose Swasey after he learned that the astronomy department was in dire need of more advanced equipment. It was renovated in 1969 to maintain its effectiveness, and continues to be utilized by the astronomy department. Besides providing students with rare exposure to state-of-the-art astronomy equipment, the observatory also hosts open houses, inviting the Denison and Granville community to get a little closer to the stars.
Chi Omegas haven’t frolicked in the pillared house at the top of Sorority Circle for 40 years, but since 2003 the place has really come back to life. The light-filled living room is now an intimate gallery for student and guest artists, and the spacious chapter room in the back of the house is a multimedia technology lab that would raise the eyebrows of even the most jaded geek. Eighteen tightly organized workstations are outfitted with primo-professional equipment and software for music creation, digital drawing, animation, and video editing. Instead of separate labs and staff for each of the five fine arts departments, the Vail endowment has created this shared resource where students and faculty from dance, music, visual arts, cinema, and theatre come to work on their own projects and with each other.
Parade of Classes
1,000 alumni strolling down Chapel Walk during Reunion Weekend.
Sunbathing on the Quad
The Stilwell Memorial sundial, located just south of Swasey Chapel, is a tribute to Clifford Scott Stilwell, class of 1912 and former chairman of Denison’s board of trustees, who died in 1941. The degrees of latitude and longitude and the elevation above sea level are inscribed for anyone who might be wondering where on Earth they are.
Richard Lugar ’54
From Rhodes Scholar to mayor of Indianapolis to the most senior Republican in the U.S. Senate, Lugar never forgot about our college on the hill – the Richard G. Lugar Program in Politics and Public Service was established a mere 15 years ago for students interested in foreign policy and government.
A typical Sunday in the life of a Denisonian editor like me starts with rolling out of bed at 11 a.m. (or later) and changing out of last night’s pajamas (or not) before heading into our office, tucked away in a corner on the fourth floor of Slayter. We frantically call sources for quotes, write articles when writers back out at the last second and, as the day turns to late night, drink an obscene amount of coffee.
Copy editors and section editors come and go; editorials are written in the wee hours; and eventually, the paper is sent to the printer. We consider it to be a successful issue when no one’s name is spelled incorrectly and The Bullsheet, Denison’s alternative newspaper, doesn’t chew us out for an embarrassing mistake.
In the rush, it’s easy for us to forget the true, underlying, purpose of what we’re doing: documenting Denison’s history.
A lot of people think liberal arts are light on science and research, but that’s a myth Denison is ending right now. Denison has been recognized by American Scientist magazine as a national leader in undergraduate research. In its January/February 2010 issue, the magazine lists Denison among the top chapters for initiating new members into the Sigma Xi scientific research society. Jessica Rettig, associate professor of biology, says one reason we are able to add a lot of new Sigma Xi members each year is our investment in opportunities for students to participate in meaningful research. Research like the work done by Joe Reczek, assistant professor of chemistry. He just won a Research Corporation for Scientific Advancement grant that will fund four Denison students for two years of research. Reczek’s work merges his background in organic chemistry with his desire to help create new energy sources. He and his students will work to combine different organic compounds to build new ones that will absorb sunlight well. The idea is to help the future of solar energy development.
Living on campus
Living on campus means: Snowball fights outside your dorm. Stumbling to Slayter for that first cup of coffee on the way to class. Running back to your room from practice for a quick shower before dinner. Late-night talks trying to solve the world’s problems. Studying in the library stacks. And never needing to walk more than 10 minutes to get to your PJs and your bed.
Come on, how many colleges have a mountain named after them? Thanks to Kirtley Mather, Class of 1909, Denison has one. While a professor at Harvard, the noted geologist named the tallest peak in Alaska’s Aleutian Peninsula after his alma mater. Denisonians do love a good challenge, and in 1977, a hearty band of students, professors, and alumni attempted to reach the summit of Mt. Denison. They were forced to abandon the climb amid treacherous weather, but, the following year, a second group reached the top. Nearly 20 years later, three Denison grads and a current student did it all over again, and, in a sign of the times, they documented the entire adventure for a DVD, The Hill Beyond The Hill: The Story of Mt. Denison. So get your snowshoes… plans already are afoot for yet another expedition.
The Alford Center
for Service Learning
After the devastating earthquakes in Haiti, The Alford Center for Service Learning acted quickly, spearheading the formation of the Haiti Relief Coordinating Committee (HRCC). The HRCC worked as an intermediary, linking up diverse campus organizations like Amnesty International, the Green Team, and the DCA Knitting Co-op, in order to reach the lofty goal of raising $15,000 in aid. But it doesn’t a take global disaster for the Alford Center to make an impact. Every year, the center coordinates numerous partnerships and events to benefit the local community, giving students first-hand service experience. This year, the center is focusing on literacy, education, and college access. “On the one hand, we’re here to make it possible for students to experience how their Denison education–from art to mathematics to women studies–can be brought to bear on the problems faced in local communities,” explained Laurel Kennedy, Director of the Alford Center. “On the other hand, we want to serve as a gateway for our local community to the resources we can offer, including research, problem-solving, and traditional volunteer service.”
That Scrapbook from 1917
Not only is the scrapbook of Mary Vashti Jones ’17 an amazing piece that colorfully documents her four years as a Denison co-ed, but the more I learned about Jones, the better I liked her. She became the first woman attorney in nearby Muskingum County, practicing law in Zanesville for 40 years; and she was an active alumna who also served her local community. Her scrapbook is just one of many in the Student Scrapbook Collection, a small portion of the history of Denison recorded in the Archives.
College fundraising 150 years ago was No walk in the park–more like a hike through a cornfield. One day in 1853, Rev. Jeremiah Hall, then-president of Granville College, hitched his horse and buggy to a rail fence outside the house of wealthy Baptist bachelor William S. Denison. The pair had a little chat, and Denison agreed to donate $10,000 to the college with the condition that it would be named after him and would annually educate 40 students intended for the Baptist ministry. Denison paid the first $200 of his pledge, but then he married Mary O. Fisher, and she had other ideas about how his money should be spent.
The newly renamed Denison University had to take its namesake to court to collect the remainder of his pledge, but we dig him anyway. Without him, we wouldn’t be who we are.
The Open House
It used to be the receiving room of the Alpha Chi Omega House, complete with Victorian wallpaper, pink and green furnishings, and cordial co-eds. These days, the room hosts meditation cushions, prayer rugs, privacy screens, and silence. It’s just one section of the Open House (part of the Office of Religious and Spiritual Life) and a new campus spot for religious observances and spiritual practices. With 13 religious groups on campus that seek assistance from the office of Religious Life, the Open House is getting a lot of visitors, even though it’s only been “open” for a few months now. More than 150 different students pass through the front door each week for everything from Catholic mass on Sundays and community yoga classes, to Quaker meetings and Shabbat dinners (The Open House has a vegetarian kitchen to accommodate the dietary standards of Jewish and Muslim students). There are still more renovations to be made to the old sorority house, but, as Mark Orten, director of religious life says, both the campus and the community are putting it to good use anyway. “We’ve been building the canoe,” he says, “while paddling down the stream.”
On Feb. 8, Steve Flores ’11 and Shavely Peralta ’11 were visiting Los Angeles. During an evening walk, they came upon the Hollywood premiere for Valentine’s Day at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. And who, among that film’s army of stars, would happen to be walking into the theatre just then? Jennifer Garner ’94. Steve called out that they were from Denison, and Garner changed course to chat.
“She genuinely cared that we were from Denison,” Steve reports, “and started having a full-blown conversation with us. Paparazzi were everywhere, her publicist was trying to pull her away, and she didn’t care.”
Most of us have heard the myth: If you step on the stone seal embedded in Chapel Walk in front of Swasey, you won’t graduate. It’s easy to see the power the superstition has on Denison’s driven student body–on foot, on a bike, or on a skateboard, the seal is avoided at any cost (including that of knocking into a fellow student on the walk). Well, considering the impressive graduation rate, it’s a wonder why the weathered-down and faded sandstone seal–first installed in 1994–needed replacement. In any case, the new seal, made of granite, was installed in the summer of 2008 as part of Chapel Walk’s reconstruction.
The Vail Series
For the last 30 years, the Vail Series has brought top musical artists from all over the world to Swasey’s stage. The list of memorable moments is long. We’ve heard and interacted with the likes of Yo-Yo Ma, Béla Fleck, and Wynton Marsalis. For me, one experience stands out. Back in 2007, I mentioned to Lorraine Wales, the director of the Vail Series, that she should bring in Renée Fleming. I was partly joking at the time: Fleming is one of the world’s leading opera singers today, and I thought she may be out of reach, even for the Vail Series. But Wales was actually in talks with Fleming’s management, and in April 2009, Fleming performed the last Vail Series concert during my time at Denison. And I was thrilled to escort the singer around Granville during her stay. She even sang a few bars in my car.
This annual campus event, sponsored by the Black Student Union, celebrates African-American culture. Over the years, the week of activities has featured gospel music festivals, step competitions, and comedy shows, culminating in a Friday night concert by the likes of Naughty by Nature and Juvenile.
Jennifer Garner ’94
While majoring in theatre performance, the now Mrs. Affleck starred in productions of Les Liaisons Dangereuses and A Streetcar Named Desire. Her breakthrough came six years after graduation as the judo-chopping Sidney Bristow on the ABC television series Alias. Talk about shifting genres.
MLK in a day? No way.
Every year Denison celebrates the life and legacy of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King with a week’s worth of music, poetry, lectures, food, and community discussions.
Back in mid-80s, Denison created a summer scholarship initiative for 11 science students with a gift from an alumnus and his wife, who wanted to promote scientific research among undergraduates. The idea was to give students a chance to do scholarly work without the pressure of grades. That modest initiative blossomed into the Summer Scholars Program, which now includes more than 120 students in the arts and sciences, who spend 10 weeks researching, creating, and writing– all with the help of faculty mentors. Just last year alone, students explored topics spanning solar cells, religion and the 9/11 attacks, and autobiographical memory.
For six years now, the music department has hosted a bluegrass festival. Visitors have included the Lonesome River Band in 2007 and the Infamous Stringdusters last year. But the weekend isn’t all fun and games. There’s a little musical guidance going on, too, when musicians offer workshops for people looking to perfect their pickin’.
Celebrating the mind
There’s plenty of traffic on Chapel Walk at lunchtime just before the April Academic Awards Convocation gets underway in Swasey Chapel. Faculty are adjusting their academic regalia, trustees are robing at Beth Eden and students–particularly seniors–are hurrying to get good seats inside to find out who is about to be honored. Accompanied by an organ prelude, the faculty process to their reserved section at the front and the platform party ascends the stairs to the stage. Holders of endowed chairs, retiring faculty, the provost, and the president take their seats. This is an event that is all about academic excellence, for both teachers and students. Members of Phi Beta Kappa stand to be recognized, names of students who have received prestigious postgraduate scholarships are announced, and faculty members who have been chosen as recipients of endowed chairs are presented. The audiences cheers as the name of the Charles A Brickman Teaching Excellence Award is announced, and then it is time for the most anticipated part of the program–the presentation of candidates for President’s Medals. Though the students are asked to hold their applause until all names and biographies are completed, there’s just too much enthusiasm to quell their clapping and shouts of approval.
The view as you climb Denison’s drag is undeniably pretty. Surrounded by trees, the passage retains its scenic charm no matter what the season. And there is a health benefit to that steep beast: winded when you reach the top, you’ll have burned some of the calories consumed in the village.
Lamson Lodge, which once was a shelter house for athletes and later the social headquarters for the Women’s Athletic Association, has since become kind of a gathering spot. The Lodge can hold 100 people, and on warm days or evenings, groups spill out onto the large patio. It’s a popular joint for theatre groups, team dinners, and even sororities practicing step dancing. The sand volleyball court nearby is a big draw, and during Senior Week, the soon-to-be graduates celebrate there, turning Lamson into a beer garden, conjuring up another past life–when it was the campus pub.
Buxton Inn and the Ghosts
that Call It Home
It’s the Big Pink of Granville, and it’s haunted. Nothing seriously scary, just enough to guarantee a brisk trade in ghost-watchers who try to spook each other with their stories on Web sites devoted to “paranormal investigations.” Room 7 seems to be the preferred turf of “The Woman in Blue,” a.k.a. Bonnie Bounell, Buxton owner in the 1930s. Others claim to have had genial conversations with the 1820s owner of the original stagecoach stop, Orrin Granger, or with Major Buxton himself. Or with cats who aren’t there.
On move-in day freshman year, the girl across the hall came over to say hello. She stood in the doorway, and I can distinctly hear her simply saying, “Hi, I’m Liza!” I thought she was slightly crazy and just said a shy “hello” back. My parents loved her friendliness, and soon enough, Liza became my closest friend at Denison. We called each other “across-the-hall-mates” and were nearly inseparable that first semester of college. We are now sorority sisters and roommates and even spend time together when we’re home on breaks in the suburbs of Chicago.
Gettin’ Hitched on campus
Getting married was the farthest thing from my mind nine years ago as I sat in Spanish class on the first day of fall semester. What I didn’t know then was that my future bride was there too, sitting across from me. Swasey Chapel was the natural choice for our wedding venue. In fact, it was perhaps the most unanimous decision we made during the entire planning process. Swasey is, by far, the most popular place to exchange vows (and only those with ties to Denison can book it), but others have married on the Academic Quad, the East Quad steps, at Lamson Lodge, and on the third floor of Slayter Hall. One couple even chose Denison’s 350- acre Biological Reserve. Makes me wonder if we shouldn’t have just returned to where it all began and tied the knot in that Spanish classroom.
The President’s House
Since 1935, Monomoy’s had stints as a private home, a doctor’s office, a ballroom, a dorm, female co-op housing, the chapter house of a fraternity and three different sororities, a meeting place for organizations and, of course, as the residence for Denison’s presidents since its eleventh-hour-deliverance from the wrecking ball by Robert and Nancy Good in 1979. These days its high ceilings, grand staircase, and woodwork bring a sense of occasion to receptions for trustees, faculty, visiting artists, graduating seniors, and hoards of wassailing Granvilleans during the annual Christmas Candlelight Walking Tour. Not to be missed: Mrs. Knobel’s tulips in mid-to-late April.
… and the Students
Who Live Next Door
Behind Monomy house stands the former carriage house–the pair in matching mother-daughter outfits. For decades it’s been the coveted quarters of Denison students who have the good sense to keep their curtains pulled and their music turned down after hours.
The Burton D. Morgan Program in Liberal Arts & Entrepreneurship Education provides students with opportunities to investigate all the ins and outs of innovative business and social entrepreneurship. The idea is to help students make the connections between liberal arts education and real world entrepreneurial experiences. The program funds workshops, guest residencies, Summer Scholar research, student activities, internships, course projects, field trips, and student ventures. But it’s not all about setting off on your own and making bank. The interdisciplinary nature of the program provides opportunities for students to learn about cultural, social, and public sector entrepreneurship, as well as the for-profit commercial world. Nationally recognized entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial alumni visit Denison each year to share their knowledge and experience with those who want to follow their lead by way of their own path.
Energy from the Sun
On the roof of Doane Library sit several rows of photovoltaic, or solar, panels. In addition to generating energy for Barney-Davis and Doane (the two buildings share an electrical circuit) the panels have saved 28,600 pounds of CO2 and counting since 2006. That’s the equivalent of the amount of pollution given off by an average car over a three-year period.
You Can Major in Anything–Seriously
… you just have to prove that the area is worthy of study. Individually designed majors at Denison develop their own programs with the guidance of faculty advisers. And it’s no easy street to a degree. These majors are subject to rigorous reviews by the Academic Affairs Council, and plenty of research goes into actually developing the program before students ever get to pursue it. “I knew by my sophomore year that I wanted to concentrate my studies on the Arabic language, which Denison does not offer as a major,” says Betsy Fisher ’10. So she created her own major called “Arabic and the Middle East,” which centers on the study of the Arabic language but is rounded out by classes on the history, culture, and religion of the Middle East. She even headed off to study in Amman, Jordan, in the spring of 2009 through an off-campus study program. It’s hard work, says Fisher. But worth it.
The President’s Medal
The highlight of Denison’s Academic Awards Convocation held in Swasey Chapel each April is the introduction of the four to eight seniors chosen as recipients of the President’s Medal, Denison’s most prestigious student award. The tradition began in 1985 during the first year of Andrew G. De Rocco’s tenure as president of the university, in recognition of a small number of seniors who, in De Rocco’s words, “made especially good use of their undergraduate experience and contributed substantially to the community.” 162 medals have been awarded since then. The primary criterion for selection is outstanding intellectual achievement, along with some combination of service to the community, contribution to the arts, enlargement of Denison’s global perspective, leadership activities, athletic achievements, and contributions to community discourse. The medal is good looking, too. It was designed by John Cooperrider ’88 (a medal winner himself) and features the Greek gods Appollo and Athena.
John Davidson ’63
Three summers with the Denison Summer Theater trained this entertainer for a future in show business. He went on to star in everything from variety shows to Broadway to one especially memorable 1974 Cosmopolitan centerfold, where he wore nothing but a strategically placed towel and a smile.
Each year, during winter break, a select group of Denison students spend a week away from campus learning a whole lot about what it means to be a leader. LeaderShape, a national nonprofit organization, guides students and faculty facilitators through a slew of activities–from building balloon towers to group disaster simulations to trust falls that require the student to fall back into a crowd of fellow leaders and hope for the best. The students do it all while developing relationships, committing to integrity, and acquiring a healthy disregard for the impossible.
Fellows Computer Lab
Nothing says finals week like Fellows Room 100 at 4 a.m. A go-to spot for students with projects and final papers to complete, the lab is the place to be during crunchtime. It’s open 24/7 and has proven a savior for many a procrastinator. Camaraderie builds during those caffeine-fueled nights, surrounded by fellow classmates who all feel your pain. Plus, we love the Fellows lab because the ITS help desk is there, with a team of technical experts to remove computer viruses and retrieve lost documents after the most inconvenient–and poorly timed–hard-drive crash.
The William H. Doane Library houses rows and rows of books on everything from art to zoology, spanning six floors (plus one of completely Denison-related archives). The silent shelves are almost eerie, and it’s easy to get lost among the leather bindings. Perhaps this historical atmosphere of wisdom–with more than 465,000 volumes–is what attracts so many students to the hidden crevices and desks among the stacks for a quiet study space. Even though we know that computers play a big role these days –and Doane’s librarians and digital resources are some of the best in the nation– we’re happy to see that Denisonians are still seen exiting the library with hefty piles of books.
Phi Beta Kappa
Phi Beta Kappa at Denison is old–as old as this magazine. In fact–both are turning 100 this year. But the national Phi Beta Kappa Society is super old. Having gotten its start in 1776, during the American Revolution, it’s the oldest academic honor society in the nation. The students who are asked to join are crazy smart–some of the brightest students from some of the best schools. So we feel pretty good that Denison has a healthy chapter with thousands of members–and that it’s lasted so long.
Language and Culture House
The Language and Culture House, formerly known as the Kappa Sigma House, caters to those who relish the new and unfamiliar, who are fascinated by other cultures, and who hail from different traditions and simply want to speak in their native language. Students eat together–sometimes international foods are cooked up pot-luck style. Students talk together (lest you get the idea that it’s a modern-day Tower of Babel, there are residential language clusters to keep things organized). And students do activities together–Spanish plays, French film festivals, and Chinese calligraphy all have been part of the social curriculum, and no one is excluded for not speaking the language. Next year, the Language and Culture House will move to Preston House, formerly Phi Delta Theta.
Bold Style (or Icy Nerves?)
Winter Break … in Alabama
During the last week of winter break, I completed a service-learning project with 12 fellow Denison students in southern Alabama through Break Away, a national nonprofit organization with a Denison chapter. We lived and worked on the Splinter Hill Bog, a preserve owned and run by Alabama’s Nature Conservancy, and our main task was to assist the conservancy staffers in clearing miles and miles of fire breaks for prescribed burns in the surrounding long-leaf pine forests (occasional burnings are necessary for the preservation of the ecosystem). Our goal: to become active citizens who “bring back the experience” to Denison and Licking County. Since our return, many of us have volunteered with campus environmental projects.
Break Away Co-Chair
Woodyard, The First 50
When I looked down at my paper, however, it was splattered with red circles, a few exclamation marks, and some very pointed comments scrawled in the margins. The reason for the carnage? Any and all language that referred to God in the masculine–the “he’s” and “his’s,” and the occasional use of “God the Father.” Oh brother, I thought, with a roll of my eyes. What’s the big deal?
But then I saw Dr. David Woodyard ’54, professor of religion, smiling at me. His presence was strangely disarming and challenging at the same time. Grumble as I might, I knew I was in good hands–clearly Dr. Woodyard had been down this road a time or two before.
Woodyard has made a genuine difference in my life. With his enthusiasm, his passion for teaching, and his genuine concern, he taught me not only about the power of language, but more importantly, about how to think about the world theologically, how to connect one’s faith to issues of social justice, and how to honor the religious experiences of others, especially the marginalized. He opened my eyes to liberation theology and feminist theology, and challenged me to a deeper understanding of other faith traditions and worldviews.
I became a religion major after all, a journey that was guided with compassion and expertise. Thanks to Dr. Woodyard, my 1983 honors thesis on Latin American Liberation Theology is free of sexist language, and does not make me cringe all these years later. More importantly, I treasure the feeling of having mattered to a professor. For fifty years he has made a difference– here’s to the years and the students to come.
First off: The Bullsheet makes no claims of superiority in terms of quality writing, relevant content, or factual reliability, but for the last 30 years, the Denison University Bullsheet has dominated the daily-publications-in-Granville scene in terms of mass quantity. And the hard-driving, highly motivated Bullsheet editors plan to keep it that way. Of course, there are no other daily publications in Granville. But, boy, if there were, the Bullsheet would crush them like tiny ants.
What the Bullsheet does, besides allow students to post rants and raves–logical or not–and to make announcements to campus, is to enhance (or complicate) campus conversation with an open (and did we mention daily?) forum. And we’re the only publication that has that honor. Ever since a pile of Granville Sentinels were discovered in a ditch, covered in muddy hoof prints, would-be competitors have trembled with terror upon hearing the word “Bullsheet.” Hence, it is often referred to in the Granville newspaper industry as “the Sheet that Shall Not Be Named.”
Michael Eisner ’64
The CEO of the Walt Disney Company from 1984 until 2005, this English major was the driving force behind the 1990s “Disney Decade,” which saw a revitalization of the animation industry and the establishment of many Disney resorts worldwide in the 1990s.
Outside Denison, these are known as mailboxes, but here on the hill, they’re known as that spot where Mom’s cookies appear every couple of weeks.
Beth Eden House
Beth Eden was home to Denison presidents until 1968. In 1973, it was converted into offices for admissions and financial aid. Its name, Beth Eden, is in memory of the church in Waltham, Mass., where President and Mrs. Emory Hunt were married, and it means “House of Peace.” The white house is often the first spot on campus that prospective Denison students visit.
Pass the lower garden on your right, followed by Cabins 1 and 3, which were built by the original residents. Between them sits the newly erected “earthship,” Cabin Phoenix. Note the central campfire area, the site of countless stories and songs; the chicken coup/orchard, home to 17 hens, one rooster and two ducks; the tool shed; the photovoltaic solar cells, providing the minimal amount of electricity the Homestead requires; the outhouse made of mortar and spent bottles and cans; the huge cauldron used for making maple syrup; the woodpile; the upper garden.
Finally, you arrive at the far end of the grounds and the doorstep of Cabin Bob, a two-story, straw-bale structure built in the late ’90s and named for Professor Alrutz. Here, the Homestead’s 12 residents prepare and share meals, often with food they have cultivated. They study and plan the work that maintains their community. They discuss ideas gleaned from their classes. They laugh and sing and play music. They host friends and guests. They look to tomorrow, with a minimal but purposeful impact on today. Here, in Cabin Bob, the very essence of the Homestead endures.
We know, we know–a college in the middle of a small town doesn’t exactly yield a diverse nightlife. But, dorm parties are not the only ways students let loose. The University Planning Committee brings entertainment to campus with bands, comedians, and game nights, and the Denison Film Society shows movies in the Slayter auditorium every weekend. Student groups like Burpee’s Seedy and a capella groups perform shows to packed spaces all over campus. Down the hill, upperclassmen looking for a quiet atmosphere can be found at Del Mar (formerly Granvilla Pizza) or Broadway Pub, but after midnight, many flock to Brews Too, where there is music (sometimes live), pool, darts, friendly faces, and always a dance floor to groove on.
The Spotted Salamander
We love the spotted salamander, but we think assistant professor of biology Rebecca Homan loves it just a little more. After all, she’s the one who tromps out to the Biological Reserve (another favorite spot of ours) every spring morning at 8 a.m. just to check on the little buggers. Really she’s checking her homemade traps to see how many she has managed to nab during the night when the amphibians make their way to one of the reserve’s four ponds for some skinny-dipping and baby-making. Homan is in the sixth year of a 10-year study that will document the amphibians’ mating practices and habitat preferences in order to better protect them. She figures there could be as many as 2,000 spotted salamanders living in the Bio Reserve, and some have been known to live into their 30s, which is a heck of a lifespan for something that measures only six inches and is vulnerable to the other species–like raccoons, snakes, and turtles–that call the Reserve home (not to mention the hikers and trail runners who make use of the Reserve’s 350 acres of natural space).
Whit’s Frozen Custard
Three words: Vanilla, Chocolate, Buckeye (sprinkles optional).
Senior Apartment Housing
With the construction of the Sunsets in 2001 and the Brownstones in 2005, seniors lucky enough to draw a decent lottery number have access to the best of two worlds. Fully furnished with a kitchen, four single bedrooms and two bathrooms to share, these apartments give seniors a taste of living independently while still in a residential hall-like setting, surrounded by peers and close to classes. But, not all of us are crazy for the apartments …
… Some students argue that the hottest commodities in the housing lottery are the four satellite housing options: Monomoy, Bancroft, Prospect, and Shannon houses (Rose House has been refurbished for office space). Housing three to six people, they sit on the edge of Denison property and away from the traditional residence halls.
This campus coffee ain’t your typical dorm room drip. With two Jazzman’s Café locations on campus, students, faculty, and staff never have to travel far in search of the juice. The organic, fairtrade beans are produced all over the world, and grown in ways that stamp out erosion, provide natural fertilizer, and reduce the use of chemicals. So you can feel good about that extra jolt.
With 77 percent of students participating in at least one of either 23 varsity sports or 48 intramural and club sports, it’s clear that Denison has a thing for athletics. We couldn’t pick one thing we love best, so we chose five: (1) Brought to life by football coach Keith Piper, many credit the single-wing formation with the Big Red’s undefeated season in 1985. (2) Of the 17 coaches on staff, more than half are part of the teaching faculty with classes in coaching theory and fitness as well as anatomy, physiology, and sports psychology. (3) Helen Barr was the first female coach and chair of the women’s physical education department. She helped to pave the way for women athletes, including the 2001 National Champions in swimming. (4) Denison ranks third of the 400-plus Division III colleges in NCAA Post Graduate Scholarships. (5) Denison has won the coveted NCAC All Sports Trophy for overall sports performance 10 of the last 12 years.
It is, as the DJs say, “high on the hill, low on the dial, and number one in our hearts.” It is 91.1 FM, WDUB, Denison’s 56-year-old, student-run radio station. Whether you’re within the local broadcast range or streaming from anywhere else at DoobieRadio.com, WDUB is where you’ll find a cool blend of rock, funk, jazz, hip-hop, country, Carribean, Chinese pop–you name it–not to mention the occasional witty sports talk and social commentary.
Something for Everyone
From DU wop to Japanese sword fighting and from chess to dance, students can choose from 177 organizations to fill their extracurricular hours. If the perfect one isn’t on the list, they can add to the possibilities. That’s what the Harry Potterloving students did when they started the Quidditch League this year.
(As in Denison-Day.)
Not That Kind of Leaf
In the library’s Special Collections is the set Fifty Original Leaves from Medieval Manuscripts, compiled by Otto Ege. The set was purchased years ago from Cleveland-based Ege, who boxed individual manuscript leaves to provide colleges and public libraries with a variety of examples from rare books. Each leaf in the set comes from a different work, dating from the 12th to the early 16th centuries. Some of the leaves are beautifully illuminated with gold and other precious substances; all are impressive documents in the history of Western Europe and are wonderful visual study aids. Just one of the treasures in Special Collections.
Go Ahead, Call Me a NERD.
There’s a group of Denison folks who take the term “nerd” as a compliment. That’s what they are, after all. NE RD (Neuroscience Education and Research at Denison) is a club that got its start in 2007, and its members include both students and professors. NE RD hosts Science Night at The Works in Newark, a Brain Bee for area high school students, and plenty of organized discussions on everything from how alcohol and LSD affect the nervous system to brain images of Tibetan monks. They also hold fundraisers for NE RD charities that benefit autism, Alzheimer’s, and multiple sclerosis research. As far as we’re concerned, these nerds are the coolest.
Learning on the Job
The Denison Internship Program, which got its formal start in 1988, ships students off-campus to work with the likes of the Columbus Blue Jackets, Deloitte Consulting, Fox Searchlight Pictures, Movimiento Sonrisa, even MTV. And many of the internship programs are a result of Denison alumni looking to help out the next generation.
What Lies Below
Many legends surround the murky depths of Ebaugh Pond. Some claim that buried treasure is at the muddy bottom. Others say an anchor lies there. We do know that for years the Greeks had pulled each other into the muck during spirited matches of tug o’ war, that fraternity brothers used to be tossed in after pinning their love interests, and that currently biology students use it as a living laboratory for field studies of “Centrarchidae” and “Odonata”–that’s sunfish and dragonflies to the unititiated. We figure if there’s an anchor–or even buried treasure down there–they’ll let us know.
Solidarity Amid Diversity
Hundreds of students and professors came together at the center of campus to make one point very clear: while differences of opinions and perspectives are natural and encouraged, intolerance, bigotry, and threats–either real or perceived–have no place at Denison.
The rest of Ohio watched the events unfold through media coverage and then, on Jan. 21, 2008 (Martin Luther King Jr. Day), the state legislature issued its first-ever Dream in Action Award to the students, faculty, and staff of Denison University for moving “to direct positive action” and “promoting understanding, racial unity, and the appreciation of diversity.”
To read Denison Magazine’s detailed account of these events, go to http://bit.ly/cuzxMz.
William G. Bowen ’55
This economics major went on to serve as President of Princeton University from 1972 until 1988 and followed that with a presidential stint at the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation until 2006. A widely published expert in higher education, he was partially responsible for the creation of JSTOR, ensuring future Denison students online access to scholarly articles.
The Presidents’ Room
Behind metal-studded doors in the northeast corner of the library is one of the many gems of the building–the Presidents’ Room. The grand room with tall windows was formally known as the Music Reading Room, due to the classical music scores, volumes, and historical accounts of composers that cover the shelves, but it was renamed for its portraits of Denison’s past presidents, from the first, John Pratt, to President Knobel’s predecessor, Michele Myers. There, students and faculty spread out their research on long tables of smooth, finished wood, under the watchful eyes of Denison’s former leaders.
When Dylan Beach ’10 arrived in Kenya, one of the first things on his mind was the firmness of his mattress. Then he walked into a Massai home and saw the families’ beds made of twigs and elephant grass. It was his first lesson in his off-campus study program with the School for Field Studies in Kenya. “Things are relative,” he says, “and I was living in relative luxury.” There were many lessons to come: As a biology major, he and his fellow students built a device to retain rainwater, so the Massai people would have better access to it in times of drought.
We love that Denison students are getting out of here and exploring places like Thailand, Amsterdam, Switzerland, and Egypt. Through the college’s off-campus study program, students learn about politics, art history, psychology, global economics, biotechnology, and race relations. It’s just like folks in the off-campus study office said to Beach: “Do something great with your Denison education,” they said. “Leave for awhile.”