On Wednesday, March 20, Olivet College hosted “Moments in Time,” a 175th Commemoration Alumni Panel presentation. Attendees heard alumni from eight decades of students, including a current student, tell stories from their time on campus. Panelists discussed what it was like to live through historic events on campus including Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination, the Vietnam War, the invention of computers and more.
Saudia Santure ’98 moderated a panel of Charles Blackman ’46, Walter Parker ’58, Linwood “Woody” Wiley ’68, Tala J. Welch ’77, CAPT, USN (Ret), Audra Carson ’87, Jeff Bell ’99, Mauricio “Moe” Palli ’07, Ayren Parrish ’18 and Brittany McDuffie, Class of 2020. The panel expressed their appreciation for the College’s principle of “the divine art of doing good to others” and emphasized the campus’s safe and positive environment over the years. Panelists also marveled at the progress the College has made throughout the decades and shared laughs about the changes that have occurred over the years.
“When planning the ‘Moments in Time’ event, we hoped to tell the story of Olivet College through the eyes of those who lived it to provide a very human perspective on how life was experienced here on campus during different times in history,” Samantha Pearl, director of alumni engagement said. “It was a remarkable event with ten alumni from the 1940s to present day joining us to share their personal experiences. From how campus was impacted during major world events, to changes in technology over time, to the College’s unique approach to inclusion, to lighter topics like slang and catchphrases used through the years, it was a unique glimpse into the very human history of Olivet College.”
Listen in on what panelists shared.
On Diversity and Inclusion:
“While I was on campus, we had some of the first black faculty members. It showed that we meant what we said about inclusion.” — Charles Blackman ’46
“I don’t think students felt oppressed on campus. Olivet was ahead of the game, especially on the athletic field. Only a few MIAA schools had black athletes. On this campus we felt insulated. There were conversations to be had, but the climate was receptive and welcoming.” — Walter Parker ’58
“I never saw a hint of bigotry on campus.” — Woody Wiley ’68
“Olivet opened my eyes to what diversity means.” — Jeff Bell ‘99
“Diversity and inclusion has grown over time. OC is a welcoming community. They don’t call me names like Walt was saying [“negro”]. They call me Brittany.” — Brittany McDuffie ’20
On “the divine art of doing good to others”:
“We didn’t have the Compact during my time, but we were practicing it long before it was adopted.” — Walter Parker ’58
“Olivet taught me that you can’t succeed without having integrity in all that you do.” — Woody Wiley ’68
“The principle is foundational to my career and personal life. It’s been the largest pole in my tent in my career.” — Tala J. Welch ’77, CAPT, USN (Ret)
“The seed was planted in my head on campus. It’s amazing to be here and come full circle, being able to talk about being more and doing good.” — Audra Carson ’87
“Olivet College implanted the principle of service in me. It taught me to take advantage of any service opportunity.” — Ayren Parrish ’18
On Politics and World Events:
“Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination affected the whole campus. The real impact came the day after. There were no protests. We felt insulated. We were not worried about the [Vietnam War] draft. We were fortunate in that respect.” — Walter Parker ’58
“The Kent State shootings affected everyone. It was something we thought about on campus, but we felt insulated. We felt safe. Olivet was a happy place for many reasons.” — Tala J. Welch ’77, CAPT, USN (Ret)
“I remember watching the Challenger explosion on small TVs in the cafeteria. We watched it over and over. We were enthralled.” — Audra Carson ’87
“I was on campus one year after 9/11. Emotions were still raw. Our campus was patriotic yet mellow. I think the Meijer in Charlotte ran out of American flags we were so supportive.” — Maurice “Moe” Palli ’07
“During my time at Olivet, the first black president was elected, a woman ran for president and Donald Trump was elected. It made me realize that no matter where we’re from we can do what we set our minds to. These events show how what we’re doing impacts the world in ways both big and small.” — Ayren Parrish ’18
A Lasting Impact
In addition to elaborating on Olivet’s key principles, the panel shared advice for current students. Alumni encouraged students to take advantage of small class sizes and their professors; build networks and connect with mentors; take risks and break out of their comfort zones; and take advantage of the here and now.
Above all, alumni emphasized how Olivet College has remained true to its principles since its beginning. These panelists, along with alumni across the world, believe as much in the past as they hope for the future.
“When planning the ‘Moments in Time’ event, we hoped to tell the story of Olivet College through the eyes of those who lived it to provide a very human perspective on how life was experienced here on campus during different times in history,” Samantha Pearl, director of alumni engagement, said. “It was a remarkable event with ten alumni from the 1940s to present day joining us to share their personal experiences. From how campus was impacted during major world events, to changes in technology over time, to the College’s unique approach to inclusion, to lighter topics like slang and catchphrases used through the years, it was a unique glimpse into the very human history of Olivet College.”
The 175th celebration will continue with additional events this spring. Save the date for the Faculty Panel livestream on April 10 at 12:15 p.m.
To learn more about Olivet College, contact the Office of Admissions at 800.456.7189 or email@example.com.