I went to a small college in the midwest, the College of Wooster. It has a Presbyterian background and graduates an outsized number of PCUSA pastors. I’m hoping to catch up with fellow interns from Westminster Presbyterian Church in a couple of weeks. There were six or seven of us that interned during these years, and almost all are now ordained. One’s a presbytery exec, one ran the main GLBT advocacy group for our church in NYC, one just finished a PhD in systematics and took a call in Illinois, another is an episcopal priest and author, yet another is part of a clergy couple team and is fifteen years into ministry, and the last works for another non-profit in the Chicago area. Curiously, every single one of these classmates is a first-born daughter (there are several other men from my class in ministry, but they tilted towards different activities in college). I got to be the little brother of the group and was always kind of amazed by the gifts within this network (writing, singing, preaching, speaking, organizing). We profited from several great campus ministers and local clergy. In general, it was a good college for me because it emphasized individual research (all students write junior and senior theses) and there was plenty of space to try things out. It was/is a school that rewards creativity and individual interest, and encourages internal motivation.
Another influence on me in college years was the start of a Chinese program. I did a summer of Chinese at the University of Michigan through a fellowship program to encourage people from the US to study less commonly taught langauges. When I came back, Wooster had just started offering Chinese, and then I went onto a year in Beijing. My advisor was David Gedalecia, who had studied the Yuan dynasty Cheng brothers and also advised several theses in my year. One of my roommates (also a Gedalecia advisee) went to law school but then passed the foreign service exam and was even here in Taiwan for some time.
This is all backdrop to say that in Taiwan, there’s a small group of Wooster alum: a pair of English teachers, a guy who has worked in mining in Asia for the last thirty years, and a string of visitors. Sue Min (who ran a Chinese restaurant and Wooster and is a member of Westminster) comes through regularly. This last weekend there was a lacrosse scrimmage at NTNU that included a mix of locals and foreigners. I didn’t play, but was able to talk for a while with one of the more recent graduates. She talked Sam into picking up a lacrosse stick and learning some basic skills. She had Gedalecia as an advisor, as did the older alum who’d visited. I’m also in touch with the three others in history in my year who had the same advisor.
I know alumni relationships can be unhealthy. In Taiwan, in many schools alumni get preferential treatment (the entire senior theology leadership at my school are alumni of Taiwan Seminary). At the same time, it’s really nice to connect to people who experienced the same place and had some of the same experiences, although in different eras. I try not to be overly rosy about my college years, but I’m grateful for the ways that college developed a calling towards ministry, teaching, and the cross-cultural life.