Willamette University

Tidbits & Briefs

President Thorsett: Q and A From Inauguration


What's the first thought that comes to mind to describe the feeling on stage as you gave your address?

It was a colorful blur, with all the flags and robes.

How did the robe feel?

Replacing my own orange regalia with Willamette's cardinal and gold really emphasized the duties I was taking on for the university. The sheer weight of the medallion presidents Hudson and Pelton hung around my neck helped, too!

What did it mean to have family with you — including your father, Grant, as the marshal leading the procession?

I'm sure neither my father nor I ever imagined sharing an event like this. We both felt very, very lucky to be there together.

What do you hope the audience (both live and streaming online) took away from the experience?

I hope they saw and heard what I did: the essence of Willamette refracted in so many different and wonderful ways by the speakers and musicians. The ceremony felt true to our long history, but also very true to today's Willamette.

You had a chance to talk with former presidents M. Lee Pelton and Jerry Hudson. Did they offer you any advice?

They have both emphasized what a great opportunity it was for them to lead Willamette — and reminded me to enjoy myself!

What surprised you?

The warmth of the welcome from the whole community did, as well as the number of people who wanted to be involved in the ceremony and reconnect with the university.

New Grads, New Memories

What’s your favorite Willamette memory? We asked departing seniors again, and they delivered.

  • The overwhelming sense of community during moments of trial — like the flood in January 2012, when we worked as a whole.
  • Singing “Don’t Stop Believin’” with the entire Bistro.
  • Being kissed under the star trees.
  • I loved the feelings of friendship, accomplishment and pride that I felt at the conclusion of the annual Hawai'i Club Lu'au.
  • Going on a road trip to Canada with my fraternity brothers.
  • An alumni/student forum. This gave me an opportunity to see how others with my degree have made it work...and their thoughts when they were in my shoes.

And the winner is:

The epic day the car drove into the Mill Stream

Yes, it happened, and it made the news. A drunk driver careened past Goudy and into the tranquil Willamette waterway while trying to evade police. Campus observers saw him get out and continue to flee — by running up the stream — until he was apprehended. No ducklings were harmed.

Seniors to the Alumni Board: Pay Up

The Willamette University Alumni Association (WUAA) board of directors provided a little incentive this year for Senior Fund Drive contributions (each year the senior class raises money to benefit younger Willamette students) and the ’12 grads ran with it, demolishing old class records.

The board offered the senior class a $4,000 matching gift — but only if 40 percent of the graduating class donated to their alma mater on the way out. Any donation amount counted. The board knew that this would be useful as well as strategic, since the senior participation rate affects things like guidebook ratings. Seniors aren’t rich, but they are numerous.

At press time, they’ve exceeded 40 percent participation (average donation: $6.75), and they’re still climbing. The old record, set in 2011, was 35 percent.

This is great news for development, but it might be better news for students.

“Beating 40 percent participation of our class is an exciting surprise,” says Carli Smith ’12, who has helped with outreach. “It shows how aware our classmates are of the impact that a cohesive effort like this has on everyone at Willamette.”

Get rolling, ’13.

(More Of) Our Quirky History

Shenanigans, courtesy of the class of 1962. The class returns this year for its 50th reunion, and the memories are flowing already (these were published in their newsletter). Conspirators’ names have been removed so we don’t get too many letters.

Moo Cow in Eat on Hall

This one made the front page of the local paper. The story goes that a Willamette secretary discovered a cow on the third floor of Eaton Hall when she arrived at work. Upon seeing the cow on the landing, she stopped, turned around, calmly descended the steps to the first floor, exited the front door and promptly lit up a cigarette. After a few deep drags and a moment or two to gather her thoughts, she called her boss to report what she’d seen. No one remembers how the cow was removed.

Step Smoothing Out “The Step”

WU prides itself on its history, and the “sacred old step” on the east entrance of Waller Hall is a prime example — worn down as it was, and remains in 2012, by years of foot traffic. In fact, WU had just created its promotional film featuring “The Step” when, one parents weekend, someone stealthily performed a midnight “repair” of the hallowed step with quick-drying concrete, filling in the obvious low spot so it was nice and smooth. The following morning, Ted Gooding ’62 reported seeing two WU maintenance men bent over the east entrance with hammers and chisels, furiously chipping out the fresh concrete to restore the low spot.

Records Theft of the Chapel Records

Chapel attendance was mandatory for us until the revolt of 1961, but we got a taste of freedom in the spring of our freshman year when the chapel attendance records were stolen from Eaton Hall. Remember how each student could have two chapel cuts before being threatened with “social probation?” Well, when the attendance records were stolen, few continued to attend chapel; we think the university gave up on taking attendance for the remainder of the term.

Skunk Oil Skunk Oil

This caper should ring some bells with our Beta alums. At 4 a.m. one Friday during parents weekend, a clever fellow, who shall remain unnamed, walked undetected down the hallway of the Beta house, where he deposited minute drops of concentrated skunk oil on the carpet runner. The skunk oil drops were invisible, but the smell was overpowering.

The next morning, all of the windows to the Beta house were flung open, and the residents were seen pitching clothing and room contents onto the grass in a vain effort to escape the smell.


About That VW

One of the class of 1962’s unsolved mysteries surrounds a photo of a Volkswagen atop a set of stairs in front of an unidentified residence hall. Members of the class reunion committee remain curious as to how it got there and who the muscular culprits might have been.

Incidentally, the class of 1962 didn’t start this Willamette “automotive tradition.” Scotty Washburn ’51 recalls a group of students “importing” a Ford Model T into the Eaton Hall lobby (it required disassembly and reassembly because the entrance wasn’t wide enough). A handmade sign hung above: “Herb’s Used Cars.” We can imagine President G. Herbert Smith’s reaction to that one.

Disclaimer: Dear students: The Scene does not condone the undue appropriation of automobiles on or off campus.

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