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alumni weekend group shot
Enjoying the reception at the Marriott Griffin Gate are Charlie Taylor ’65, left, Martha-Frances Herrin Burak ’65, and Gary Burak.

Honoring Shearers was a big part of Alumni Weekend 2010

More than 650 alumni and visitors attended events at the 2010 Alumni Weekend April 9-11. In addition to the fun and memories, they were able to honor President Charles L. Shearer for his 27 years of service to Transylvania, and his wife, Susan, for her role as first lady and ambassador for the university.

The weekend kicked off with the annual gathering at Keeneland Race Course on Friday and culminated with a chapel service Sunday morning in Old Morrison Chapel. Many of the alumni socialized with current and former faculty and staff members during an alumni celebration luncheon Saturday in the William T. Young Campus Center.

Michael Nichols ’68 (right), who is currently teaching at Transylvania as a visiting professor of psychology, gave the keynote address and used the opportunity to talk about his time at the university, what it was like to return after 40 years, and about the legacy that the Shearers will leave with the institution.

mike nichols“In 2008 a dream came true for me—I was asked to teach at Transylvania as a visiting professor,” Nichols said. “I moved into Hazelrigg Hall in 1964; it was a boys’ dorm then. In 2008 I moved back into Hazelrigg Hall, which had been converted into faculty offices. It was remarkably the same 44 years later. It was like coming home.”

Nichols shared memories about some of his favorite professors from his time as a student, which made for some funny stories.

“I remember being the anesthesiologist for a pancreatectomy on a rat in our wonderful Dr. (Lila) Boyarsky’s biology class,” he recalled. “I realized that anesthesiology was not a natural talent for me because in the middle of surgery, the rat woke up, looked around, evaluated the situation, chose not to participate, and ran out the front door of the Carnegie Science Building with Dr. Boyarsky and five students in hot pursuit.”

He also reflected on what those professors taught him and his classmates, as well as things he had to learn on his own.

“We worked hard, and we learned about service and leadership and empathy for others,” he said. “We made a lot of mistakes, we fell in love, got our hearts broken, and we learned. We learned how to think and write and read and see things more clearly and listen more intensely. We left Transy with a very different vision of the world and ourselves. We were given a vision of an education that was a lifelong journey, not a destination.”

A time to reflect

It was Sunday morning of Alumni Weekend 2010, and Charlie Taylor ’65 was in a reflective mood after attending many of the weekend’s events and catching up with classmates and professors. Sitting alone in Haupt Plaza, Taylor, a Vanderbilt University senior development officer and accomplished singer-songwriter, penned these words.

This Place Beyond the Woods

We clung to you those fast four years, until you bid us fly...
And now it seems like yesterday, when we all said goodbye.

We promised that we’d stay in touch, but soon life intervened...
I lost some steps along the way, I’m grey and not as fleet.

But we’ve returned to say hello, to gather once again...
To laugh once more at yesterday, and revel in old friends.

We married, and the children came, the climb, careers and more...
And we looked up to find one day, the years had fairly flown.

We’ll not debate who lost or gained, fame fades away like the smoke...
’Tis all about the days we shared, so many years ago.

So lift a glass to we who are, and those who have gone on...
And our first meeting ’neath these trees, upon this hallowed lawn.

We love you Transylvania, you’re all that’s true and good...
One day soon my ghost will walk, this place beyond the woods.

Nichols said that much of the credit for Transy maintaining those ideals goes to President Shearer, who helped bring the school out from hard times and mold it into the university it is today. He got emotional as he began to talk about his friend.

“Thirty years ago, Transy was in a pretty shaky state. Many of us who lived around here were worried. Enrollment, finances, and morale were at a low,” he said. “President Shearer brought the campus stability and hope. Its standing as an institution of higher learning has grown, and Transy is considered one of the top liberal arts programs anywhere.”

Among Shearer’s traits, Nichols named hard work, commitment to students, extraordinary financial and administrative expertise, and love for vision and learning. But success involves more than just those leadership abilities, he said.

“All of those qualities are necessary, but not sufficient, to do all of the amazing accomplishments over the last 30 years,” he said. “The amazing success of the Shearer era came as a result of all of those qualities, but also of his heart and his character. An institution reflects the character of its leader. Transy has experienced success in large part because people are drawn to Dr. Shearer’s heart and character.”

After graduating from Transy in 1968, Nichols completed his master’s degree and Ph.D. from the University of Kentucky, where he worked as director of the counseling and testing center and as associate professor of behavioral medicine at the College of Medicine. He also has served as staff psychologist at Eastern State Hospital and at the Eastern Kentucky University counseling center. A recipient of a Distinguished Service Award from Transy in 1992, he has won numerous honors and awards for excellence in teaching and other professional endeavors.

At the end of the luncheon, the Alumni Association elected Melony J. Lane ’90 president of the Alumni Executive Board and Candice Caine Zaluski ’71 president-elect.

Photos by Joseph Rey Au

View the recipients of the 2010 University Awards & the inductees into the Pioneer Hall of Fame.

View more photos from Alumni Weekend 2010 on Facebook and on Transy's Alumni website.

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