When you skip a stone perfectly into a lake, you can see the ripples the stone makes as it bounces gracefully towards the opposite shore. The flick of your wrist jumpstarts the rock’s journey across unknown waters and just that much closer to unexplored territory. When I had the pleasure of meeting with Ursinus alumni this homecoming weekend, I could not help but think of this lofty, albeit accurate, metaphor.
On Saturday, September 16th, Ursinus alumni from 1977 to 2012 enjoyed brunch in the Bears’ Den. Not only was this a chance to reunite with Ursinus cuisine, but I saw multiple alumni overjoyed to see old friends and roommates.
I was able to meet with a few alumni and speak with them about their Ursinus experiences.
I first met with Katie Blanchard from the class of 2007. During her years at Ursinus, she majored in English and minored in Spanish. Her junior year, she pledged Epsilon Phi Delta. Blanchard remembers how she had never thought Greek life was for her.
“I would see and hear about the rest of the Greek activity and all of the hazing that goes on,” she recalls. She thought, “I’ll never join a sorority, that’s just not me.”
Fortunately, her friends convinced her otherwise. Blanchard now describes her time in Greek life as “one of the best experiences of my life.” Although the Ursinus sorority has since disbanded due to low interest on campus, she still keeps in touch with friends she had made over a decade ago.
Blanchard also worked in the library, at the reference desk and in Jazzman’s, which was in the library before being moved to Lower Wismer. She also participated in Chess Club, which helped her to keep in touch with her lifelong interest in the game.
Even now, it is clear that Ursinus has left many ripples in Blanchard’s life, from friendships to education.
“I really enjoyed my experience at Ursinus,” she enthuses, “I have made so many new friends here, I’ve learned so much here—I actually keep in touch with a lot of my professors through Facebook.”
The one thing Blanchard misses the most about Ursinus was a bit surprising. “Probably getting to sleep in,” she muses, “not having to wake up if you had late classes.”
Today, Blanchard works as a word processor at a financial firm, and is happy to be using her English degree by proofreading and editing documents. It is very clear that she is using her education with pride.
“People joke, ‘What do you do with an English or liberal arts degree, you flip burgers.’ Clearly, that’s not the case. Clearly, you can do a lot with an English or liberal arts degree,” she argues. “Don’t ever let anyone tell you you can’t do anything with a liberal arts degree because you absolutely can.”
When asked about the impact Ursinus has made on her life, Blanchard pauses for a moment, “I would say it’s made me a lot more open-minded to different points of view. Definitely a lot of the English classes I took and even some of the religion classes I took have made me more open-minded…”
Alumni from other classes agree that Ursinus has also changed them. I spoke with Sharon Sloyer ’77, Patti Galupo ’77, Erwin Wenner ’77, and Cliff Reinert ’79. When asked about their Ursinus experience, they all agreed that it offered the friendly atmosphere they needed as students.
“[It was] absolutely wonderful,” Wenner reminisces, “four years of making friendships, truly receiving a wonderful education, which has absolutely benefitted my career for forty years.”
Galupo agrees, “I came from a high school that is probably triple the size of Ursinus. So I was a little gun-shy coming to a small school and it ended up being the best thing I ever did. There’s a very intimate environment here—that really fosters long-term friendships.”
“It’s almost like Cheers, everybody knew your name back then,” added Sloyer.
However, they could not help but agree that college work really made them rethink their work strategies. As Galupo explains, “I had to work harder, academically, here than I did in high school. So really, it changed me in that regard that I had to, even being in the seventies, I had to buckle down. I was a psych major, so it was tough. It taught me to suit up, show up, and buckle down.”
In the end, the four agreed that the rigorous material improved their careers in the long run. Reinert was able to finish his associate’s degree at Ursinus, which led him to a job with Lockheed Martin.
When thinking about my future as an Ursinus alumna, I cannot help but already relate to Sharon Sloyer. I asked her what she missed most about Ursinus. Her answer was simple: “Just being here.”
The fact that Ursinus can leave such a lasting mark on alumni—one that endure forty years and counting—is inspiring. As this semester passes, I invite you to think, “What ripples will Ursinus leave in my future?”