Alum Says College Working for Better Town Relations

To the Editor:

Shortly after I arrived in Oberlin in Sep. 1950, I became aware of the so-called “town and gown” rivalry between the student body of the College and the younger residents of the city of Oberlin. None of the infrequent confrontations resulted in any serious damage or injury to any of the participants, and I tended to set aside my concerns about this situation and concentrate on adjusting to the rigors of an Oberlin education. Through my time on campus, I had the opportunity to interface with “townies” in more positive ways such as attending church services, volunteering at the Lorain County Orphans Home and other such activities. I don’t think I ever really thought of myself as a resident of the city of Oberlin because I knew that after graduating I would be living elsewhere.
More recently, however, I have gained a greater awareness of the importance of good relationships between the College and the city. In order to attract and retain qualified teachers and administrators to the staff of the College, it is important that the city offer such amenities as a strong school system for the children of these employees and a housing stock that provides attractive homes to live in and an environment including social and recreational activities and orderly neighborhoods. My sense is that the city has tried to meet the needs of the College, but that there are areas of need that are not being met.
Under the leadership of President [Nancy] Dye, the College has begun to address the relationship between the College and the city by forming the Oberlin Partnership. Two of Dye’s able assistants, Daniel Gardner and Diana Roose, have taken on responsibility for developing with the city and its citizens a collaborative and supportive relationship that benefits everyone. Meetings have been held with residents concerned about education, economic development, housing and recreation. This is a monumental task that will take many years, lots of money and strong commitment to implement. The fact is that the several constituencies are listening to each other and working together for the common good. Oberlin College, the “800 pound gorilla” of the city of Oberlin, wants to be a positive force and good corporate citizen of the city of Oberlin.
A few examples of accomplishments to date would include the construction of a community recreation center at the south edge of the city and the purchase by the College of the Allen Memorial Hospital property. A management firm, Community Health Care Partners, is now managing the hospital in an effort to return it to profitability and ensure its viability. In addition, a former church-related retirement home has been purchased by the College and will be converted to dormitory space. The residents of the retirement home will use the sale proceeds to construct a new home in another location in town. Perhaps my favorite accomplishment is the establishment of a four-year scholarship for graduates of Oberlin High School to attend Oberlin College, provided those students meet the entrance requirements of the College.
To Gardner and Roose, I offer my congratulations on a job well done and a heartfelt admonition to keep up the good work. You make me proud to be an Oberlin alum.

–Richard Anderson 
OC ’54
Executive Board of the Alumni Association


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