Letter 6 December 2004 || Photos: Studio 59
Subj: [class59] Greetings from a chilly Mussoorie
Alice and Norm arrived this evening, about 2 hours ago at the school. Robert John is also here, as well as Lindsay and Robert Fashnacht, who has been here all week. He and I hiked to the Haunted House and the top of Flag Hill, festooned with the tibetan prayer flags.
Lots of excitement - lots of folks (we have over 540 pre-registered). The Quad is decorated with flags and the road to Mullingar sports banners, I'm told - saw the banner but have not been able to get away back to the bazaar. All the buildings are strung with lights - even blinking ones outlining Midlands which I can see from my room on the Quad.
Tomorrow, full swing in the Quad and high school areas, at 9:45 AM (about 9 AM west coast time, we will have the dedication of Studio 59 - Robert John will do a short speech, followed by Vance George, who is so excited to be here. Right now he is holding a rehersal with the mixed choir of alumni' staff and students.. There will be a unfurling of a long banner down the front of the music building - we'll be thinking of all of you. I have to tell you something funny - so indian. There's a beautiful plaque hanging outside the studio - so far I seem to be the only who's noticed that the treble clef is backwards - Vance thought it was great and that we should leave it as it is!
Not sure I'll be able to write again this weekend .... Li
December 6, 2004
I've been home a month, about the same amount of time I spent at Woodstock for the 150 celebrations. And what a difference in tempo - hustle and bustle and constant interruptions in the Alumni office compared to the quiet and contemplative time pulling weeds in my garden, with the company of my dog Monty, who loves to takes naps, and otherwise returning to my other regular volunteer jobs..
My arrival at the school 3 weeks early was preceded by two other volunteers who had been working in the office - Janette Cowan Blair, former math teacher in the 60's and 70's had arrived in August and was tracking the progress of each of the planning groups for the big weekend, and Lela Folkers whose career at WS had started at the same time as Janette, and spent an entire month working out the details for Explore Mussoorie, one of the Activity Week groups. I was to help with registration - producing name tags which turned out to be an elusive objective as folks continued to send in reservations from as far as Europe or US (last minute travelers???). We ended up with over 700 participating in the weekend activities.
I was assigned a guest room on the Quad, one with the best view towards the Doon valley. It was cold the first week there - twice we had hail storms and the black slate in the Quad turned white. As we approached the magical weekend, I could see the flashing lights which outlined Midlands (College). The school went all out in decorating, including banners announcing our 150 years on the road from Mullingar to the school gate, and lights on all the buildings. The Quad was festooned with both hand made small triangular flags and large national flags representing countries of origin of the student body in the last few years.
There were many alumni and former staff members who dropped by before the events - some by design to avoid the weekend activities. There was a run in the Alumni office from staff and students, when a shipment of fleece jackets was received - perfectly timed with the cold weather. T-shirts with 3 designs by students for the commemorative stamp arrived - of course the Indian Postal Service in their wisdom came up with a design of their own, which highlights AlterRidge, a relatively "new" dormitory from the 70's.
Robert Bonham, Alice Sokolove Clague, Norm Mundhenk [Philip McEldowey] and I had been there in 1998 when our class met for its 39th reunion at the school; this time we were joined by Lindsay Fiske Hoffman and Bob (Paul) Fasnacht and their spouses. We never managed to get a photo of all of us together - poor planning or timing. So this means that we classmates, including all of you others out there, need to start planning to hold our 50th reunion in Mussoorie, just as the classes of '51, '52 and '54 have done in recent years - there were 24 of the '54 there for this weekend. Since this was Bob's first trip back since he left in 1957, I suggested that he put down his thoughts and feelings - which he has done. You can access it by logging onto to the site maintained by Phil McEldowney at http://www.people.virginia.edu/~pm9k/59/back/back.htm where you can read either a MS WORD or web version. Let me know if you are unable to access this, and I'll mail you a hard copy - it's great reading with many insightful comments. If one reflects, only three of the six there actually graduated from Woodstock, Lindsay was only there for the last year and she's thinking of joining the staff in a few years.
What were the highlights? Certainly the dedication of Studio 59, in the presence of Vance George. He was so touched by the gesture of our class, naming the studio in his honor that he obtained a leave of absence from the management of San Francisco Symphony and went to Woodstock to conduct the combined choir of students, staff and alumni - the music was glorious at both the memorable Sunday morning service and during the closing ceremonies. There is now a plaque hanging outside Studio 59, as well as the bio of Vance inside the room.
The dedication of Midlands was an emotional one for our family - my siblings and I have honored the memory of our parents with the gift of restoring this dorm - a brand new building that is not recognizable by any former resident. The architects have achieved a bright and colorful structure, divided into 3 houses (the objective is to break down the large dorms into smaller, more cohesive groups of students who now receive more support in the dorms as well as in classrooms) - and the building is heated! There were some complaints from alumni that they could no longer find their old room and that the surrounding trees had grown too tall and were obstructing the view - but the tower is once more restored and contains computer rooms connected to the school network.
Snap shots of the weekend: security guards in their whites (white sleeves for their uniforms) and proudly wearing their ribbons from former military service, fleet of taxis running shuttle service between bazaar and school, and even down to Hansen Field, a grand Saturday mela with performances by students and staff in the Quad, all the food vendors (students were given 50 Rs to buy their lunch) and NGOs selling their ware in the Quad dining hall, lectures and recital by alumni (Bob Fleming Jr, Marty Alter Chen and our own Robert Bonham), students wearing their colorful national costumes, a very touching Sunday morning service in Parker Hall with not a dry eye, alumni classes marching on Hansen Field behind makeshift painted flags - over 20 classes represented, games like trying to eat a jellabi hanging from a string, with your hands behind your back, elaborate final dinner including a table of hand carved vegetables prepared by the kitchen staff and served out of the AlterRidge kitchen, closing ceremonies on Sunday including singing by the elementary school children, sharing cake, singing Happy Birthday and Shadows to candlelight, and great fireworks!
There was much planning that went into making this weekend such a success - the entire school was involved, staff and students, either as committee members or as performers - it all went off well indeed. There is a DVD to look forward to - 6 hours of video compressed to 45 min, and the entire Sunday service.In closing, I'm sorry that you were not able to be there, but hope this helps to bring the weekend alive for you. I'm sure you will be hearing about it from others. Keep in touch and start planning on signing up for the 50th reunion which is not that far away - only 4 more years! Best wishes for this holiday season, and do write.
Return to visits back. Or Class of '59.
Webbed and maintained by Philip McEldowney