News & Publications
The College Magazine - Fall 2008
Return of the Pioneers
July Reunion Brings Together Santa Fe's First Classes
Joy Avery (SF68) catches up with tutor emeritus Curtis Wilson (HA83), one of the first faculty members in Santa Fe.
With the aid of a borrowed MacBook, Bruce Baldwin (SF68) tuned a harpsichord for Roy Stegman (SF68), who was leading a tutorial on "Bach's Temperament" in the Peterson Student Center. The computer provided the note—perfectly, of course—allowing Baldwin to tune each string to the computer's purity.
In the tutorial, Stegman described a recently rediscovered keyboard tuning system Bach used, and he demonstrated on the instrument: a 1968 harpsichord, an appropriate choice for Santa Fe's pioneering class of 1968. The tutorial was one of a number of offerings—intellectual and social—organized by a group of alumni for a July reunion of the pioneers, their families, and members of the classes who shared the campus with them: the classes of 1969, 1970, and 1971.
Claudia Nordstrom Larcombe (SF69) and Antigone Phalares (SF68).
The self-organized reunion grew from objections by some alumni to the college's decision to move Santa Fe's Homecoming to the fall. During the summer of 2007, the idea of a summer reunion emerged, and a group of alumni settled on a full week—July 13-19—of activities. Phil Chandler (SF68) conceived of the format, and Lindsay Ridgeway (SF68) pitched in as organizing committee chair and treasurer. Organizing and planning took place via e-mail, the college provided meeting rooms for the gathering, and Santa Fe Alumni Director Michael Bales (SF06) helped coordinate activities at the college. Santa Fe President Michael Peters and his wife, Eleanor, hosted a reception welcoming alumni and their families back to campus.
The reunion attracted 29 alumni from classes through 1971, 8 tutors and 25 others including alumni from later classes. From as far away as Göteborg, Sweden, alumni came to see the remarkable changes to the campus, catch up with one another, and enjoy a host of options for spending their time in Santa Fe, from seminars and lectures to an evening at the Santa Fe Opera and a morning rafting the Rio Grande. "It was a wonderful experience," says Rick Wicks (SF68), who with 5,000 miles to travel from Sweden was a vocal proponent for a summer reunion.
Enjoying the view from Monte Sol are Antigone Phalares (SF68), Gus Goldstein (SF68),
Ellinor Garbring, Linnéa and Hendrik Garbring-Wicks, and Rick Wicks (SF68).
"Usually at a Homecoming one only knows one's own classmates, because most of the others are younger (or older) in multiples of five years," he explained. "But here we had members from the next three classes, not all of whom I knew before, but all of whom I very much enjoyed getting to know better. Organizing the reunion also brought me into contact with members of the class of '68 who had dropped out before I arrived in Santa Fe for my junior year, again a very rewarding experience. By the time my family and I arrived, participants had already been there for several days, so there was an active community into which we walked. It felt very good."
The reunion week featured six seminars (including two on the Odyssey), led by tutors emeriti, alumni, or both together. In addition there were several tutorials, including a session by Beth Kuper on the I Ching and feng shui. Tutor emeritus Curtis Wilson (HA83, one of the first faculty members on the new campus) gave an informal lecture, "Reflections on Lunar Theory," and tutor Peter Pesic performed a concert. Outdoor activities included the rafting trip and a hike up Monte Sol. In between scheduled events, alumni enjoyed several ad hoc get-togethers, restaurant meals, and gatherings in the homes of Santa Fe alumni.
Jeff Hockersmith (SF69) at Sunday brunch.
The closing event was a Quaker-style meeting, led by Kuper and Phil Chandler, focusing on the theme: "What have you learned since leaving St. John's?" Maurie Wills Scott (SF68) was very glad she made time to attend: "I realized what wonderful friendships I had," she said. "It was easy to talk with people, and our shared background laid the groundwork for reconnecting."
By Harold Morgan (SF68). Harold Morgan attended St. John's in Santa Fe for three semesters. An Albuquerque resident, he is a syndicated columnist and blogger.
Students play a spirited volleyball game on the Santa Fe campus in 1964.
On October 2, 1964, the opening day of classes for the Santa Fe campus, 82 freshmen signed the college Register at Convocation. Everything was new and unsettled. After all, "colonizing a college," in the words of then-president Richard Weigle (HA49), wasn't easy. The campus had three buildings: a student center, one classroom building, one laboratory building, and a cluster of dormitories on the upper campus. One woman's dorm had ground-level windows facing south to the piñon trees. A year later, to discourage male visitors, a spotlight was pointed toward the trees. On its second night in place, the spotlight turned a flashing red.
The Rolling Stones and the Beatles were featured artists in common room parties. There was no television on campus.
Ford K. Brown was a kind of genial god of the 11 tutors, bringing wisdom, humor and deep experience to the classroom.
In February 1966, St. John's drew a visit from Beat poet and anti-war activist Allen Ginsberg, who traveled to campus in a 1960s icon, the battered Volkswagen mini bus.
For the pioneers, their years at St. John's coincided with a time of great social upheaval. The graduation year, 1968, was marked by momentous events: the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy, a riot at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and Vietnam War protests.
Looking back years later, Weigle wondered whether importing a seminar-size group of juniors could have helped younger students adapt to the college culture, but lacking older models, students had to figure things out themselves, with the help of their tutors.
And in time, they did.