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In late November, Lakeland magazine sat down with a few of those volunteers to have them discuss the importance of the Sesquicentennial.
"The Sesquicentennial is so important because it doesn't matter if you're a Mission House graduate from the 1940s or a Lakeland graduate from 2007. As the alma mater says, this is a place that is always home," said Terry Thiessen '70. "The Sesquicentennial is an opportunity for us to welcome people home to celebrate who we are and what we will continue to be. It's an opportunity to renew old acquaintances, connect to memories long past and get excited about Lakeland's future."
"Anybody who has gone to Lakeland has a special sense of belonging," said Elaine Bablitch '06. "This college has given so many people such wonderful opportunities. The more you learn, the more you realize how special this place is."
The centerpiece of their years of generating ideas and planning is the All-College Reunion, scheduled for June 21-24. The All-College Reunion will be a weekend filled with celebrating, re-connecting and learning. Another highlight of the Sesquicentennial year is the Great Thinkers Series, an exciting lineup of speakers on topics ranging from energy to sustainable food systems to education.
There will be events throughout the state and in locations around the country.
And finally, a number of international alumni trips are being planned to Germany, Malawi, Japan and London.
But Lakeland is not just a place; it's an everincreasing collection of stories of students, alumni, faculty and staff. The Sesquicentennial celebration is the time to honor collectively those individual experiences.
Floyd Henschel '60 enlisted in the Marines at age 17 during the Korean War, and used the G.I. Bill to fund his education at Lakeland.
"The college did a lot for me and my life," he said. Bablitch was working at Kohler Co. when she decided to pursue a college degree.
As a student, she was a volunteer tutor for the college's international program, and remains in contact with several alumni living overseas.
"I really believe in the Kellett School," Bablitch said. "If you have a passion for something, you need to support it."
Both Henschel and Bablitch feel good when they're doing something in conjunction with the college. "When you're asked to serve by an institution that's been good to you, you say yes," Henschel said.
Lisa Vihos, director of alumni relations and the staff person most directly responsible for guiding the Sesquicentennial planning and implementation, is often awed by the commitment of alumni to lend a hand. "Many alumni have put countless hours into planning the Sesquicentennial, and we could not have done this without them," Vihos said. "But when you consider the way their personal lives and the college overlap, it isn't really so surprising."
Becky Johnston's parents, siblings and her husband, Joel '80, all attended Lakeland. "Because of Lakeland's unique location, it really is a community, and the Sesquicentennial gives us a chance to bring generations of our community back together," Johnston '85 said. "College is a meaningful time, and, especially for Lakeland graduates, college friends become lifelong friends."
Similarly, Terry Thiessen's father, Edgar, served decades on the college's music faculty, and his first memories of the college are coming to campus in 1955 with his father and interacting with Mission House faculty and students. His sisters attended Lakeland, as well as his wife, Karen, and his son, Matt.
"One of my major reasons for being on this earth is to be a volunteer," Thiessen said. "I learned that here at Lakeland. So many of our professors volunteered their time. Whether I'm doing alumni board work, the Movers & Shakers Gala or the Sesquicentennial, I love helping Lakeland."
For some, the Sesquicentennial will symbolize the college's survival. Milton College, one of Lakeland's great athletic rivals of the past, closed in 1982. Mount Scenario closed in 2002. "So many colleges like Lakeland have ceased to exist," Johnston said. "Not only has Lakeland survived for 150 years, it has thrived. We need to celebrate that."
Henschel thinks that the same dedication those German immigrants who founded Mission House had to education is continuing today. "The focus of expanding educational opportunity was the motivator from the beginning and the college has stayed true to that today," Henschel said. "Our current president (Stephen Gould) has done an incredible job of leading the institution over the past 14 years and getting us to this milestone. These things should be celebrated."