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Alumni Converge on Campus for Homecoming

September 11, 2017 | By Tim Pratt

Tutor Peter Kalkavage leads alumni during Freshman Chorus Revisited at the Pendulum Pit.
Tutor Peter Kalkavage leads alumni during Freshman Chorus Revisited at the Pendulum Pit.

The year was 1977. 

Geoff Comber, a tutor at St. John’s College in Annapolis, had spent some time over the previous few summers on the college’s Santa Fe campus. There, in the mountains of northern New Mexico, the tutor was impressed by the Graduate Institute (GI), a graduate program that formed 10 years earlier. 

Comber, a faculty member since 1965, had an idea: Why not bring the Graduate Institute to Annapolis?  

In the fall of 1977, after years of discussion and planning, the GI finally opened in Maryland’s capital city. In the four decades since then, the program has continued to grow. 

“It is now clear the Graduate Institute is alive and thriving,” Comber said to a group of GI alumni, undergraduate alumni, students and others who gathered to celebrate its 50th anniversary during Homecoming festivities in Annapolis. 

The celebration in the Francis Scott Key Auditorium lobby on September 9 was one of many events that took place over Homecoming weekend. More than 400 alumni and their family members returned to campus for Homecoming activities, from class reunions and seminars to dancing and athletic events. 

On the front lawn, 16 teams of alumni and students played in the Banned in Boston croquet tournament. The two-day event, organized by a group of former St. John’s croquet players called “The Rusty Wickets,” included at least a half-dozen former imperial wickets. 

Students and alumni battle in soccer on the upper field.
Students and alumni battle in soccer on the upper field.

“It’s an imperial affair,” said Hardison Wood (A98), one of those former imperial wickets.  

It was the third year the tournament, or some variation of it, has taken place during Homecoming. A team of alumni captured the top prize. 

“There’s a lot of good croquet being played out here,” Wood said as the tournament wound down Saturday afternoon. 

Meanwhile, seminars took place in nearby buildings, the highlight of the weekend for many alumni. Those graduates gathered afterward on the quad to continue their discussions, just as they did when they were students. A children’s carnival, featuring a bounce house, games and activities, kept younger family members entertained. 

On the upper field on the back of campus, students and alumni squared off in soccer, with the alumni capturing a shutout win. And at the Pendulum Pit, longtime tutor Peter Kalkavage led alumni in “Freshman Chorus Revisited”—an opportunity for graduates to sing some of the songs they learned freshman year.  

Among the many other events on and off campus, the Alumni Association held its annual awards banquet, during which David Diggs (AGI91) received an Award of Merit for his efforts to end child slavery in Haiti. There was a waltz party, a rock party, an all-college alumni meeting and a remembrance ceremony over the weekend, too. 

Alumni Allan Hoffman (Class of 1949) and Steve Benedict (Class of 1947) are “regulars” at Homecoming.

Allan Hoffman, left, Steve Benedict and Nick Maistrellis converse outside of The Mitchell Gallery.
Allan Hoffman, left, Steve Benedict and Nick Maistrellis converse outside of The Mitchell Gallery.

Hoffmann, an honorary member of the Board of Visitors and Governors and director emeritus with the Alumni Association, among other duties within the college community, estimated he has attended Homecoming 30 to 40 times in Annapolis and Santa Fe. He and Benedict keep returning for the seminars, to see old friends, and to pay a “debt of gratitude” to Stringfellow Barr and Scott Buchanan, the men responsible for starting the college’s New Program in 1937. 

The alumni said they are pleased to see the Program remain nearly the same since it began. That creates a bond among alumni, students and the college as a whole, Hoffman said.

“What holds this college together, the matrix, is the Program,” he said.

Homecoming events on the Santa Fe campus are scheduled for September 15-17.