Centre boasts some of the most loyal alumni in the nation, especially the seven alumni (and two friends) loyal enough to brave 2400-degree furnaces in the Jones Visual Arts Center during Alumni College 2013. Led by H.W. Stodghill and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Art and world-renowned glass artist Stephen Rolfe Powell, Alumni College gave former Centre students an opportunity to reconnect with their alma mater in a unique way.
“Alumni College arose out of a desire to utilize our campus during the summer months,” says Milton Reigelman, director of the Center for Global Citizenship and special assistant to the president. “Both Stephen Powell’s international reputation and the popularity of his classes among Centre students made him the perfect Alumni College instructor.”
Interested alumni registered through the Alumni Office’s CentreLink, a website that keeps alumni up to date on special events and offerings by the College. Ranging from the class of 1958 to the class of 2012, the alumni attendees were a diverse group of individuals, none of whom had previously taken a class with Powell. This represented a unique challenge for Powell, who had to teach and demonstrate in a way that was accessible and enjoyable for one of the most wide-ranging classes he has ever taught.
The three-day course, titled “The Art of Glass,” involved lectures on both the history of glassblowing and current trends as well as hands-on demonstrations of certain glassblowing techniques.
“It can be intimidating with the heat,” says Powell, “but I wanted them to get a taste of the success you can have when making something out of glass.”
Beyond the lectures and unique opportunity to work with Powell in his studio, attendees got a chance to learn more about art appreciation, particularly in relation to glassblowing.
“I sought to teach them more than a few simple techniques,” Powell says. “I wanted them to understand how specific artistic ideas get put into a piece of artwork, what makes a certain artist’s work distinctly his or her own, and how artists develop their own unique style.”
Nine people attended Alumni College, an ideal number for Powell because it allowed for the same individualized and personal attention Centre professors give their undergraduates.
“Everyone got a chance to work with Stephen individually,” says Reigelman. “During his demonstration they each got to assist with torches and tools and be part of his creative process.”
Though the alumni group was small, it was extremely close-knit.
“In a matter of hours, the group bonded intensely,” says Reigelman. “It was very much like a Centre study abroad group in that way. The chemistry was just right.”
Katie Kelley Kramer ’05 had two favorite experiences from Alumni College.
“Learning to blow glass with Steve’s help was incredible,” she says. “I also loved the demonstration of Steve and his team making ‘Echo,’ one of his new pieces. It was especially exciting because I got to actually help with the process.”
Kramer and her husband, John Kramer ’05, are interested in returning to future Alumni College offerings.
“It’s a real privilege to be back on campus and create more memories here,” she says. “The chance to get to know so many alumni from a variety of years is also very special.”
Because of the participants’ excitement about and interest in the experience, Alumni College is slated to expand its activities and offerings in 2014.
For Reigelman, Alumni College is important not only as a one-of-a-kind opportunity for Centre alumni, but also as an embodiment of Centre’s core values.
“We prepare our undergraduate students for lives of learning, leadership and service in a global community,” he says. “Alumni College is a continuation of the kind of lifelong learning that we talk about and that we want our students to engage in. Being able to host that kind of an experience here is very exciting.”
By Mariel Smith