Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

A handle on the history of shovels

During the groundbreaking for the new Diane C. Nordin ’80 artificial turf field, Wheaton’s shovels played a key role.

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.

Class years are inscribed on the handles of shovels

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.

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Passing the barre

Trish Clark Ryan ’91Freshman year, I needed a gym class. I’d done gymnastics, but Wheaton didn’t offer that, so I picked “Modern Jazz Dance” instead. I’d never studied dance before. It was fun, and I did OK.

Sophomore year, I auditioned for the Wheaton Dance Company, and made it. The first day of rehearsal, our director, Cheryl Mrozowski, lined us up along the back of the room and led us through a ballet barre. I’d heard of barre before—it involved things like knee bends and going up on your toes. I was sure I’d be fine.

I was wrong. Barre was the worst thing that had happened to my 19-year-old body. By the end of the first week, I looked like I’d been in a car accident, with bruises all over my legs, hands and (inexplicably) torso. There was this one move—frappé it’s calledwhich in the rest of life means “yummy cold beverage,” but in ballet terms means “kick yourself repeatedly, as fast as you can, until the music ends.” I flapped and flailed. But these embarrassing times at the barre didn’t make me want to quit dance —they made me want to conquer it.   [Read more...]

Valuing education

Sarah E. Weeks ’05

Sarah E. Weeks ’05

When I was a sophomore at Wheaton, I took a class on literary and critical theory, aptly named “Approaches to Literature,” with Paula Krebs. Toward the end of the course, after having attempted to master reader response, deconstruction and postcolonial criticism as lenses though which to read a book, Professor Krebs made the comment that learning how to apply these theories was “an arduous pleasure.” This notion—one that has always resonated with me—has now woven itself inextricably into my educational creed.

Since graduating with the Class of 2005 as an English literature major, I have gone on to teach seventh-grade English in an inner-city school; teach at the high school level in independent boarding schools; and lead outdoor education trips for disadvantaged youths. I have learned myriad lessons and gained insights from all of my experiences, and have appreciated all of them for what they were—opportunities for intellectual and personal growth, not as a means to an end.   [Read more...]