Category Archives: Dear Old Macalester

I entered Mac as a freshman in September of 1967. I graduated in January of 1982. Life is complicated.


We were there for the 25-year reunion of the Class of 1982. It took me a long time to get through college; I was a Macalester freshman in 1967.

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Nature and Revelation by Jeanne Halgren Kilde: a review

All that to say that there’s room for another book about Macalester, with perhaps more emphasis on the changing structure of the curriculum, the faculty’s ever-evolving membership, and changes to student life (and the student body’s makeup) which occurred over time. Nonetheless, Kilde’s book is valuable as written, and quite a gratifying read.

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All in all it was a fun summer. I’ve always claimed this was my favorite job. Three years later, I gather, I’d been replaced by a computer. Hmmm.

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James Wallace of Macalester by Edwin Kagin: a review

The strength of the book is its fascinating portrait of the early years of a small college. We see buildings under construction, we sit in on debates about whether to permit women students, we watch faculty get hired (and fired), we experience a neighborhood growing around the campus, we grow frustrated as the finances of the school devolve from difficult to grim. Then we follow newly-elected Macalester president Wallace as he slogs through a half-decade of budgets and fundraising–begging, really–during the 1890s recession. Finally things right themselves as the new century begins. This section of the book is extremely well-done, and worth reading for anyone interested in the beginnings of educational institutions. While the details are specific to this institution, the general pattern, I suspect, is common.

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The Fatal Shore by Robert Hughes: a review

An engrossing, thoroughly researched, well-written, powerful, and profoundly disturbing book.

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The Mac Do Book by Mary Gwen Owen: a short review

Mary Gwen Owen explains manners to Macalester’s freshman class; received shortly before I enrolled in 1967. Dated, I think; absolutely hilarious, not always intentionally. In particular, the word “gay” has (and already had) connotations which the book ignores. Repeatedly.

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Get Over It

Macalester’s Class of ’82 Reunion theme was "Get Over It." This theme implied an unasked question: Was (is) the Macalester experience worth the price? The question came up by implication in those conversations with imperfectly-remembered classmates, by reference in a presentation exploring our responses to a reunion survey, and quite explicitly twice at the Class Dinner: Our hostess (Mary Morse Marti, I think) wandered around the topic for several minutes before explicitly raising the question as something she still found difficult to answer, and Macalester’s President Brian Rosenberg told us he considers all the early-eighties classes to be problems because their members have largely detached themselves from the community. These concerns have causes.

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Dear Old Macalester

Every campus has a narrative, and that narrative shapes the college culture. These stories may emphasize unimportant details; they ignore entire decades. Macalester’s, like most, begins with a founder, has a key figure who shaped the college, skips lightly through the decades, mentions some key teachers and graduates, describes a major crisis, and looks brightly to the future. To the best of my ability, here’s the Macalester story.

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Railroad Fever

The entire nation had the Railroad Fever in 1869. Michigan was nursing two outbreaks: Promoters were raising money to build a more direct line (an “air line”) between Detroit and Chicago which would roughly follow the route of the Chicago Road, and actual construction was occurring for a line connecting Jackson and Grand Rapids. Both remain interesting, for different reasons.

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Dale Warland Singers

It was probably our second rehearsal.  We’d stumbled badly on a run-through, and Warland was isolating the technical problems.  We worked on the rhythms for a time, added the words when he was confident we’d mastered the counts, and finally fit the music to the section.  I’d forgotten I’d sung this at Mac.  But I’d not forgotten Dale’s teaching methods.

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