Wells College Celebrates 150th Anniversary During Fall Weekend 2018

October 31, 2018
festive 150th anniversary cupcakes

The extended Wells community celebrated the sesquicentennial of the College's founding earlier this month in grand fashion. During the weekend of Oct. 18–21, upwards of 200 alumni and alumnae joined 215 parents and family members of students, as well as trustees, retired and emeriti faculty, current employees, and residents of the surrounding towns and villages in celebrating the College's milestone 150th anniversary.

The week's festivities included a diverse program of events which displayed in full that singularly Wellsian fusion of high-spirited fun and robust intellectual exchange that flourishes so readily here. Revelers were treated to art exhibits, academic events and symposia, sporting events, a community dinner, symphonic concert, and fireworks display.

In his keynote address, President Jonathan Gibralter spoke in glowing terms of "traditions that have been the heart of a Wells education and of our community" for a century and a half, describing Wells as a place where so many discovered a sense of purpose and "found their voice . . . [and] a direction for their lives. One hundred and fifty years later, the true essence of what Henry Wells created remains true today," President Gibralter said.

On Thursday, Oct. 18, we were excited to welcome National Public Radio education correspondent Claudio Sanchez to campus for a lively panel discussion, featuring President Gibralter as well as Cindy Speaker, the College's provost and dean of students. The wide-ranging discussion touched upon many of the day's most pressing questions regarding the present and future state of higher education.

Later that same evening, the String Room Gallery hosted the opening reception for "WBAC@25: An Exhibit of Book Arts from Victor Hammer Fellows," an exhibit celebrating the Book Arts Center's 25th anniversary and featuring the works of 11 Victor Hammer Fellows past and present.

Friday afforded alums and curious visitors alike a glimpse of the Wells classroom of today in action, through a series of academic open houses conducted across campus. A science colloquium lecture that afternoon with guest speaker Alyssa Johnson of the Montezuma Audobon Center was another popular event.

Elsewhere on campus, the Book Arts Center welcomed renowned book artist Stephen Pittelkow, who presented the 46th Susan Garretson Swartzburg '60 Memorial Book Arts Lecture, titled "Taming a Riot of Color: Contemporary Paper Marbling." His lecture, about the artistic method known as paper marbling, was accompanied by a real-time demonstration of his techniques.

Friday evening was highlighted by the Young Alumni Award for Outstanding Achievement ceremony and dinner, which honored both Christie Perfetti Williams '00 and Mariam Raqib '97 in recognition of their professional accomplishments, philanthropic service and continued support of Wells. This year's awards were given in recognition and honor of Nancy Wenner Witmer '61. In accepting her award, Perfetti Williams expressed her belief that she "owes some of the most precious things in my life to my Wells College experience," promising to "do my absolute best to continue to make this school and community proud."

Saturday saw a full slate of events, starting with a bounty of offerings at the Aurora Farmer's Market. Later that morning, author and noted Wells historian Jane Marsh Dieckmann '55 gave a presentation in the form of a campus tour, regaling attendees with colorful anecdotes describing the College's rich history. She also distributed a revised and updated edition of the pamphlet, "A Walking-Driving Historical and Architectural Tour of Wells College and Aurora, New York," which Dieckmann co-wrote with fellow classmate Anne Parker Taylor '55 as their gift to the College in honor of the Sesquicentennial.

Both the men's and women's soccer teams were in action against Penn State–Berks, while the women's volleyball team hosted a tournament of teams in the Schwartz Athletic Center. Notably, the women's volleyball team swept both matches in straight sets, improving their mark to 8-2 in North Eastern Athletic Conference (NEAC) matches on the season.

That same day, curious visitors were invited for a sneak preview of the renovations currently underway in Smith Hall's Sommer Student Center. The space, in conjunction with popular campus pub The Well, will provide another sorely needed meeting place for students to socialize, unwind and brainstorm the next generation of great ideas.

Though the planned parade was cancelled due to inclement weather, nothing could dampen the spirits of our partygoers on Saturday evening, as they enjoyed great food and conversation at the community dinner. Dinner was followed by a performance from Symphoria, a musician-led cooperative orchestra based in Syracuse, with a very special program featuring exclusively works by female composers.

The Symphoria performance was preceded by remarks by President Gibralter as well as Bonnie Apgar Bennett, the mayor of Aurora, who touched upon the historical ties long enjoyed by the village and the College. Following their speeches was the public premiere of two poems, commissioned especially for the College's sesquicentennial. Professor Emeritus Bruce Bennett, who taught English and creative writing at Wells for 41 years, read his poem "Becoming Our Selves." Bennett's poem, written in the repeating form of the villanelle, touches on the themes of change and renewal which recur and resonate eternally around our campus. Assistant professor of English Dan Rosenberg then read his work "I Come To You Out Of The Distance", a poem in cento form which he dubbed a "sesquicento."A cento is a collage poem composed entirely of lines by other poets; in this instance, Dan used lines that Wells poets published in past College publications into a 150-line piece. Broadsides of the two works, produced by the Book Arts Center, were available for purchase in the lobby afterward.

An eventful day was punctuated by a magnificent fireworks display; a myriad of dazzling colors at play across the sky above Cayuga Lake, mirroring the wonderful explosion of fall hues and fun enjoyed by visitors one and all over this fabulous — and most memorable —150th anniversary celebration weekend.

Our mission is for every student to think critically, reason wisely and act humanely as they cultivate meaningful lives. On our beautiful lakeside campus, students gain the knowledge, skills and experience to create their own unique path.

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