Spring 2003 Contents OAM Home Oberlin Online Home
Feature Stories
Money Matters
Family Tree, Oberlin roots
Operation Internship
[cover story] Fury and the Sound
David Rees Gets His (Bleep) On
Around Tappan Square
Alumni Profiles
The Last Word
One More Thing
Inside Oberlin
Staff Box

All in the Family

At age 43, Kathleen Yager '04 is a first-generation college student, the proud daughter of a working-class family from Lorain County. Married right out of high school, then divorced with children, she'd had no formal education for 22 years when she enrolled at Oberlin full time two years ago.

For Joel Goldberg '78, an associate chemistry
professor at the University of Vermont,
not even an employee perk of free UVM
tuition is enough to quash his hope that his
two children instead choose Oberlin.

Last fall, her daughter Mallory became the second generation of Yager Obies. Mallory is a little irked that her mom stole her thunder by enrolling first, and quite irked that her mom sold Mallory's childhood home and moved into town. But because of that decision, Mallory has enjoyed a thorough immersion into Oberlin life. In her engagingly impish way, she claims she was virtually hustled. "Mom had a lot of friends who were professors. The dean of students actually wrote me a letter when he heard I was thinking about applying and said it was a good idea. I thought, 'Oh my gosh, how big of a deal is this?'"

Kathleen Yager is hardly the first mother to move to Oberlin to support her child's education; many 19th-century mothers did the same. These women served as the original housemothers, renting rooms to students. Kathleen's move resulted in full immersion for both herself and daughter, and who knows the ripple effect?

"When I got to my lowest point, feeling as though I didn't belong here, my academic advisor reminded me that I was here for a very specific reason, a reason that I might not yet understand," Kathleen says. "Oberlin is a school from which you don't just take--you leave your mark. Every day I ask myself, 'what is it I want to leave? What is it that I want to give back?'" For starters, she's given her daughter.

George Bent, who regularly audits Oberlin courses, has some humble thoughts about his own chances of entry into the College today; he cites by example an event he witnessed in one of Professor William Hood's art history courses. Hood read aloud two students' answers to an essay exam so that classmates could gain an appreciation of the talent level of their peers.

"I was stunned," Bent says. "One of the essays was written by a junior. One by a sophomore. Their command of the language and the way they expressed themselves were just...well, I don't know how to describe it. I just know that if I applied to Oberlin College today, I'd never get in. Family or no family."

This rambling forest of family trees is perhaps the real Oberlin Arb. It's worth reflecting on the brood related to the word legacy. Derived from the Indo-European root leg-, meaning to collect, and having other derivatives meaning to speak, its kin include lecture, legend, lesson, diligent, intelligent, select, eclectic, legitimate, privilege, colleague, delegate, logic, analogous, and prologue. All of these would seem collected at Oberlin.


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