Today, I Wrote Nothing - Defining Moments

Defining Moments

The arts are of utmost importance at Clarke University. We strive to provide not only the best university performing arts majors and curriculum to benefit those studying the arts, but also as a way to help enrich the community of which we’re a part. Our art programs are a window to the larger world of performing arts. We pride ourselves on staging high-quality productions and attracting top professional talent to both teach and perform.

-taken from the ‘Arts @ Clarke’ page of the Clarke University website

* * *

On a Monday evening—Monday, December 10th, to be precise—I received a message from a friend of mine—a college friend, a few years younger than I, whom I haven’t seen in over four years; whom I don’t remember the last time I actually talked to.

FYI,” the message began. “The Drama and Musical Theatre programs at Clarke have been dropped.

One faculty member will be cut by the end of the year,” the message continued, with my friend adding that another faculty member would be reduced to staff to, more or less, maintain the theatre building on campus for events.

Wait, what?” was all I could muster as a response.

The president of the college called them into her office today,” my friend said—to which I responded, “I am very confused by all of this.”

I just found out at 4:15—I’ll let you know when I know more.”

On a Monday evening—Monday, December 10th, at 5:21 p.m., to be precise—I received a message from a friend. The information within that message—urgent, borderline vague, and incredibly unsettling, was, at that time, not public yet.

At some point the following day, Tuesday, December 11th, an official statement from the president of Clarke University—a very, very small liberal arts school nestled atop a hill in Dubuque, Iowa—was released.

The lede is well buried within the second paragraph of the statement—a message that was, also, sent to me by my friend.

Majors in art history, drama, environmental studies, musical theatre, religious studies, and Spanish will be discontinued,” it reads; these cuts, according to this statement, are being done as “strategic and intentional steps” to poise the school for the future, as well as a “response to the changing needs of students and society.”

Additionally, the statement explains drama will become an extracurricular, as opposed to an academic major; however, the statement does not elaborate on the shuttering of the Spanish program, art history, or perhaps the most perplexing inclusion out of them all—religious studies; Clarke University was once, many, many years ago, St. Mary’s Female Academy, established by Mother Mary Frances Clarke, the founder of the Sisters of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The statement from the president concludes with her stating that the student body, as well as the faculty and staff, are in her ‘thoughts and prayers.’

* * *

It hasn’t happened in a while, but there was a time when I would encounter misconceptions about where I went to college, and what I studied.

In 2006, roughly a year after I graduated, I moved from one college town to another, leaving behind Dubuque—home to Clarke University (formerly known as Clarke College), Loras College, and the University of Dubuque—relocating to Northfield, Minnesota—home to St. Olaf and Carleton.

Because I was a young person living in a town with two prestigious liberal arts schools, and because my wife had just graduated from St. Olaf College with emphasis in both German, as well as a program referred to as ‘Interdisciplinary Fine Arts,’ many people believed that I, too, had attended St. Olaf.

This was, of course, not the case.

I would also occasionally encounter someone who believed, because I fancied myself as some kind of writer—and even did it for a living, as a news writer, for two years—that I had majored in English.

This was, also, not the case.

You tell people you went to a small, liberal arts college in Iowa, many presume that you are referring to Luther, located in Decorah—a town that, coincidentally, is roughly the halfway point between Dubuque and Northfield, if you are traveling via Highway 52.

You tell people you went to school in Dubuque, and some will think that is one of the ‘Quad Cities;’1 it isn’t. Dubuque is farther north than that—built along the Mississippi River, and the border of both Illinois, and Wisconsin.

In May of 2005, I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in ‘Drama/Speech’ from Clarke College; in 2010, Clarke changed its status from a college to a university; and at some point, though I am uncertain when, exactly, the ‘Drama’ program expanded to become the Clarke Musical Theatre and Drama Department.

* * *

…Clarke University is known as THE university for the arts. We offer the only drama degree in the region.

            -taken from the ‘Academics – Drama’ page of the Clarke University website. This page has since been removed.

* * *

At some point, between the evening of Tuesday, December 11th, and the morning of Wednesday, December 12th, I am added to a rapidly moving group chat on Facebook—originally created by an alumnus of the school, to discuss the situation, and what, if anything, could be done by current and former students to possibly reverse the decision—specifically regarding the Musical Theatre and Drama Department.

I don’t do well within group messages; they move entirely too quickly for me. This one is no exception—it starts out well meaning, but quickly descends into a cavalcade of emoticons, sent out by names of people don’t recognize—a handful of them graduated before my first year at Clarke, while many of them are either current students, or more recent graduates. I make the mistake of looking at the profile page for one of the more vocal members of the chat—a current student in the Drama Department—who was born in 1996.

I become exhausted thinking of how much enthusiasm some of these people have—an exuberance, possibly thanks in part to their age, that I just cannot comprehend. What does it feel like to care about something—to believe in something this much, I think to myself. In 1996, I was an overweight, sullen junior high student; 22 years later, I am still sullen—and yes, I am now thin and beautiful—but I am also old, and so very tired all of the time.

The flame emoticons, the laughing face, the angry face, the thumbs up—they come and go, occasionally peppered by the real discussion of a call to action of some kind; a campaign, or effort, to write letters—not to the president, no; that is a lost cause—but to the Clarke University Board of Trustees, who, it is inferred, were not completely aware of how extensive the academic shuttering was going to be, and may just be willing to listen to this outcry.

The group chat starts out well meaning, yes, and after the thumbs up emoticons come and go, the mood can, without warning, descend into a dark, visceral place. Emotions are still high, and those who are doing the most talking within the group are very, very pissed off.

One young woman, a Clarke graduate from 2014, seems to be the most upset out of the bunch—taking her anger into a place of public pettiness. It seems she has a flair for drama, which after I stop and think about it, shouldn’t surprise me, or anyone else, for that matter—she was a graduate from the Drama Department. Using social media as her forum, she is breathlessly unrelenting in her hot takes toward the president’s decision—finding any opportunity to call her out.

She, like a handful of other irate graduates, take to giving the school, as a whole, negative reviews on its Facebook page—a very 2018 thing to do. “For those who haven’t,” this plucky young woman implores from within the group chat, “I ask you to write a review on the Clarke Facebook page. We’ve already gotten it down from a 4.3 to a 4 with just a few reviews.”

It’s after almost a week has passed when I begin to wonder if alumni from the other departments that are impacted by all of this are as passionate—if there is some kind of Facebook group chat comprised of Spanish majors, just poppin’ off with spicy takes; if there are a handful of environmental studies graduates who have created a special Facebook profile photo frame that reads “#MakeClarkeSaveTheEnvironment, or something like that, the way the Drama and Musical Theatre crowd made one that states “#MakeClarkeSaveArt.”

I wonder if the other departments that are impacted by this have such passionate supporters, or if it’s just the Drama Department—or maybe the Drama Department is just being the loudest.

And in that noise, I wonder if they—those who are leading this charge to try and reverse the decision the president of the college has made—have forgotten there are a number of other departments that are going to be effected as well.

* * *

The university, whether it realized it was going to happen or not, at the time this news was announced, wound up with a relatively large public relations crisis on its hands—and it, as an entity, spent the entire week after this news was announced not really doing much of anything to defend itself.

This news—that this select number of departments would no longer be offering academic majors at Clarke University—is made public, sure, but only to a certain extent; and I get the feeling that if it were totally up to the president—the news would have never left the campus.

Dubuque’s newspaper, the Telegraph Herald, runs with the story on Tuesday; due to a paywall that prevents anyone without a subscription from seeing any content on the site, I can only presume that the story was, more or less, a re-write of the press release style statement from the president, without little, if any, additional comments from either her, or others.

Local television stations around the region in Iowa pick up the story, opting to interview a theatre alumni from the class of 2001, as well as a current student; the segment also includes excerpts from a short interview with Clarke’s president—who, at one point, refuses to answer2 a question she is asked, and cuts the conversation short.

The school seems uninterested in drawing additional attention to the situation, but on Friday, December 14th, a revised version3 of the press release is posted to the Clarke University website, and a link to it is shared on the school’s Facebook page.

Because of the way this announcement was handled, I get the feeling most former faculty as well as alumni of Clarke heard through word of mouth—social media, mostly; on Tuesday, the day the announcement was made official, there is an envelope in my mailbox with Clarke University as the return address.

There is a small part of me that believes that, perhaps naïvely, inside is a letter regarding the changes at Clarke—that, as a graduate of one of the departments being impacted, the school would think to reach out to me.

In holding the envelope up to the light, I can see that it is a letter asking for a donation.

There is a moment—albeit a brief one, where I think about taking a photo of the letter to use later in some kind of scathing post on social media about the sheer audacity to do something like this—to ask for my money on the day it’s made public that the program I have a degree from is being shitcanned.

I fold the letter back up, and along with the envelope it came in, I rip all of it into five pieces.4

* * *

In a situation as troubling and complicated as this, there are a number of sides to the story. The president of the college stated, in her address to the faculty, staff, and student body, that the decision to discontinue these programs was done ‘in response to the changing needs of students and society,’ and that she has worked hard to ensure the school’s ‘agility in a rapidly changing marketplace.’

The voices decrying the loudest against this decision say that the president has had it in for the Drama and Musical Theatre Department for the decade of her time at the university—possibly other departments as well.

Others, still, say this occurred because the school has now shifted its focus from the ‘liberal arts’ to athletics—Clarke University was, famously, without a football team since it became a co-ed school in 1979. This year—the 2018-19 school year—is its first with a functioning football team, offering what the school’s website calls a ‘scrimmage schedule,’ with varsity competition beginning in 2019.

On what little information I was working with, I had the impression the administration—i.e. the president of the university, was not being entirely forthcoming about why these programs were being discontinued; at the same time, I was not confident the fuego takes I was reading on social media from upset students were completely grounded in truth, but rather a mix of rage, fact, and rampant speculation.

Based on the number of students5 as declared majors within the Musical Theatre and Drama Department, the department was labeled a ‘troubled program’ at the university—a label that the faculty within the department was well aware of; however, they were not certain, until very recently, what would become of ‘troubled programs.’

They, as well as the other programs that are facing these changes, were singled out as ‘troubled’ by number of students only—and a task force assembled by the president herself analyzed these numbers. The context surrounding those numbers was removed, so the members of said task force had no idea which department they were looking at. The president alleges this was a way to keep things anonymous.

One could make a strong case to say these decisions were based on faulted information.

While the president of the school states these changes are being implemented as a response to the changing needs of students and society, there is strong evidence that supports the claims that she just does not give a shit about the performing arts and has slowly been trying to suffocate the Drama Department since she began her time at the university—if the school were investing its energy in to the program, the department itself could have had the chance to grow and attract more interested students.

Other departments involved in this situation—like Spanish and Religious Studies, for example, will no longer offer the opportunity for students to declare a major, but will be able offer a minor; Spanish and Religious Studies classes will still be offered as part of the school’s general education requirements.

The changes within the Musical Theatre and Drama Department will begin in the fall of 2019—the department was told it would not be accepting any incoming students for that school year. This meant somebody was going to have to make two difficult phone calls, telling two high school seniors who already made the decision to enroll at Clarke, in the Musical Theatre and Drama Department, that there was no longer a program for them.

The faculty has been told they can ‘teach out’ the current majors in the program—students ranging in age from freshman all the way through senior; at this point, the department is not sure, logistically, how this would work, for a number of reasons.6

It is alluded to, rather poorly in her statement addressing this decision, that the president is retiring7 at the end of this academic year—there is, among some, a small hope that whoever takes the job could reverse these decisions, but by then, it may be too late.

With the impending retirement, it is puzzling why this decision was made now—maybe it’s as petty as one final ‘fuck you’ across the board.

Just as puzzling, the final piece is the unnerving timing of this announcement—at the beginning of finals week.

With emotions already running high from studying and preparing for exams, imagine being told that the program you have declared a major in will, in the near future, no longer exist.

It seems incredibly thoughtless, on the part of the president of the school, to spring this upon the students at this time and expect them to be successful before leaving campus for the school’s notoriously long winter break8, dreading their return in January, simply because of the palpable sense of uncertainty with what will happen next.

* * *

I didn’t take to social media with anything scathing following my receipt of a letter from Clarke University asking for a donation—I did mention it, as tastefully as I was capable at the time, on Twitter, by saying I thought it was pretty wild that, on the day it was announced these departments were being shuttered, I was being asked for money.

My friend Liz—a college friend I met during my first year, in 2001—an art history major (one of the six programs impacted by the changes at the school) responded simply by saying, “#DefiningMoments?”

I had forgotten all about the idea of ‘Defining Moments.’

In the early 2000s, Clarke’s ‘brand,’ for lack of a better expression, or ‘tagline,’ maybe, would be better—anyway, the school punctuated nearly all of its marketing efforts with that phrase—Defining Moments.

Like, I get it—the moments that happen to you throughout your time at a four-year college can, in a sense, define you. But Liz and I, among others in our group of friends, thought it was a phrase that took itself entirely too seriously, and would occasionally wonder if something as simple as sitting on one of the benches stationed outside of a campus building, looking pensively into the distance, was also a ‘Defining Moment.’

There were other ‘Defining Moments’ we had come up with during our time as students—though I cannot recall all of them now. So much time has passed.

Do the things that happen during your time in college define you?

Maybe define is too strong of a word—maybe they help shape you, or encourage and foster growth and self-discovery.

In a rather rushed explanation of this situation I was attempting to give to somebody shortly after the announcement had been made, I surprised myself by saying the life’s work of my academic advisor was more or less being erased, and that the department’s faculty are kind of responsible for making me who I am today.

Do the things that happen during your time in college define you?

* * *

If you were to ask me now, almost 20 years after I began to apply to colleges, why I wound up picking the Drama Department at Clarke College—I’m not even sure I could even tell you. This is, in part, because I’m not certain I can correctly remember, but also, from what I am able to remember, I’m still having a hard time wrapping my head around it—wrapping my head around where I was, and who I was, as a 17 year old.

There was a time, between my sophomore and junior years in high school, when I became really interested in film—watching them, mostly, and occasionally writing about them in my high school’s newspaper (which was more or less a ‘zine), but I believe it was during this period of time that I started thinking about being a filmmaker.

This is interesting for a few reasons—one of which is that my wife, outside of what she does for a living, is a filmmaker, but the really interesting thing about this is that during these formative, high school years, at no point did I actually, like, do anything at all to develop this interest.

I believe I had access to an old camcorder, but I never made any kind of crass home movies with my friends in the cast—an even if I had, I would have had no way to edit them together. I had no access to any kind of editing equipment, whether digital or analog.

But, when the time came to begin applying to colleges, I was looking at film programs—or, when it came to Clarke College, the Drama Department, because I had simply said I could apply the things I would be taught about live theatre—performance, direction, et. al—to film.

Why somebody—anyone, really, like my mother, or anyone working in college admissions, or the guidance counselor at my high school—didn’t pull me aside and clue me in to the fact that I was an completely idiotic teenager…I have no idea.

Prior to my enrollment in the Clarke College Drama Department, I had never acted before—making this an even more ludicrous idea on my part. To officially be accepted into the theatre program and receive a small amount of scholarship funding, I had to ‘audition’ for the department, and I can seem to recall a series of emails exchanged between myself and one of the professors at the time, David9, setting up that my ‘audition’ would be, more or less, me just talking to the faculty within the department, as well as some of the other drama students in the program.

Somehow, they must have seen something in me that I didn’t know was there—some kind of potential that would, eventually, be tapped into. They let me into the department.

The first year, from what I can remember, was rough all the way around—it took most of the year for me to figure out that in college they expect you to, like, apply yourself academically, which was something I hadn’t exactly done in high school, and for the first two months, I was paired with a roommate10 I absolutely despised and the feeling was mutual.

I wasn’t cast in any of the Drama Department’s four shows that first year—something that, at the time, I don’t know if I took it personally, but I didn’t take it well. The audition process was nerve wracking, and considering I had never been on stage before, I’m not sure what I was expecting would happen. At times I felt like dead weight within the department, but in their infinite patience, they continued to see the opportunities for me to become more competent, confident, and to grow.

* * *

It’s nearly Christmas now—it’s five days away, and Clarke University’s campus is more or less closed up for the winter break. The students have all left, and the faculty is probably toiling away, trying to finish grading final exams.

The Musical Theatre and Drama Department faculty have tried their best to maintain a positive façade on social media—thanking those who have reached out with messages of concern, shared memories of their time in the department, and welcoming the continued support during this time of uncertainty.

The Facebook group chat has more or less been silent for a number of days now; I get notifications when someone is added to the group, or when someone leaves, but nobody has contributed to the once lively conversation in nearly a week. Maybe everyone is busy with the holidays. Or maybe, people have moved on to a different group chat that I was not added to—I am suspicious of this when, after days and days of silence, a message comes through that has no context I am able to frame it around, meaning it was written in the wrong group me

Or maybe the enthusiasm that was once, and so recently, burning intensely has already faded.

* * *

I stop short of saying that I regret both going to Clarke, and choosing to graduate with a major in ‘Drama/Speech,’ but now, pushing 40, I have some misgivings about my time in Dubuque, and the decisions I made during that time.

During the four years I was in school, the Drama Department produced 16 plays—I was cast in six of them; two a year, beginning with my sophomore year. Of the productions I was in, some of them I was just thankful to have been given the opportunity to be on the stage, even if it wasn’t in the role I so desired; others, I have a more distinguished sense of pride for both the chances I had been provided, as well as the chances that I took—as Rick, a ‘rebellious little Londonite’ in the play Woman in Mind, where I worked tirelessly on an English dialect, and had disgusting hair extensions clipped into my hair for the part; as Windermere Hightower, the ‘twisty-mustached’ villain in the melodrama The Curse of An Aching Heart; or as part of the ensemble cast of The Laramie Project, the final production I was involved in, where the lengthy rehearsal process and emotional subject matter took its toll on the cast.

Early on, after graduation, prospective employers were skeptical when they would see my educational background on a résumé—especially since, by the time I had graduated, I was really not looking to pursue a career in the performing arts, and was really just looking for a job.

“Actor Man,” was a name I was called, on occasion, in one of the earlier, meaningless office jobs I had—bestowed upon me by the head of the department I was in. I think he meant it as a joke, or some kind of gentle ribbing—but I always found it troublesome.

The further you get away from the year you graduated, though, and the more work experience you acquire, I don’t know if anyone really cares11 what, exactly, your emphasis was in college—just seeing an undergraduate degree mentioned on a résumé is usually enough.

I haven’t been on a stage since the final performance of The Laramie Project in early 2005; having a background in theatre gave me the chance, when I first moved to Northfield, to work as a staff member for a couple of summers with a youth-oriented12 theatre workshop, sponsored by the community’s arts organization. This organization also produces four, sometimes five, theatrical productions in a season. I’ve lived in this town for almost 13 years, and there has only been two times I’ve even considered auditioning for a show.13

Maybe not every graduate of the Drama Department was afflicted with this the way I was, but having a background in theatre makes it almost impossible to just go out and see a play—no matter what level it is (community theatre of semi-professional), or what kind of play it is, I wind up picking it to pieces—directorial choices, lighting cues—I can’t just sit back, watch, and appreciate it for what it is.

* * *

When I was graduating from Clarke, I received a card and a small gift from one of the members of the faculty in the department—Carol, who at the time, was a chain smoking, scotch drinking nun with a penchant for describing theatrical works as, among other things14, ‘playing like a house on fire,’ or being a ‘honey’ of a play.

The card, of course, is long gone now; the gift inside was a metallic bookmark.

The bookmark, an elongated oval shape, began to fall apart almost immediately—the piece of ribbon that was looped through one of the ends came off right away, and a thin layer of some kind of plastic coating on the back peeled off shortly after I received it.

A rich purple, the quote embossed onto the surface, from George Eliot15, reads—“It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

At the time it was given to me, I was never really quite sure how to take that; and, fittingly enough I suppose, the bookmark resurfaced in my home within recent months—pulled out of the box of miscellany it had been placed in a long, long time ago.

Many lifetimes later, I am still uncertain how I was supposed to take that quote.

Part of me wants to think that it was purchased, simply, to fulfill a need—that I, a graduate of the department, needed a small trinket, and this bookmark, more than likely purchased from the small bookstore on campus, emblazoned with a moderately inspirational quote, would suffice.

But there is another part of me that wonders if the gift was selected intentionally because of the quote—not directed at me in a mean, or condescending way. But maybe a hopeful way—that the department faculty, who had come to know me and watch me, more or less, grow over the course of four years, wanted better for me; or knew I was capable of something more than the uncertainty I was walking into after graduation.

I’m not sure if I ever actually used the bookmark for its intended purpose—perhaps I did shortly after I received it, only to have bits of it begin to fall apart. Even though it was relegated to various drawers in various places I’ve lived since leaving school, only to wind up in a box in the basement of my home, the rich purple color of the bookmark itself, as well as the quote it contains, and all of the feelings that it stirs up in me, never really left me—that is to say, it is something I would occasionally think about. Not with any regularity; but a fragmented memory that would surface.

The bookmark itself being one of the last defining moments of that time in my life.

Do the things that happen during your time in college define you?

Is it too late to be what you might have been?

* * *

I stop short of saying that I regret both going to Clarke, and choosing to graduate with a major in ‘Drama/Speech,’ but now, pushing 40, I have some misgivings about my time in Dubuque.

Those years, much like the bookmark with the George Eliot quote, are not things I think about with any regularity—in fact, I feel like I sometimes go out of my way not to think about my time in college, but all of this news about the shuttering of the department has made me very unsettled.

Do the things that happen during your time in college define you?

 I think about the tightly knit group of friends I was a part of—many of them other students from the Drama Department, but some of them were visual artists, or art history majors, or from the Music Department. I think about how, with the advent of social media, I have a window into their lives now, so many years later, but how I haven’t truly stayed in touch with almost anyone.

There are people who I considered close friends during this time of my life that I will, more than likely, never see again.

I think about the Drama Department itself—the faculty who were patient with me; who pushed and challenged me; who instilled in me discipline and who allowed me to grow.

I think about the extra year I lived in Dubuque after I had finished school—working a job I loathed, living in basement apartment I never wanted to return to at the end of the day. I think about how I more than likely overstayed my welcome within that year.

I think about how I’ve referred to myself as a deadbeat graduate of the Drama Department, and of Clarke University itself—I’ve never donated money (I’m still paying my student loans) and I’ve never driven back down to Dubuque in October for the weekend of Homecoming on campus—to socialize with the other graduates and current students of the Musical Theatre and Drama Department at an annual get together.

These people, now just characters in stories I occasionally tell—ghosts who haunt this part of my life—these fragmented memories of a part of my life I’ve left behind.

* * *

On New Year’s Day, Wendy, my wife, wakes up and tells me that she had a dream about Clarke.

I was touring the Drama Department one last time,” she tells me, with sleep still in her voice. “Only you weren’t there. It was weird.

Even though my wife went to St. Olaf College, in Northfield, we met, in the fall of 2001, at Clarke; as a senior in high school, with some minor interest in theatre, it was one of the colleges she was looking into. She auditioned for the department with a monologue from a comedy entitled No Sex Please, We’re British, and as one of the first year students in the department, I was instructed to show her around.

It was an overnight visit—she came all the way from Minneapolis, so she was rooming with a girl I had become somewhat friends with during the first few weeks of school. They, apparently, spent a bunch of time talking about what a dreamboat I was, and hatched some kind of plan to wander over to the dorm I lived in and borrow a movie to watch in order to talk to me more.

Do the things that happen during your time in college define you?

Wendy and I stay in sporadic contact through email and letters for the next three years16; near the tail end of 2004, at the close of the first semester of my final year of college, we begin, at the time, what is a long distance relationship.

She comes to visit me at Clarke, in early 2005, during her week off between St. Olaf’s January term and the beginning of the school’s second semester—occasionally coming with me to sit in on a class, or to half-read an illustrated/annotated version of The DaVinci Code, sitting quietly in one of the seats of the theatre building while I am in the difficult rehearsals for The Laramie Project.

* * *

Clarke University hasn’t used the phrase ‘Defining Moments’ in its marketing materials for a number of years, but in thinking about all of this, as heavy handed of a reach as it may appear, you could say that the school itself, whether it realizes it or not, is now on the cusp of a ‘defining moment.’

This moment, and these decisions, to shutter a handful of programs, if it hasn’t already done so, will more than likely change the course of the institution going forward, as well as the perception people may have of it.

In making these decisions—whatever the real reason was—in opting to mask itself behind rhetoric of ‘strategic steps’ and the ‘changing needs of students,’ Clarke, as an entity, is erasing both a portion of its own identity, as well as a piece of itself with a long, storied history.

A number of years ago—six or seven now, probably—the chair of the Drama Department and my one time academic advisor and professor, Carol, retired. The department organized a gathering in her honor, but I was unable to attend; shortly there after, I had every intention of sitting down and writing her a letter, updating her with what had become of me since departing for Minnesota, and thanking her for the portion of my life she had helped shape.

I didn’t have a mailing address for her, and I made some small attempts at reaching out to a few people who I thought may have it, but I never got a hold of it. To my knowledge, the letter may have never been completed—just a Word document on my desktop. But even if it had been completed, it was never sent.

I still feel bad about that. Always the deadbeat graduate.

I still feel bad about a lot of things.

Do the things that happen during your time in college define you?

I think about the bookmark that Carol had given me in 2005, the one with the George Eliot quote on it.

It’s never too late to be what you might have been.

(for C.B., E.G., J.K. and B.N.)

1- For those of you who are interested in the geography of the Midwest, the Quad Cities are comprised of East Moline and Rock Island, in Illinois, and Davenport and Bettendorf, in Iowa.

2- As someone who used to work in the field of journalism, I looked at the inclusion of this footage two ways; the first is, if the news station didn’t include it in their broadcast, they were coming dangerously close to ‘directing the narrative,’ or at least not telling what could be looked at as an important part of the story. At the same time, the second way to look at it is that they were, in fact, directing the narrative by showing footage that cast the president of the college in an unflattering light—more or less sensationalizing the story. Either way, I am sure it was a difficult choice.

3- The revised version of this press release is slightly more humanized, directly addressing the negativity directed at the president in the wake of this announcement. Why this was shared nearly a week later, I am uncertain.

4- This is not symbolic or anything. I rip all ‘junk mail’ into equal pieces before throwing it into the recycling bin. It usually winds up being five pieces.

5- The number of students within the Drama Department has always been low.

6- ‘Teaching out’ the current majors in the department was described to me as impossible—mostly because of the presumed cuts coming to the production budget, as well as the changes in faculty.

7- It is still surprising to all those involved that the president of the college, after a decade plus in her role with the school, is doing this now, upon exiting at the end of the 2018-9 school year. A new president could, theoretically, reverse all of this, though there is the thought that, by that point in time, far too much damage would have been done. 

8- By my final year in college, winter break was a staggering five weeks long. In looking at the academic calendar while gathering information for this essay, this year’s winter break is, also, five weeks long.

9-David was a very eccentric actor and director who taught in the department; he announced his departure at the beginning of my first year. The older students in the department were devastated; I was a little less so.

10- In my research for this essay, I looked in my old roommate via Facebook. From what I could tell, he has a career in his field of studies—chemistry—but more importantly, he is really, really into guns. Every update on his public profile was some kind of news blurb, or meme, about guns.

11- This is not entirely true—for the point of clarification, I had a job interview in 2014 (nine years after I graduated from college) for what was more or less an administrative position within a flexible circuit manufacturing company, and the two women conducting the interview were very worried about my degree being in ‘Drama/Speech.’ Needless to say, I did not get the job.

12-While it was fun, I guess, directing short plays and working through acting exercises with the students in my group, these stints in this program really cemented how little I like children.

13- The first was Glengarry, Glen Ross, in 2007; the second was The Cherry Orchard (not even my favorite Chekhov) in 2014, I believe.

14- At a cast party, during what was probably my sophomore year, I was sitting next to Carol, with my legs extended out and crossed at the ankle. She turned to me and said, “You know what Kevy? You’re all legs.” I think this was late in the evening, and I think she had had a few Rob Roys in her at this point. Also, I remember her, in class once, after we had discussed the play Fences, saying “I wish I had a room full of black people—I could do an August Wilson then.”

15- A quick point of clarification—George Eliot was not a woman’s name; just the pen name of Mary Anne Evans. I think I had, at one time, misunderstood this.

16- It seems worth mentioning that, from the summer of 2001 until August of 2004, I was in a relationship with a girl who was a year ahead of me at Clarke—who was also in the Drama Department.