Oberlin Alumni Magazine

Summer 2008 Vol. 103 No. 4 OAM Home | Oberlin Online


Fuel for the Soul

Who would have thought the need for a good auto mechanic would serve as an excuse for a trip back to Oberlin? My daughter and I enjoyed three days plying the grounds of my formative years while Sam Merritt ’06 and Joseph Antolik of Full Circle Fuels expertly transformed my car into a vegetable oil burning vehicle. While these two entrepreneurs, on the forefront of alternative fuel technology, pulled a marathon mechanical session, I endeavored to present to 13-year-old Rebekah, in two-and-a-half days, the Oberlin experience. As during my student days, I was without a car, and it drizzled incessantly as we walked the campus. It was with mixed emotions that I found a copy of a 1980 Oberlin yearbook at the local antique store. My generation is now displayed alongside pendulum clocks, rotary phones, and old fur hats. I did take comfort in all that had not changed. I could have picked up where I left off as I strolled through Dascomb residence hall. Was that my laundry still piled up? I briefly sank into my favorite space chair in Mudd and found myself finishing a nap begun more than 20 years ago, an Econ 101 book still opened uselessly on my lap. Gibsons’ old-fashioned whole-wheat doughnuts, juxtaposed to a new display of fancy imported cheeses and chocolates, are still the best. Rebekah and I snapped photos of each other at the painted rock on Tappan Square and wondered just how many layers of paint covered just how tiny a pebble underneath. Even faces looked eerily familiar. Were some of these genetic expressions of former classmates? Standing, Sunday morning, in that old, greasy, filling station garage, listening to WOBC programming in the background, was somewhat surreal. My car’s new system was complete, and I had no more excuses to hang around. It was time, once again, to leave for the "real" world. My transformed VW purred contentedly on its new eco-healthy diet of recycled vegetable oil as we endured a long, rainy ride home to Gettysburg. I detected a subtle transformation in my daughter as well. She had traded her trendy teenage fashion sense for an Oberlin sweatshirt and jeans. Her youthful conversation shifted from boys and clothes to politics, art, and ecology. Oberlin, in just a weekend, had done its magic.

Peter J. Samuels ’70
Gettysburg, Pa.

A Green Leader

I’ve wondered many times in recent years if there was anything left of the activist, idealistic Oberlin College that I knew and loved in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I had sadly concluded that it was long gone. Thus, an article about Oberlin in today’s New York Times ("How Green is the College? Time the Showers") came as a most welcome surprise. It was the first positive news that I’ve seen about Oberlin in the national media in decades, and it made my day.

Christopher Comer ’71
Belchertown, Mass.

An Education in Tact

Reading "Teaching the Teachers" aroused my curiosity about the Oberlin KindergartenPrimary Training School my late mother attended. I still have her small, onyx lapel pin with OKPTS surrounded by pearls. In 1960 my mother, then a psychologist at the Western Pennsylvania School for the Deaf, took me on a tour of nearby colleges. My music teacher had recommended Oberlin, and my mother said later she was a little disappointed when I immediately loved the place, because she had hoped I would pick a college that was new to her. As she sat in the waiting room during my admissions interview, an official noted that she had graduated from OKPTS and said with a smirk, "So, I suppose you consider yourself an alumna?" She was careful not to tell me this until I was enrolled, in case it might tarnish my opinion of the school. "Those were Depression days," she laughed as she told me about his elitist taunt. "All anyone needed to get into any college was the money!" I’m glad to see that Oberlin is again doing a good job of teaching teachers.

Dee Birch Samuels x’65
El Paso, Texas