Last weekend, I had the pleasure of being part of an extraordinary celebration—the Johnston 50th Anniversary Renewal. During these three days, I was heartened to see more than 600 Johnston alumni and friends from different generations (both from when it was Johnston College and the more recent incarnation of the Johnston Center for Integrative Studies) connecting, reconnecting, and reflecting on 50 years of Johnston education.
For this Renewal—my fourth, since they take place every five years—many people traveled to be part of the festivities. I live in Redlands, but was grateful to see that friends and former students of mine made long journeys to attend. Many came in from Portland, Chicago, the East Coast, as well as Amsterdam and China! This was an event not to be missed, and was made even more special by the dedication from Johnstonians all over the globe to gather for Renewal.
Upon check-in Friday night, I immediately saw many familiar faces from across class years in the Holt lobby. There were lots of hugs, selfies, and excitement to be back together in the Johnston Complex. We were welcomed by Julie Townsend, director of the Johnston Center, and treated to a rendition of the Johnston song. Started by Joel Smith ’03, this song has been passed down through the years, with each graduating class composing a new verse (as you can imagine, the song is getting longer each year!).
We enjoyed Johnston art from different eras at Peppers Gallery and a reading from the commemorative book, Snapshot 50, in Hall of Letters 100. Maureen Forys ’93 and MG Maloney ’03, assistant director of Johnston, created this visually compelling book especially for this occasion, and I loved knowing that Johnston students learned archival science as part of the process.
After Friday night’s events (including the Founders’ Dinner, open mic, and story time), Saturday kicked off with a community meeting on accessibility; the discussion ranged from the physical accessibility of the Johnston complex to making Johnston truly accessible to everyone who wants to participate.
Following a group photo and lunch in front of Bekins Hall, I attended Tim Seiber’s mini-course, which included students from his first-year seminar, on Johnston in the #MeToo era. Then it was off to the Cosmic Zinefest (complete with musical performances). I then served on a panel called “Activism and Beyond,” moderated by Jonathan Garcia ’16, who was instrumental in starting the Race on Campus conference as a student. The panel also included Jewel Patterson ’16, Lana Ludovico ’17, Kevin Whelan ’93, and Hetal Dalal ’93. It was a great conversation about our time at the U of R, how the campus climate has changed, and recommendations for the future as the campus strives to be more inclusive.
The weekend’s keynote panel, “Surviving to Thriving,” offered an inspiring reflection on the value of a Johnston education. Johnston alumni go into so many different careers, but elements of our education extend beyond our time in college, as we think creatively, negotiate, envision solutions, and achieve consensus.
The highlight of the community dinner was Julie’s exciting announcement that the Campaign for Johnston had raised $5.5 million in gifts and commitments! This news received a standing ovation, and Julie recognized Johnston founders Bill McDonald and Yash Owada, as well as Ericka Smith from the Development Office, for their leadership and commitment to this success. We ended the evening with University of Redlands Provost and former Johnston director Kathy Ogren’s Buffalo Blues Band and The Over-Easy, whose members, including lead singer Nina Fernando ’11, reunited from across the country for this performance.
Sunday started with an emotional tribute, remembering those from our community who we lost in the last five years. I later enjoyed the Women of Johnston Brunch, another event that brought together different generations and Johnston experiences.
We wrapped up the gathering on Sunday with a final community meeting, in which we expressed our gratitude (including to the event’s organizers, such as Maggie Ruopp ’16, admissions and alumni coordinator for Johnston) and reflected on the weekend’s highlights. Sarah Wemple ’10 said it best when she commented that the inspiring weekend had shown her that “Johnston was built to last”; other alternative educational programs that started around the same time have not survived and thrived like Johnston. It was a fitting way to end Johnston’s 50th anniversary celebration.
To learn more about the Johnston Center, see www.redlands.edu/johnston. To make a gift to the Campaign for Johnston, visit www.redlands.edu/supportjohnston. To order a copy of the Snapshot 50 book (hardcover $40, paperback $20), contact the University’s bookstore at 909-748-8950—the book will be available for online purchase later this spring.