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Photobook encapsulates 150 years of the College’s history

Daniel Sweat
Features Editor

It’s 1865. The nation is in turmoil after the Lincoln assassination. You are Reverend James Reed, the minister of the First Presbyterian Church at Wooster, and you really like nature. As you look out the window during congregational calls, you are overcome with the natural beauty of Wooster, Oh. And you think to yourself, “Man oh man, this would be a swell place for a college.” So you build a big building, and in 1866, you begin matriculating young students.

One hundred and fifty years later, your college is the nation’s premier college for mentored undergraduate research. It’s doing pretty well for itself. Now, the 150th anniversary is coming up, and we need to celebrate. But how? Oh, I don’t know. How about the raddest photobook you’ve ever seen?

But who will make such a photobook to tell the story of The College of Wooster’s history? Don’t worry: Dr. Madonna J. Hettinger and her plucky group of students have got it covered. In fact, they published 150 Years – Through Students’ Eyes a few weeks ago, on Black and Gold weekend. You can get a copy right now, in the Wilson Bookstore. But how did they come to make the photobook? Let’s go behind the scenes.

Last fall, Sally Kendrick ’16 and Scott Wagner ’17 took a class called “Making History: Theories and Methods,” taught by Dr. Hettinger. During the class, they discovered that “the school’s institutional histories were fairly lacking in student perspectives on the College,” and they wanted to help Hettinger change that.

During the next spring semester, they signed on to be Hettinger’s research assistants and began delving into the College’s archives. The desire for student perspectives and for a comprehensive retelling of the College’s history informed the entire photo selection process. The group tried to encapsulate academics, athletics, music, social events, faculty, staff and the world outside of Wooster, among other themes.

Looking through the photobook, it’s clear that a lot has changed, but a lot has also stayed the same. “Over the whole 150 years of this school’s history, students have had a lot in common…It’s hard to find a more remarkable, close-knit college community than Wooster’s — past, present, and future,” said Wagner. Indeed, Dr. Hettinger, the impetus behind the entire project, thinks of the photobook as “a celebration of the values and challenges and traditions that make us a community.” Among these values highlighted in the photobook are academic rigor, integrity and a willingness to speak one’s mind.

This celebration and appreciation of Wooster’s past doesn’t end with the photobook. In fact, on Oct. 21 there will be an exhibit, curated by Hettinger, Wagner and Jared Berg ’17, in the main lobby of Andrews Library in which they’ll share more of the stories that couldn’t fit in the photobook.

As of now, Wagner and Berg are combing through the archives for even more evidence to showcase. For display at the exhibit, Joe MacInnes ’19 has been working on a virtual reality tour of the Old Main, using the only seven surviving photos of the original classroom that burned in 1901 as a basis for the tour. Another group of students, including MacInnes, Brandon Bell ’18, Hope Nelson ’18 and former Wooster student Alex Kaufmann, are working on a website featuring stories of how Wooster has been on the forefront of progress in both academic and campus life.

As mentioned earlier, those working on the project couldn’t fit every photo they found in the Special Collections Department into the photobook, so they tried to keep the idea of “through students’ eyes” in the backs of their minds as they sifted through 150 years of history in photos. Hettinger describes their process, “For some events we had too many images and we had to make tough choices. Even as I was doing the final edits for the book, I kept thinking, ‘If only we could squeeze in one more image, one more story.’” The result of all this hard work is a polished and thorough celebration of the past 150 years of The College of Wooster.

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