This academic year, six of the freshmen entering Wheaton had something special in common. They began their educational journeys together at the Elisabeth Amen Nursery School and did it again here as first-year college students. And each of them has a parent who is a faculty or staff member at Wheaton, which has been affiliated with the nursery school (a site for child study and research) since 1931.
I spent Saturday, Oct., 26, 2013, at the Wheaton Alumnae/i Leadership Conference, soaking in the gorgeous foliage (Wheaton is smart to have us return to campus in October rather than February), and connecting with new and old friends. I’d forgotten how good it feels to get together based on this one shared facet of our life experiences.
One of my favorite moments was in a social media workshop (I’m the social media chair for my class), where Molly Galler from the Class of 2006 did a great job explaining Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and WordPress to a group of older alums. The take-homes for me:
First, how Wheaton is a place I find mentors, even now. Each time I return, I’m reminded by other alums how part of being a Wheaton grad is having an ability to think, grow and expand your horizons. Not that graduates of other schools don’t have this, too—it’s just such a focus at Wheaton that after four years of immersion, it’s sort of in you in a way most of us don’t shake, even after graduation.
During the Homecoming groundbreaking for the new Diane C. Nordin ’80 artificial turf field, an array of Wheaton shovels, which date back to 1916, were out on display and used during the ceremony. We asked College Archivist Zephorene Stickney for the scoop on these historic shovels that play such a starring role in our new endeavors.
At the end of the 19th century, graduating seniors began planting class ivy or class trees on campus. Photographs indicate that the entire class gathered at the chosen location, reciting poems crafted for the occasion, singing the class song written by the class song leader, and often reading a class will. In later years, graduating classes also began to bury a treasure box filled with mementos near its tree. (During their 25th Reunion celebrations, classes open the box, if it can be located beneath the tree’s growing root system.)
All of this digging, of course, required a good shovel. The Oliver Ames shovel factory in nearby Easton, Mass., manufactured our earliest class shovels. The narrow, square shovels were designed for digging ditches. The shaft and handle are only 38" tall, making the shovel perfect for the ceremonial turning of a few clods of earth.
The first class to use a special shovel was the Class of 1916, as noted by the class year scratched into the handle. Beginning in 1917, the class years have been professionally inscribed.
Prior to the annual senior class tree planting, the college carpenters carve the class year into the shovel handle, and paint the carving in the class color. Over the years, this practice has resulted in colorful shovels that serve as reminders of preceding classes and of a long-standing campus tradition. The college now has five class shovels that recently have been used at groundbreaking ceremonies for buildings and athletic fields.