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By Barbara Mulligan

When he arrived for the inaugural Alumni Summer College on Thursday, July 15, George Valentine ’70 hadn’t set foot on Lafayette’s campus in more than 40 years. By Saturday evening, he didn’t want to leave.

“I was amazed by the quality of teaching,” he said as he prepared to sit down for the Saturday farewell dinner with his classmates—nearly 50 alumni, spouses, and friends, ranging in age from their early 20s through their 80s.

“Summer college is a new initiative designed to provide alumni an opportunity to return to campus for a three-day academic immersion,” says Sherri I. Jones, director of alumni affairs. The event, which featured a series of 90-minute classes taught by Lafayette professors, was sponsored by the Office of Alumni Affairs, in collaboration with the Office of the Provost.

Valentine, vice president and general counsel for IPSCO, Inc., who traveled from Illinois to attend, said he was most happy to see that the energetic young history professor who taught him 40 years ago was still going strong.

“He has the same enthusiasm and the same gestures,” Valentine marveled about Robert I. Weiner, Jones Professor of History, who taught two courses—The Nature and Impact of World War I and The Origins of World War II. Other professors and topics included: President Daniel H. Weiss, art in the age of the Crusades, Vietnam War; Diane Cole Ahl, Rothkopf Professor of Art History, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo; Jamila Bookwala, associate professor of psychology, aging and relationships; Dru Germanoski, Van Artsdalen Professor of Geology and Environmental Geosciences, and David Brandes, associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, team taught on form and function of rivers and world water crisis.

“The academic content stretched my brain,” says G. David Foster ’65, of Jackson, Mich., “it was presented at a challenging intellectual level. The professors’ extensive knowledge provided depth in both presentation and content. The program exceeded my expectations.”

Stephen Parahus ’84, an actuarial consultant in New York City, said he was most drawn to Ahl’s two classes in Renaissance art, but ended up thrilled by the entire eclectic course of study. “I liked the element of surprise and delight,” he said, adding that he’ll return next year—and bring his parents as well.

Going a step further, Tracy Hagert Sutka ’82, a middle-school French teacher from Wilton, Conn. and chair of the Marquis Society, called the selection of courses “genius.” She also noted that keeping the group together for all 10 sessions contributed to the success by making it a shared experience. “ I enjoyed spending time with such intelligent, motivated people and hearing about their Lafayette connections and experiences.”

Bill Kelleher ’73, a municipal court judge in Bound Brook, N.J., said he and his wife, Heidi, were interested in engaging in “intellectual exercise without a grade,” and Joanne Klimas Lilliendahl ’01, a science teacher at Upper Dublin High School near Philadelphia, said she was fascinated by the liberal arts offerings because she had not studied those subjects as a student.

“The faculty reflected the best in the Lafayette College educational experience: masterful, accessible, enthusiastic, and all with no sense of self-importance, but a sense of humor,” said Kelleher.

Jenna Firshein ’08 said she never tires of taking courses and learning more—adding that she was impressed by both the quality of teaching and of the students. “It was great to meet all the people,” she said. “They all had so much to say.”

Both Weiner and Ahl, who attended the dinner with their students, said they were impressed by the desire to learn that participants brought to their classes.

“I found the intensity of these people to be extraordinary,” Weiner said.

For attorney Lem Howell ’58, who traveled with his wife, Patricia, from their home in Seattle, Wash., the event provided a window into life at Lafayette.

“It was so interesting,” he said. “If this is an example of what our students are learning, then they’re getting a fantastic education.”

Categorized in: Alumni, News and Features

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