Friday, April 23, 2010

Elmer Day!

I show Ben Franklin my journal.
He shows me the Declaration of Independence.
Fair trade, I think.

I am in Austin again after being wined and dined and made much of. I went to Franklin College, in Franklin, IN, my grandfather, Elmer Davis's alma mater, for an awards ceremony. This is the 100th anniversary of his graduation from Franklin and they occasionally give an award to an alum who has distinguished himself in the field of Journalism. Joe McConnell was the honoree. It's not an annual thing, by any means, but every now and then the college chooses to honor someone, and, since this year was the centenary of Elmer's graduation, Franklin invited me and my step-mom to come and be honored, too.

It all had a rather ridiculous aspect to it. No one knows who my grandfather is/was anymore. No one. If you're over eighty and can remember anything, you might think his name was familiar, but how many people is that? And among young people? My generation? No one. I have met only two people my age who knew who knew who my grandfather was in my whole life: both were in radio. 

So to go somewhere, and have people pick you up in a limo, to have college students tell you they are honored to shake your hand, to have a whole fraternity of young men wear caps with your grandfather's name emblazoned on them and give you an award just for being the progeny of a now-unknown man, well, you begin to think you're stuck in some kind of movie, like The Truman Show, or you have slipped into some alternate reality. 

Admittedly, Franklin College, with 1000 students, is a small alternate reality. It's a truly beautiful, tiny liberal arts college in a lovely tiny town in the middle of Indiana. It could be used as a movie set for a turn of the century movie... The last century, of course. There were dogwoods, redbuds, lilacs, violets all still abloom, making the campus even more beautiful.

For all its tinyness, it has a journalism school, not a school of communications, like the august university in my home town, with its emphasis on broadcast media. No, this is a real 'J' school, with the emphasis on writing and the critical thought it brings with it. Yes, Franklin has a broadcast studio, and a radio station, and video and audio editing capabilities, all up to date with the latest equipment. And they have a public relations department, because, I found out, that is what a lot of J majors go into. But it all begins with writing. (The college president, Jay Moseley, and I had a chat about the importance, not only of 'writing,' but of handwriting during the honors dinner.)

The college is named for Ben Franklin and there are statues of him all over. One statue gets repainted frequently by students. 
Here Ben is, painted pink, with a silver metallic bra, 
for breast cancer awareness.

Ginger and I stayed at the lovely Alumni house, and ate lunch at the student union, which had a wonderful peanut butter and jelly sandwich station: six kinds of bread, bagels, butter, cream cheese, peanut butter and two kinds of jelly! They had regular food too, including a great salad bar.

 Seniors Whitney and Isaac with Prof. Ray Begovich
on the porch of the Alumni House.

I find it very hard to return to reality. No limos, no one knowing who my grandfather is or why he was important, and, sadly, no pb&j bar.


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