Thirteen members of the Class of 1964 celebrated their 50th anniversary as special participants in the spring commencement, leading the graduates in the procession during the ceremony. The weekend also included special events to welcome these newest Golden Pioneers back to campus, including a reception at the President’s House. One of those class members, James Southerland, shares his experiences with in the following article:
How could it possibly be half a century since walking across that stage to graduate from Tusculum? A lot has happened in those 50 years, both personally and at Tusculum College. Marriages, births, deaths, more degrees and skills, successes, failures and a plethora of other events and memories on a personal level, Vietnam, September 11, a string of good and not so good presidents, a collage of national state and local events, from military involvements to weather disasters, heroes and dastardly individuals and deeds, all blurred in a collage of human destinies.
Yet, McCormick Hall and the Arch still stand as icons of Tusculum College. However, if you snap your fingers to bring you back to the present, you see many changes that have occurred on campus. There are more dorms, the faculty apartments in the Old College have been replaced by the President Andrew Johnson Museum and Library, the Doak House has become a host of many events from school children and traditional music on Friday nights (but Frank Creek and the old spring still gurgle by), a new athletic complex involving baseball, football, tennis, the Niswonger Commons for basketball and other venues and buildings. Some of the old dorms no longer house students, but a plethora of teachers and administrative personnel. The old steam plant if gone, as are the old water tanks. The mighty oak at the Old College has reached new heights and has received recognition in the annals of “tree-dom” as one of the largest in the state.
A fairly new tradition of Golden Pioneers was launched a few years back; consequently us old dudes from the class of 1964 were summoned to these hallowed grounds the weekend of May 10 to reminisce and reenact some aspects of those earlier days.
The Golden Pioneers’ schedule started with a reception at the President’s House. Dr. Nancy Moody and Mr. Tom Moody greeted the baker’s dozen or so that returned for the occasion, along with their spouses and others. We were all shuttled to the door in a sprinkle of rain in a golf cart from parking at the bottom of the hill. After a period of getting reintroduced and reminiscing of the good old days, and intervening events, a toast was proposed and amended by individual contributions, including a remembrance of those who were no longer among us. Dr. Moody and Tom circulated among us getting acquainted and prying some stories from the class ventures from us as they progressed. They were very gracious hosts.
After an hour and a half or so allotted to catching up, we changed venue and regrouped at the Whistle Stop restaurant, which is now housed in the old Dobson’s Store structure, at the bottom of the hill, for a very nice dinner from the menu. The food and camaraderie were enjoyed by all. A special word of thanks to Joni Parker of the College staff, my “elbow mate” at Whistle Stop, who coordinated all the events for the Golden Pioneers over the weekend.
On graduation morning, (after parking in our reserved spots) we gathered at the Perk in Niswonger Commons, for breakfast and to receive golden gowns, mortars, tassels and instructions. We were lined up in alphabetical order and marched in to the graduation arena to our reserved seats with graduating students (only half of the class as the number of graduates has grown such that there are now two sessions of commencement) marching in behind us and faculty in front of us. It was a far cry from the 80-plus graduates in 1964. There were a total of just over 300 by the time the event was concluded in the afternoon. The Golden Pioneers were recognized as a group and then individuals were asked to stand when our names were called. The obligatory speeches were highlighted by an outstanding and enthusiastic talk from a graduating scholar and athlete. A graduation ceremony is pointless without the walk of the graduates to pick up their diplomas. To friends and family and to the individual graduates is the moment to be remembered for a lifetime. To a group of old dudes in the audience it is not only a highlight of enjoyment and reflection with these individuals, but also a seemingly endless time of the marching of feet across the stage with a plethora of foot wear, ranging from tennis shoes, flats, difficult to describe spikes and amazingly thick soles. We congratulate and salute all those new graduates and wish them well.
Following the ceremony, we retired back to the Perk so to leave our golden garb and have a lunch with the other Golden Pioneers, before returning to our mostly “retired” lives. I wish to give a special appreciation to Michelle Arbogast of the college staff who volunteered to escort my almost 93-year old mother to a special seat and retrieve her at the end of the event in the ensuing crowd. The event was flawless from where we sat, and Tusculum should be proud of Dr. Moody and all staff involved, including the hospitality assistants and the Presidents house, the security staff, the maintenance staff who set up the gymnasium, and all the others involved.
By James Southerland ’64