How did you get to Mac? We’d love to hear from you. Feel free to answer one or all of the questions.
- Share your arrival story.
- Why did you choose Mac?
- How did you arrive at Mac? Driven by your parents? On your own, on a bus, a plane, a train? Did you commute from across town
- What was your first impression of the campus? Do you remember Freshman Orientation? Did you read Demien and Report to Greco
- Who were your first friends? What were your first classes?
If you would like to include a photo with your submission, please email the files with a description and/or the names of those pictured to Joel Stegner at email@example.com
Responses received will be posted below.
Looking forward learning more about your journey to Macalester.
Read Classmate Reflections
The MacDo Book, sent at least to all entering Mac women (did guys get it, too?), advised that there would be occasions like the President’s Tea for which white gloves would be appropriate. So I dutifully put a pair in my suitcase. And, as I recall, I added a hat – a cute, big-brimmed hat that I guess I planned to wear with the gloves.
The dress code didn’t last, of course. But the Dorm Mothers and the Grace Minutes and other restrictive rules for women lasted . . . well, they lasted longer than they did for men. Still, by the time I was an RA as a senior, the freshmen on my floor (both men and women) wanted me to tell stories about my white gloves as though they were a relic of The Olden Days.
Today’s high school seniors, who use the Common App to apply to 30 or more schools, are always horrified when I tell them how many colleges I applied to.
By the time my senior year in high school arrived, I felt like Chekhov’s Three Sisters: I was desperate to get to Moscow. Or, in my case, the Twin Cities. So I applied to Macalester.
Mac had two added benefits: they offered me a great scholarship (thanks, DeWitt Wallace). And, since the rest of my family had gone to Hamline, I could stage a little rebellion by enrolling in the college a mile down Snelling Avenue.
It wasn’t long before I found my tribe(s) – the folks who were working to elect Sen. McCarthy in the 1968 Democratic Primary, and the members of the Concert Choir, who met every afternoon in Janet Wallace to create beautiful music together.
I guess you could say that Macalester fit me . . . like a glove.
I was looking for a challenging, small, liberal arts college away from home, that had no sororities, and had a marching band and field hockey team. Well, Mac filled one of these requirements, so I applied. Soon afterwards, I learned that my mother’s boss was a Mac grad, class of ’63.
My parents drove me to St. Paul and dropped me off. Upon arriving, I was enchanted by the campus with its red brick buildings and tall trees. It looked just like I had imagined a college should be. I was assigned a room in the “new co-ed dorm”, Dupre 2 West. Being very traditional, my parents were pretty skeptical of this arrangement, but they accepted it. As I look back on it, I think my parents had more anxiety about leaving me at Mac than I had about starting my new life there.
The freshman women of Dupre 2W included my roommate, Susan Virnig, Julie Lofsness, Margaret Munson and Joyce Darden. Having upperclassmen on the floor was a blessing to me, as opposed to living on an all-freshmen floor. I drew upon their experiences to help me adjust to the college and to help me get through some classes, especially the chemistry major!
The only resident on our floor with a car was one of the RA’s, and she rarely shared it. Consequently, I spent most of my time on campus, either studying or working at Mother Saga’s and my work/study jobs. I had no money to get off campus and do things with other students, and now I regret my very limited social life at Mac
While I was still very naive about the world after graduating, I know that what I experienced during the 4 years greatly broadened my thinking and understanding beyond the city limits of small-town, Mid-America.
I had been in the Twin Cities a few times, but my flight to MSP was my first solo trip away from home. i had read Demien and Report to Greco, and proceeded to Freshman Orientation, Modern Isms class with Dr. Mitau, and getting over my anxiety about being in the big city. I had no clue about a major, and was glad I didn’t have to choose jut then. The roommate Mac had selected for me didn’t work out (I think he left soon after arrival). I ended up in a single on Dupré 5 East, and began my first year on my own. In spite of my anxiety, it worked out just fine.
My parents took me to the train station in Bellingham, Washington, and I took the train 60 miles south to Everett, where I transferred to the “Empire Builder.” I sat up two nights in coach, eating packed sandwiches, reading Return to Greco and Demian, and studying for my French placement test. Sure, the trip through the Rockies was beautiful, and North Dakota had its moments, but it was a long, boring, and almost sleepless ride with plenty of time to ponder what I about to embark on.
Why Macalester? Well, I applied because it was somewhat of a family school. My father and mother both went there as did three uncles and two aunts. Later, after I graduated, two cousins attended as well. And from age 3 to 8 I lived in “Macville” which was where the softball and baseball fields are now. It was generally for married students, but my father got a deal, I think, as he worked on campus as manager of the student union building. So, I had spent time on campus, and hung out in the union building a lot.
Macalester was not my initial first choice. But after Stanford decided it didn’t want me, my choice came down to Macalester or Whitman. I chose Macalester with this logic: both are good schools, and if I were going to in a place with lots of snow in the winter (compared to almost snow-free Western Washington) the Twin Cities seemed more inviting than Walla Walla.
And I had relatives nearby – an aunt and uncle in Minnetonka and an aunt in St. Paul, who picked me up at the train station early in the morning and drove me to her house on Dayton Avenue. The next day, after a third night of minimal sleep, she dropped me off with my luggage at the parking strip between Summit Avenue and Dupre Hall, which was to be my new home. The first person I met was Mike Johnston, who helped me haul my stuff into the dorm. (I doubt he remembers that kindness, but I do.)
It was the beginning of an up and down first semester that I memorialized in my letters home. (I recently was going through dozens of boxes of my parents’ old stuff and discovered that they kept all of my letters home.) After my sleepless train journey, things got better. On September 1, 1967, I wrote: “Things are looking better every minute. I just discovered this morning that I don’t have to take either the math or language placement tests. They will place me by my SAT scores. . . . . In all, I am having a great time and I am looking forward to classes starting . . . .”
But things soon went south. Classes were harder than I thought they would be; I sprained my ankle in soccer class; and on October 10, and on my way out of my “Modern Isms” class in the windowless lecture hall in Olin Science Hall, I found over an inch of snow on the ground. “What the %#@*!,” I said. Apparently my memory of Minnesota weather from 10 years earlier had faded.
I longed for home. Even Walla Walla sounded good.
But things got better; the weather improved; I enjoyed my classes; and made new, and long-lasting, friends. I soon concluded I had made the correct college choice, a decision that is reinforced every reunion year.
How did I come to pick Macalester? Like Jeff Goltz, it was not my first choice. I wanted to go to Antioch, that hotbed of activism, socialism, free love, and drugs. My parents were not amused. We went to visit Antioch and the appearance of the students, the beer cans on the windowsills, and the general atmosphere made attending there a non-starter. Figuring that a Presbyterian college might be a more acceptable route, I next considered Occidental, which would one day be known as Barack Obama’s alma mater. California was deemed too far away by my parents who finally said I just had to stay east of the Mississippi River. I knew Macalester was a ‘good’ college and it was one mile east of the Mississippi. Unlike today’s students, but like most of my Mac classmates, I applied to only one place, never visited the campus and relied on a recruiting call from the college.
My parents helped me move into Wallace Hall where I shared a room on the third floor with Kathy Malban. Earlier in the summer, we all filled out a questionnaire about roommate preferences, things like smoking, sleep habits, probably lots of things that would never be asked now. Years later I learned that our housemother, Mrs. Anderson, confessed that how they really matched us up was by height, knowing that girls were often self-conscious about this kind of thing. Sure enough, Kathy Malban and I were the same size!
I soon met the group of women who would be life-long friends, Patty Reed, Linda Rice, Kathy Brown and Jan Leite. I survived Freshman Camp, the MMPI (taken in the gym), the tea in the President’s house, and got settled into my classes. It was strange to be in a place with a more homogeneous student body than I was accustomed to, and where the professors called me Miss Lane.
And so the transition from being a high school super star to an average Mac student began. My world got bigger, more complicated, infinitely more interesting, signaling to me that my somewhat haphazard college choice was turning out to be a good one.
Everything was all set in early Spring 1967, but there was a war on. My mother didn’t want her first born to die in Vietnam, so she applied to Macalester and waged a campaign to change my mind. It even included a subscription to the New Republic. I thought it might be the only one delivered to a South Dakota address at that time.
In May of 1967, more than one hundred cadets from the Air Force Academy were expelled for cheating. My girlfriend’s brother-in-law had graduated from the Academy some years before and was doing intelligence on the war in Hawaii. He wrote me a very long letter explaining why the expelled cadets had cheated. They intended to get themselves expelled because they had served in honor guards time and again to bury recent Academy graduates who died in the war. They wanted no part of being in the coffin for a future ceremony.
Mom’s application got me a Ralph L. Smith freedom scholarship for disadvantaged applicants that paid for four years of tuition, room and board at Macalester. I used some of that time to organize against the war and have always been grateful to Macalester and the Smith family for changing the direction of my life.
First week I met was Mary Ewing Fairbairn in the Book Store line. Later we sang together Concert Choir and the Festival Chorale, where we formed a group hat touched base by Zoom his week. I visited Mary when she was working in Paris, couch surfed when I return to the metro to job hunt and met the mother of my children through her introduction. A group of Kirk friends got together at our 45th with plans to do the same this time. At 45, we recognized Don Hill (my best man) and at 50 we will recognize Rick Carus (minister at my wedding).
Macalester taught resilience in the face of bad luck and personal mistakes. From Report to Greco, I learned that only by leaving your comfort zone and bumping into your limits do you enjoy all the unexpected experiences life offers. First year was a lot of fun – dances, dating, choir, sports and at playing cards for hours in Dayton Hall and as a Grille rat – but low grades provided wake up call. No regrets, but enough to buckle down and spend a lot of nights and weekends at the library. We live in terrae incognitae – the unknown land – that gradually we see for what it is. Mac prepared us to embrace changing times, places and circumstances with hope and resilience. What we learned serves us well in this pandemic year 50 years after tumultuous time of Spring 1970 until our graduation in May 1971.
My freshman roommate was probably selected for me because we were about the same size but as it turned out that was about all we had in common. He knew a lot about classical music. (I wasn’t interested.) On the other hand, the guys in room next door to us on the ground floor of Dayton Hall, were a totally different story – late night card games, silly pranks, Grille & game room rats, lots of laughter! That was fun!
I attended Mac only freshman and sophomore years but my social life remained centered there for most of the my time in college. I did eventually settle down, get serious about school, develop academic interests etc. The environment at Mac was supportive without being stifling, allowing me to grow at my own pace.