"It's almost unbelievable that 50 years have passed since "Straight from Heaven, Class of '57' set off to conquer the world... ."
- John Lewis, Gordon College, 1957
Had it been 50 years? Did I want to go back to those once familiar surroundings, compare my 50-year record with my long-ago peers? Could I still drive in Boston-area traffic, find my way on roads less traveled now? Would anyone recognize or even remember me?
It took 30 seconds to make up my mind. Frequent flyer miles, a brother living nearby and nerve enough to try the rental car route from airport to brother to school all pointed north.
I don't know when I've been so excited, and I counted the days. On departure eve, I also counted the things that could go wrong en route:
Would my son remember to pick me up at 5 a.m.? (He was there at 4:45.) Would the Shuttle get me to Atlanta in time for my mid-morning flight? (No Frequent Flyer seats from Augusta that day, but the shuttle was more than efficient.) Could I find my way from the airport to Route 93 N from five lanes of traffic? (The rental car folks handed me instructions before I finished the question.)
An hour later I pulled into my brother's driveway - and relaxed. No wrong turns, a special time with family members I too seldom see, and the first good night's sleep I'd had all week prepared me for the memorable events of the next two days.
The Gordon College I attended - not the Georgia school named for Civil War Gen. John B. Gordon, but a Christian liberal arts college and legacy of 19th-century Boston pastor, Adoniram Judson Gordon - had moved from its crowded, city campus to a spacious, former polo-ground estate 25 miles away my junior year.
Initial facilities included the previous owner's mansion, reserved for the seminary; a new library-classroom combination plus additional classrooms in existing outbuildings; a chapel with administrative offices downstairs; two small dorms for boys, and Wood Hall, the only dormitory for girls.
Ah, Wood Hall. Though designed for three floors, there had only been time to partition the first two floors into rooms. Floor three, where all junior girls were assigned, was one giant, open room. Talk about togetherness! But portable wardrobes, creative draping and limited privacy were a small price to pay for our wonderful, new campus where, in less than two years, 48 members of the class of '57 gathered on that ever-present polo ground to graduate from our beloved school.
How had it changed, I wondered, as I drove the no-longer-rural roads, searching for the site of the evening Baccalaureate Service.
I had to park a half-mile away - and sit in an overflow building next to the magnificent new A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel to view the service on screen. Our sparse, original campus had grown to 20 academic and administrative buildings, 20 residence halls and a variety of other structures including a monstrous auditorium-athletic center that still didn't hold all who would attend the commencement exercises for 379 graduates from 13 countries outside the U.S. and Canada the next day.
I was already bursting with pride for what the college had become, and I hadn't yet seen my classmates.
Recognition was nearly instantaneous, aided perhaps by '57-photo name tags, smiles, reminiscences and gratitude for the education we had shared. I'm still in awe at the magnitude of that training, as demonstrated by the stories of more than 20 returnees. There were educators - teachers, professors, a president of one college and founder of another; pastors and missionaries - including three ordained women, something unheard of 50 years ago; and medical personnel, business leaders, musicians and authors galore.
Following the Commencement exercises, with the "Golden Years Reunion" group marching in the lengthy procession behind the 2007 graduates, an also-lengthy class luncheon wrapped up our decidedly "golden" time together.
According to the college Web site, "Gordon is committed to excellence in liberal arts education... and academic freedom within a framework of faith."
Considering the size of the current class and all who have left the school since its inception 115 years ago, I couldn't help thinking of another Gordon College "commission" fulfilled, as I began my journey home:
"Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations ... to observe the things I have (taught) you to do" - Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20).
(Barbara Seaborn is a local freelance writer. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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