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New hope, new purpose at ‘08 Antioch alumni reunion

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Reunion events
The 2008 Antioch College Alumni Reunion includes several events open to the Yellow Springs community:
Thursday, June 19, 5 p.m., Herndon Gallery, “Antioch College as Place: Images 2007–2008.”
Friday, June 20, 9 a.m., Herndon Gallery, Antioch College faculty and staff to receive the Arthur Morgan award; Bob Parker to receive the J.D. Dawson award.
Friday, June 20, 1 p.m., Kelly Hall, State of the College address.
Friday, June 20, 7 p.m., Antioch Area Theater, “50 Years of Community in Collaboration,” fundraiser for the theater.
Saturday, June 21, 9 a.m., Herndon Gallery, alumni award presentations.
Saturday, June 21, 11 a.m., Kelly Hall, presentation on Non-Stop Antioch.
Saturday, June 21, 4 p.m., Kelly Hall, Antioch College community meeting.

A little more than a week ago, this week’s Antioch College Alumni Reunion seemed notable for possibly being the last reunion of the 155-year-old institution before Antioch closes its doors June 30.

But things changed considerably after the Antioch University Board of Trustees unexpectedly approved a resolution June 7 inviting alumni to create a process by which the college would become independent from the university. With new purpose and hope, organizers expect the reunion, which takes place June 19 through 22, to draw even more alumni than last year’s record-breaking event.

“Antioch College reunions are now historic events,” Alumni Board communications director Christian Feuerstein said last week. “Alumni are coming from across the country and around the world for the same thing they came for a year ago, to be part of saving the college.”

It’s hard to say how many will attend this week’s reunion since Antiochians tend to show up unannounced, according to Aimee Maruyama of the College Revival Fund. As of Monday, about 350 people had registered, but last year more than 600 showed up after a smaller number of registrations, she said.

A year ago the reunion took place only weeks after the Antioch University Board of Trustees announced that they would suspend operations at the college in July, 2008. At the reunion alumni kicked off an effort that resulted in raising more than $18 million for an independent college. While that effort ended in a November agreement with the trustees to keep the college open, the agreement did not ensure autonomy for the college, and ultimately fell through.

Next, the Antioch College Continuation Corporation, or AC3, a group of former university trustees and major donors, began a five-month long negotiation to win independence for the college. That effort came to an end in May when the trustees rejected the AC3’s final proposal of $14.5 million for the college and university campuses. At that point, options for saving the college seemed to have run out. The college is scheduled to shut down June 30.

The June 7 resolution is significantly different from former board actions, according to Alumni Board President Nancy Crow in a letter to alumni last week. It is different because the resolution acknowledges the need for an independent Antioch College, and it asks the alumni to come up with a process for meeting that goal. According to Crow, the trustees on June 7 endorsed the resolution for college independence rather than a proposal by Antioch Chancellor Toni Murdock to reopen the college in 2012 as part of the university.

“That, to me, is the greatest indication of a sea-change on the board of trustees,” Crow wrote.

Since the June 7 resolution, alumni leaders have been working hard to come up with a process and a plan to present to the trustees, according to Crow, who said it is not yet clear when the plan will be finished, but they are hoping to complete it as soon as possible. Alumni board member and former AC3 member Catherine Jordan of Minneapolis stated last week that she hopes the plan will be ready to present to the trustees by the end of June. Alumni leaders have been communicating with AC3 members to take advantage of their experience and expertise, Crow said.

“This is a wonderful and exciting challenge that the alumni have, the opportunity to build on the work of the AC3 and previous efforts,” Crow said, adding that she hopes by reunion to have “a way to the plan. We’re moving forward. Many people are working night and day.”

The issues involved are daunting, however, and include the need for accreditation, robust academic and co-op programs, physical facilities in need of repair, and replacing decimated admissions and recruiting efforts, according to Crow in her letter. Also, while the trustees invited the alumni to submit a plan for college independence, the trustees still have to approve the plan.

“We have a lot of challenges still ahead. It’s not a done deal,” Crow said last week. “But if we proceed with a cohesive plan with money to back it up, we will succeed.”

The alumni are eager to move ahead, according to alumni board member Don Wallace of Medway.

“I see a firm determination to move forward,” he said. “What I hear is, let’s get on with it.”

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