Reliving the Spring Hill experience at Homecoming on the Hill
While the weather for Homecoming was picture perfect, alumni generosity rained down on the college, nurturing more than 50 years of Spring Hill memories. Nearly 450 alumni attended the weekend that included the Zoghby-Devaney Golf Tournament, a toast to retiring faculty, and an alumni memorial mass celebrated by SHC president Rev. Richard P. Salmi, S.J.
One of the weekend’s highlights was the Seafood Extravaganza, featuring Gulf seafood and live entertainment with areas for reunion classes to gather. Attendee Tom Micek ’72 recently sponsored a room in the new student center. “I had a great time here 39 years ago,” he said. “The old student center was the newest thing around here 40 years ago. It’s great they have updated that.” During his undergraduate days, Micek played on the golf team and was a member of ADG fraternity. “It was a damn good time,” he said.
Another alumni group celebrated half a century of Spring Hill memories with a scholarship gift. Tom O’Connor ’61 and Jack Gleeson ’61 graduated together, went into the army together, watched each other get engaged in Germany, and served as best men in each other’s weddings. For both, these are lifelong ties. “The entire group over the 50 years has stayed together,” Gleeson said.
The class of ’61’s dedication to Spring Hill evolved into a plan to raise $500,000 for a scholarship. Though shaken by the rocky stock market, the class presented Fr. Salmi with $300,314 they had raised over the past five years since their last reunion at Saturday night’s Golden Badgers Dinner.
“The scholarship will live on in perpetuity long after we are gone, but while we are still around we continue to strive to reach the $500,000 goal,” explained Gleeson. “We’re hoping we’ve established a precedent for other classes. Our experience was phenomenal. We all have a very soft spot for The Hill. We were blessed with many Jesuits, and we see the Jesuit spirit represented in their leadership.”
Other alumni contribute to the college with their leadership efforts. Fr. Salmi visited with more than 75 Sigma Chi alumni at Homecoming. “Sigma Chi was a big part of this place,” explained Patrick Whittenbrink ’00. “We’re on the alumni board, the board of trustees, legislators, physicians, lawyers.”
For many, it was a chance to meet the new president. “We appreciated that he would come meet with us, expressing his appreciation for what we do as alums,” said Jaime Betbeze ’87. “Our fraternity was a tremendous part of the Spring Hill experience for me. Part of it is the relationships you develop while here.”
For some, the relationships begun as Spring Hill College are life long. For Peter and Julie Barcia ’61/’61, Spring Hill provided strong Jesuit education, but also a marriage and 10 children. In fact, they’ve been so busy with life in Hawaii, this Homecoming marked their first return trip to the Hill in 50 years.
“We had a great time here,” said Peter Barcia. “We have good memories. Blessings have followed everywhere we’ve gone. Spring Hill was one of those blessings.” While connecting with old friends, they reminisced over former teachers Rev. Alfred Lambeau, S.J., Dr. Charles Boyle and Rev. Hilton Rivet, S.J.
Jesuits stand as role models for many alumni. Steve Kelly ’66, the Dye Family Professor of Music at Carleton College, gave a presentation on “Joan Baez at Spring Hill: A Study of Intersecting Histories.” He recalls setting up chairs the night Joan Baez sang at the College Inn in 1963, with Baez coming from a Birmingham Civil Rights demonstration.
Rev. Albert Foley, S.J., he said, played a pivotal role in the desegregation of the college and in the history of Alabama Civil Rights. “It’s an interesting story and puts Spring Hill in a very positive light and the role of Jesuits in the history of human rights very strongly,” he said.
Homecoming also gave alumni a chance to relive the Spring Hill experience. Amy Driskell ’06 attended with her toddler and baby, giving them an early introduction to the traditions of Spring Hill. In addition to visiting with out-of-town friends, she was excited to see the new art building, under construction when she was a student. “I think it’s beautiful,” she said.
Dorothy Beattie ’71 enjoyed the Delta River Boat Cruise with friends from her class, as well as a group from the class of ’56. “They had that same rapport, the same we have with our classmates,” she said. “It was just delightful. And it was a great idea to do something different.”