By Celica Cook, SBM Student Life Editor
Construction sounds seem to be part of everyday campus life now. Over the past 110 years, Messiah has grown and changed a lot. New buildings have gone up and new academic programs have been established. Yet, physical changes of campus haven’t done anything to change the spirit of Messiah and its core values over the years. Even as Messiah continues its transition into a university, there are students-turned-faculty who say that the core of Messiah’s culture and mission remain more or less the same.
~For more about unique and quirky aspects of Messiah’s history, listen to our conversation with Devin Manzullo-Thomas, director of the archives.~
Mark Templeton, ‘91, Director of Leadership Gifts in the Department of Planned Leadership Gifts remembers why he chose to attend as a student.
“My first year was at Penn State Allentown,” Templeton said. “Within the first six weeks, we had taken two trips out to State College. As a kid who grew up in the country, who went to a small Christian school, I realized that if I were to do two years at Penn State Allentown and then transfer to the main campus, that was just too big for me.”
Templeton described his household as a “Penn State” household, and he was not going to be the one to break that tradition.
“I never even went to the guidance counselor because I knew I was going to Penn State,” Templeton said.
After visiting State College though, Templeton decided to give Messiah a try. After being on campus for just 30 minutes, he was ready to move in. “I knew it was where I was going to be comfortable. It would be home.”
A strong sense of community still remains intact on Messiah’s campus today as it did when Templeton was a student.
Abby Book, Coordinator for Employer and Alumni Engagement and a 1998 Messiah graduate recalls almost not attending Messiah because of the rules around dance. Until the late 90s, dancing was not allowed on campus. Fortunately, the ban was lifted during her first year as a student.
Since dancing was relatively new to Messiah College, the dance major didn’t exist. To continue the pursuit of her passion, Book began teaching dance classes at the dance studio located in Grantham. In October of her first semester (‘94), she saw an advertisement for starting a dance company at Messiah.
“I went to a meeting and it was ‘Acclamation,’” Book said. “I named ‘Acclamation’ actually. I was artistic director for it my sophomore, junior and senior years.”
Book recalls having dance rehearsals at the racket ball courts until the dance group petitioned Dr. Rodney Sawatsky, the college president at the time, to give them the Witmer basement as a rehearsal space.
Once the space was given to them, Book and her team of fellow dancers set to work on making the Witmer basement into a dance studio.
“We raised money for the floors. They were renovating Bittner, so we got the mirrors out of the bathroom and put them on the walls, and we got pipe for the bars,” Book said.
Since then, Acclamation has grown immensely and Messiah has added dance to the long list of majors students can choose from.
Much like the college students of today, Book remembers enjoying her time with friends both in and outside of the dorms. She recalls how she would sing in the shower room with her friends, go sledding in the winter and apple picking in the fall. She even recalls how campus smells the same to her now as it did when she was a student.
“My friend Lindsey, who I was roommates with, lives in Colorado now, so she hardly ever comes back,” Book said. “When she came back I brought her here, and she [said] it smells the same! And I agreed. Walking by the mailboxes, it still smells the same as it did when I was a student.”
Much has changed since Book’s time as a student here, but evidently, the smells have not. As buildings go up and generations come and go, the most memorable aspects of life at Messiah College remain intact.
Scott Frey, Head Women’s Soccer Coach, graduated from Messiah in 1984. As a former student-athlete-turned-head-coach himself, he has seen how the athletic program at Messiah has changed since his time.
Frey was an active and involved student. His primary activity was, of course, soccer, but on top of that, he was a part of the track team, wrestling team and had a leadership position in SAB.
“It was just different back then,” Frey said. “Back then, you didn’t train all year round. It was just different. You had the ability to do those kinds of things.”
When Frey was a student, there was no traditional training season for student athletes. This freed up some extra time for athletes like him to get involved in other activities on campus, hang out with friends and have some fun.
“Now recruiting is more organized,” Frey said. “Training is year-round and scripted. There’s much more of a directed focus in athletics for athletes now.”
Since his time as a student, Frey claims that the student body as a whole has actually changed less than people may think.
“I still see students who value and want what Messiah says it offers,” Frey said. “They desire education, mentorship and relationships that are based around their desire to follow after Christ.”
Dr. Mindy Smith, Senior Lecturer in Applied Health Science and the Director of Student Wellness graduated in December of 2003.
Smith, a former student athlete and soccer player under the direction of Coach Frey, also grew up toddling around campus as the daughter of Professor Doug Miller.
“I loved being on campus and watching sports,” Smith said. “I got to know some of his students. I think I grew up with this really positive impression.”
For Smith, Messiah was familiar territory and a place where she had already made some of her own childhood memories. Now, she works side-by-side with her father, whose office happens to be right next to her own.
“I think Messiah for me was very influential in a positive way,” Smith said. “And so I think then, having experienced that as a student and to get to come back, there is kind of a cool connecting point to having been here.”
Generations of students will come and go as Messiah continues to provide a place of growth and opportunity for each new footstep that makes its way to campus. Memories will be made, friends will come together and Messiah will remain, however changed it may seem, strangely familiar.
This article can be found in the October issue of the Swinging Bridge Magazine.