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Sustaining Community: Family and Friends Weekend

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

In the Lebrón-Wiggins-Pran Cultural Center, Benjamin Oyama strummed his guitar, singing a song he wrote while exploring China. His music, said Oyama, had lately tended to explore identity and moving, a reflection on what had been a time of upheaval and change in his life. He transferred into Hampshire this fall.

"Finally at Hampshire I'm in a place I feel really comfortable, and I really love," he told the crowd, among them his mother who had made the trip for Family and Friends Weekend.

Stories flowed easily over the event's four days. Family and Friends Weekend, more than anything, is about connections, the new ones and the established, the unexpected, the exciting. From parents getting their first introduction to the campus to alumni revisiting a memorable part of their lives, the lectures, performances, mountain hikes, soccer matches, and other activities gave glimpses into a community that, next year, will reach the 40-year milestone.

"I enjoyed my time at Hampshire so much. How wonderful to see students from then who have come here today," said Professor Emerita Elaine Mayes.

Mayes moved on from Hampshire in 1981, but her time at the College remains indelible for many. In helping to design the film and photography program, she influenced generations of students. The ones who returned for her lecture and discussion Family and Friends weekend, who could remember her as their teacher, could be heard laughing about how much it felt like a classroom again.

"It's a wonderful day. We're having a great time," said David Adie, father of first year student Devon Ingraham-Adie as he left Mayes's talk.

Across campus, visitors met the newest arrivals at the Hampshire College Farm Center. The three alpacas were a bit skittish, but they were getting used to the turf. As founding faculty member and Professor Emeritus Ray Coppinger told the crowd at the Red Barn, creating the farm center was a well-thought out decision. It was a way to reach out to science-wary students who were critical of the ways technology had adversely affected the planet.

"The rise of the environmental movement was in the 60s and 70s. At Hampshire, we were faced with a student body that wanted a change. It was a dynamic, interesting time. The challenge was, what do you teach that's relevant to these students, and how do you teach it?" he asked.

The farm center was one way, and in the early days Coppinger and his colleagues worked to attract students from all academic disciplines. It was, he said, in the tradition of having agriculture as a central part of the liberal arts education. Though the center has changed to a degree over the years, Coppinger says farm manager Leslie Cox has preserved the tradition.

Graduates Jesse and Desirée Robertson Dubois, who both began at Hampshire in 1993 and now manage the Holiday Brook Farm, attributes lessons learned there with forming their current philosophy.

"We have an interdisciplinary look at the farm. You can do so much more for the community if you think of it as a whole. It's not just the production side, you have to see how farming fits in with the environment and the community. I credit Hampshire for having that outlook," said Jesse.

With a theme of Sustaining Community: Building the Future, it would be hard to sum up this year's Family and Friends Weekend any better.

Photos by Steven Frischling


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