Who was waiting for the doors of Oberlin Colleges Finney Chapel to open on Friday evening, September 19? Why did nearly 1,200 more people join them inside?
It was a convocation. Two Oberlin graduates were about to speak. The older: a classmate of mine. The younger: a MacArthur Award winner.
When the two were introduced, the cheering from the overflow crowd was loud and long. The mostly young audience waved their arms in the air and stomped their feet on Finneys wooden floors. The freshmen made their presence known.
I found this reaction astounding, because these two are not rock stars. Theyre not movie stars. Theyre not even TV stars. Theyre on radio! Public radio! And their show is about the hottest topic among young people today, science!
Their program is called Radiolab, a Peabody Award winner that's one of National Public Radio's most popular shows.
As undergraduates, they both were involved with WOBC, the same little campus radio station as I. Krulwich co-hosted a news commentary program, and I had been a fan of his even before I saw him on stage in a Ben Jonson comedy in 1967.
There was also, Jad remembers, this whole other program called Timara, basically an electronic music program. It was these kids, and they'd work in the musical building just a bunch of synths in the basement, and they never saw sunshine. Part of the music curriculum was to do a Timara piece, and that, for me was like oh, this is my jam, to work with synthesizers and combine them with acoustic sounds.
While we in the audience were waiting for the convocation to begin, I talked with a 1974 graduate, Stu, a doctor from Denver. Maayan Plaut of the Class of 2010 took this photo of the stage setup: two chairs, a laptop, and a projection screen.
Jad and Robert had spent much of the day reminiscinating about their undergraduate years. When Jad took his seat and looked out over the huge and enthusiastic audience sitting where he had sat twenty years before, he confessed, Im kind of tripping out up here. As Robert noted, this was the same stage from which many famous speakers and musicians had been heard over the years, including Martin Luther King fifty years ago.
A couple of years ago, they were interviewed by Stephen Colbert. And Sasha Weiss wrote in The New Yorker about the excitement of the collaboration between Abumrad and Krulwich. Radiolab, Krulwich told me, is an experiment between two people who are trying to figure stuff out. The music in him is something I just understand. Its very easy to play with him. Two grown men playing brilliant games with ideas. Its one of the great artistic collaborations going these days.
But wait, there was more to come! It was the colleges Homecoming Weekend, a perfect occasion to inaugurate the brand-new football field on Saturday. The remodeled stadium now has artificial Field Turf carpet. It also has lights, so Oberlin was able to play the first night football game in its history.
The aerial view above comes from this college-provided footage. The videomakers also operated their drone at human altitudes. For example, they flew right through the bandstand gazebo on the Square.
The support facility building on the far left of my photo above, behind the end zone, houses locker rooms and such and has been built to Title IX standards. I think that means that the womens field hockey team no longer has to share a locker with the men.
Officially known as the Austin E. Knowlton Athletics Complex, the new construction replaces the crumbling grandstand I knew from my college days. (Back then, Savage Stadium was already 40 years old. Had it survived one more year, it would have celebrated its 90th birthday in 2015.)
Above we see the view from the premium seats, which have backs and are located on the 50-yard line. Across the field are the new bleachers for the visiting team. The ramp on the right leading up to them, for some reason, seems to be the only ramp in the whole stadium.
On the home side, fans have to access the seating area by way of this flight of stairs. At least the concessions stand is right there at the top of the steps.
Its adjacent to the glassed-in clubhouse and social suite for VIPs excuse me, for the campus community. But this concessions stand seems to be the only one in the stadium. There are just two small windows, labeled ORDER and PICK, and a hard-working but disorganized crew behind the windows doing their best to keep up.
But those special seats with the backs were mostly empty in the first quarter. Maybe the VIPs were still in their suite.
Before a crowd of 2,043, Oberlin and the College of Wooster traded scores on the first five possessions. There were several long plays. It looked as though it was going to be an exciting, high-scoring Division III game. But then Wooster got its defense in gear and Oberlin did not. The final score: Wooster 63, Oberlin 10.