- - - - - - - - - -
Arts on view
by Beverly Harrison Miller 67, Alumni Association President
In 1966 I was a junior, living in a handsome, spacious triple with great windows in Skidmore Hallthe one on the old campus. One afternoon there was a knock at the door. Three women were standing there, clearly old by my somewhat perverse twenty-year-old standards. They asked, smiling uncertainly, if they could look at the room, where they had lived as Skidmore students in the 1940s. Sure, I said, and invited them in. They took it all in quickly, thanked me, and left.
My roomates and I snickered. That was pretty pathetic, we thought, coming back to look at a dorm room. Didnt those alumnae have a life?
Flash-forward thirty years. Some classmates and I were back on campus planning our reunion, when we decided to take a late-night tour of the campus. We ended up at the room Id had as a senior. I knocked. Two young women answered, and I asked if we could look at the room. Sure, they said, and invited us in. We took it all in quickly, thanked them, and left.
Did they snicker? Most likely. Did they think it was pathetic? Probably. Will they do the same thing in thirty years? Undoubtedly.
A strong pull does draw us back to Skidmore even long after weve left. We head up North Broadway and wander over the campus, or maybe just drive around and exit. If we havent been back in a while, everything looks new and decidedly unfamiliar. (Actually, this happens immediately; ask any graduate from even 2000.) This college, this place where we lived so fully for a brief four years, this home, becomes something quite different once we graduate, and we dont exactly know how to go home again. In the past Skidmore revolved around us, but now no one knows us anymore; we are outsiders. Rather than a delightful trip down memory lane, it can be somewhat dispiriting.
Skidmores alumni board took on this issue a few years ago. We wanted a building named for alumni, and in our minds eye we could even see Alumni Hall on campus somewhere. As we talked about alumni returning and reconnecting with campus, the idea morphed, and we realized what we wanted was not a building named for alumni but a building for alumni.
We even picked out a place: Colton House, the first Skidmore building you come to on North Broadway, just across from the main campus entrance. Named for George Colton, Skidmore trustee emeritus (and longtime Dartmouth vice president of development and alumni affairs), it could be a great welcome center for alums, we thoughta spot to have a cup of coffee, browse through books published by professors, view the Skidmore sweatshirts and other items available at the bookstore, and talk to alumni-affairs staff about whats going on around campus. Maybe be teamed up with a student for a campus tour. Take a student to lunch. Browse through decades of yearbooks. Even get Saratoga hotel and restaurant advice.
Magically, within a year, all the planets aligned just so, and Colton House recently became the Colton Alumni Welcome Center. It has a gourmet coffeemaker, all those books by professors, Skidmore souvenirs, comfortable chairs for leafing through yearbooks, a computer to check your e-mail, and, best of all, a warm and welcoming staff.
Drop in sometime. Theyre waiting for you.