GATOR CHAMPS: BETH RYAN
Updated: Oct 22, 2020
Looking Forward by Looking Back
“I know you can barely move, sweetheart, but you have to come with me.” I remember my mother’s words like it was yesterday as she gently herded me down the hallway to the bathroom. It was 1968, I was 15 and had contracted the Hong Kong flu. Once my fever surpassed 103.5, on our doctor’s orders, my featherweight of a mother somehow got me into the bathtub and poured rubbing alcohol down my back to halt the escalation of the fever. It worked. I recovered. I was much luckier than the 100,000 Americans who did not survive that pandemic.
A lot of things changed in 1968, some for the better, some for the worse. We changed along with them.
One of my favorite lunchtime pastimes at work is reading the stories and vignettes in “Through the Years” by College Historian and Professor Emeritus of History Jonathan Helmreich. This is not a book that you read from cover to cover, it’s a treasure to be savored a little at a time.
From Timothy Alden coming to Meadville to start an academic institution in what was then the western frontier, through the Civil War, WW1, the Depression and WW2, I fell in love with the stories of people who endured sickness, financial loss and war to create the institution that today, is over two-hundred years old. The book tells the story of how Allegheny College has survived and continued to thrive; and how members of the administration, faculty, and staff along with students have continued to support this place of higher learning because they call it ‘home’.
What hasn’t changed over the past 200 years has been the commitment to academic excellence, and this, I feel, is what has contributed to the ever-expanding family of Gators around the world.
The story of Allegheny is the story of all of us, the moments of celebration and the joy of returning from some of our most trying times.
A lot of things have changed since 1815. As the world changes, so does Allegheny, and this will continue to happen. Personally, I can’t wait for the unveiling of the renovated Bentley Hall! The building plays a star role in our college’s history and is a true symbol of the regeneration that is to come.
As we weave our stories with those who have walked down the same paths and hallways, this COVID-19 pandemic has us wondering how will this new challenge end? We can’t know. This is what I believe -- Allegheny will survive this hardship because, once again, we are rallying together to make it happen. Here’s to the next two hundred years!
~~ Beth Ryan (Program Coordinator, Center for Business & Economics at Allegheny College)
Allegheny College, “Renovation of Bentley Hall”
CDC, “1968 Pandemic (H3N2 virus)”
McInnis, Doug (2005) “Through All the Years New History Illuminates Allegheny’s People, Places, and Spirit,” Allegheny Magazine, 2005.
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