Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Auto reply: Out today, living

Between-Lines-ElliotCatching up with Elliott Mazzola ’09 (in photo) isn’t easy. Often it can take several emails and a few pokes on Facebook to get him to respond. And, when he finally does, you might get something back like this:

“Hi, Sandy, sorry for the delay. I’ve just come back from the Cannes Film Festival and I am moving to Berlin tomorrow, where I will be skydiving for the summer.” 

Or, the adventurer, who lives in France, will just show up in the Wheaton Communications Office in Norton, Mass., on a random October afternoon, as he passes through town on his way to California to rack up some hours skydiving in preparation for maybe one day trying out BASE jumping (from a fixed object, using a parachute to break the fall).

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Letter

Singing praises 

Although I graduated from Wheaton in 1985 (at the age of 60), I don’t believe I’d given much thought to the day-to-day operations and preparations for events at the college until my youngest son, John [Mitchell], joined Wheaton’s Building Services Department in 1993. That’s when I first began to hear about what he referred to as the “smoke and mirrors” that contributed to the success of almost every campus event, and throughout the next 17 years, John was to share with me funny, frustrating and incredible stories of Wheaton’s behind-the-scenes staff—Wheaton’s unsung heroes.

The individuals who collectively are Wheaton’s staff work at all hours, on weekends as well as weekdays, in the daylight and in the dark. They arrange for food, reroute the traffic, keep the campus safe, deliver packages, unlock doors, make the lights turn on and the toilets flush. They monitor the weather, ring chapel bells, and move tables and chairs. To the rest of us (alums, students, faculty, guests), the day-to-day operations, meetings, events and landmark occasions just happen.

John was Wheaton’s supervisor of materials management when he died of cancer in 2011. To my surprise, I was contacted in 2012 about an event the staff and Wheaton was planning to hold in his memory. Last April, the Second Annual John Mitchell Memorial 5K Race/Walk was held.

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Marking a milestone

Class of 2013    228 female graduates    138 male graduates

Class of 2013
228 female graduates
138 male graduates

One of the many virtues of working and living on a college campus comes from the regular contact with young women and men. It offers a perspective on the zeitgeist that would be difficult to gain any other way.

The Beloit College Mindset List (co-founded by Ronald Nief P’99) provides a small window into the experiences and thinking of incoming first-year students. The 2013 list included observations about this generation of entering students, such as, “With GPS, they have never needed directions to get someplace, just an address,” “They have known only two presidents,” and “Having a chat has seldom involved talking.”

To that list, I would add one more observation: They have always known Wheaton as a coeducational institution.

It’s a fact that I’ve had reason to contemplate lately. Twenty-five years ago, 324 young women and 74 young men began their studies as Wheaton’s first coeducational class. For those students, it was the beginning of a four-year adventure that prepared them for professional careers and adult life. I have also come to understand how acutely aware they were of their role as pioneers, too. And in that role, they would have a say about what coeducation would mean to the college and our community.

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Fulbright top 10

Fulbright_Top Scholar Producer-13 Wheaton has earned a top 10 ranking among the nation’s liberal arts colleges for its success in preparing students to win U.S. Fulbright awards for advanced study and work abroad.

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