Friday, October 15, 2010

28 Hours in Valparaiso, IN

As I mentioned in my last post, I spent the last day or so in Valparaiso, IN.  I was attending a reunion conference of former Lilly Fellows on the subject of "Finding One's Place" in church-related higher education.  As some of my readers know, I was a "Lilly Fellow" at Valparaiso from 2000-2002 where I spent two years working on The Way of Improvement Leads Home, learning how to teach, and reflecting with other fellows about the relationship between faith and higher education.  It was a very formative experience in my life.

I have a lot of things going through my mind right now about this trip.  I saw a lot of friends--nearly of all of whom are working in the academy.  I believe it was Pamela Parker, one of the keynote speakers at the conference and a professor of English at Whitworth College, who called us the "Lilly Tribe."  It was fun being among all of these thoughtful scholars talking about the theme of "place."  We did our best not to get too nostalgic about our days working in the Linwood House at Valparaiso.

The talks I heard were great.  Pam's talk set the stage for the conference.  She offered some definitions of place and connected these themes to some of her own work in "literary tourism."  Paul Harvey responded to Pam's talk with some reflections about some tough choices he had to make about "staying put" at the University of Colorado--Colorado Springs.  Joanne Meyers of Gettysburg College offered a wonderful (and quite funny) talk about being pedestrian and being a pedestrian.

The second session was  a panel of three former Lilly Fellows--Jamie Skillen (Calvin College), Tal Howard (Gordon College), and Susanna Childress (Hope College).  Jamie discussed some of the geographical dimensions of "place."  Tal discussed the way place and tradition plays out in a new initiative at Gordon.  Vanessa read an autobiographical "creative non-fiction" paper that was absolutely fabulous.

After vespers I gave a talk to a combined audience of former Lilly fellows and students in Christ College (Valparaiso's Honors College), entitled, "Does the Way of Improvement Leads Home?: Cosmopolitan Rootedness and the Church-Related Academy."  Perhaps at some point I will post this talk (or at least parts of it) to the blog.

The day ended at the home of Mark Schwehn and Dorothy Bass where we ate dinner and caught up with old friends.  Thanks to Mark, Joe Creech, and Kathy Sunderland for putting together a great conference.

The conference continues today and then gives way to the National Lilly Fellows Conference this weekend.  As for me, I am off to Montville, NJ to be inducted into the Montville Township High School Hall of Fame.  Stay tuned for more on this.  Gotta run, my plane from O'Hare is leaving.