April showers welcome alumni back to campus

Tue, 06/01/2010 - 11:15am
Homecoming 1

By Greta Sharp

Even thunder, lightning and torrential downpours couldn’t dampen the excitement at the 2010 Homecoming on the Hill.

Student ambassadors welcomed alumni back to the Hill for a weekend that included tours of the new “green” Student Center, a lunch for graduating seniors with the class of 1960, and Saturday night’s Homecoming celebration with the Spring Hill College Jazz Band for entertainment.

Other weekend events included alumni and student networking, Badger baseball, a riverboat cruise, the alumni memorial Mass, and a Jesuit and college update with new president Rev. Richard P. Salmi, S.J. A reception honored retiring faculty members Drs. Mel Brandon, John Hafner ’60 and Bob Bracken.

The college’s new facilities made an impression on Dennis Shea ’60 of Oyster Bay, N.Y. “It’s quite striking,” he said at Friday night’s Golden Badger dinner. “Fifty years ago it was not in this kind of shape at all.” Mike McDermott ’60 of Chicago agreed, comparing the current campus to when he was a student. “It’s just exploded, absolutely exploded,” he marveled. “That’s the amazing thing.”

When Chris Rutigliano ’85 of Shrewsbury, Mass., graduated, his uncle who graduated in 1966 attended and told him that campus hadn’t changed. Now 25 years after his own graduation, “Tigs” found a different campus.

“It’s a change in focus,” he said, from Mobile Hall, the tennis courts and the campus center to the new Student Center, the Burke Memorial Library and St. Joseph Chapel.

It’s been nearly 25 years since Walter Hill ’85 was on campus. “Murray Hall is gone; the whole campus is laid out differently,” he said at Friday night’s Mobile Bay Boil, recalling that when he was at the Hill, basketball games were played in St. Paul’s gym.

When Hill’s older brother graduated from Spring Hill in 1964, Hill was there, nine months old and in a stroller. “I knew my whole life I was coming here,” he said. “It’s been a part of my life for 46 years.”

Paul Jurgensen ’60 and his wife Diane ’62 of Savannah, Ga., also have close family ties to Spring Hill. His uncle and brother attended SHC, as well as her brother, three sisters and several spouses. The Jurgensens met at the Hill and their daughter, Margaret, and her husband also attended Spring Hill. “We’ve got our own platoon,” Jergensen said. “Spring Hill was like the dating game for our family.”

For Marney Skinner ’85 of Naples, Fla., the camaraderie and exposure to people from all areas in all walks of life is part of what made the Spring Hill experience so special. “People have such fond memories, such a dedication to Spring Hill and the Jesuit tradition,” Skinner explained. In her upcoming term as president-elect of the National Alumni Association, Skinner plans to increase alumni involvement and share with potential students and parents the exceptional experience of Spring Hill College.

That experience is one Ann-Marie Beard ’90 of Baltimore can attest to, as she came to Spring Hill as a transfer student, concerned about the transition. “I found the place that I wish I had found in the first place,” Beard said. Her memories center on the communications program, especially Bettie Hudgens and Michelle Hilmes.

Rutigliano’s many Spring Hill memories feature Rev. Bobby Rimes, S.J., and Rev. Paul Tipton, S.J. “I was on his (sailing) crew,” he said. “We had so many great weekends.”

Spirituality played a strong role in alumni memories, from morning Mass in Sodality Chapel for Kelly Flynn Hughes ’00 of Daphne, Ala., to Sunday night Mass at Murray Hall for Robin Barnett ’86 of Mobile. “We always ended our weekend with Mass at 10 p.m.,” Barnett said. “I loved those moments, knowing we were going to end our weekends there. The best part about the Jesuit experience is dissolving it into my family now that I have children. It brings back feelings I had through my whole experience here.”

Hughes now teaches at McGill-Toolen Catholic High School in Mobile. “I think going to Spring Hill had a big part in me being called back to a Catholic school,” she said.

This year’s Homecoming schedule highlighted alumni accomplishments. Dr. Andrew D. Sharp ’83, professor of accounting, held a book signing for “Antebellum Myths and Folklore: A Search for the Truth.” Ashland Gallery hosted a reception for alumna artist Cindy Wunsch ’90 of Nashville, Tenn. And Dr. Emmett Duffy ’81 of Gloucester Point, Va., presented the keynote address, “From the Top of the Hill to the Bottom of the Sea: The Changing State of the Oceans and What It Means for Us.”

The Golden Badger Class of 1960 won the Reunion Cup with 38.5 percent of the class financially supporting Spring Hill College for a total of $18,145. The class of 1965 received the President’s Cup for the most money raised for the college with $37,105.