Another legacy family, the Richards,
also sprang from the romantic liaisons of its early ancestors. Second
generation Oberlinian Walt Richards '37, son of Oliver '10 and Gertrude
Richards '11, was one of five children, all alumni. Four of them
compounded the connection in marriage. "My father said Oberlin
was a good place to find a wife," he says. "While growing
up we never knew any other colleges."
Walt's own sons make the same claim. Bruce Richards
'61, an Oberlin physics professor, says that when he and brother
Mark, also '61, came of age, "there was no tussle" over
college choice: Oberlin was synonymous with exceptional education.
Their parents were frequent visitors to campus and had established
lifelong connections with professors. Mark and Bruce took youthful
pride in the image of their father as a former track star and his
legendary tale about "the whole track team crossing the finish
line linking arms and holding hands in a strong show of esprit de
coeur," Mark says. His daughter, Jennifer Richards Gardella
'88, is the only fourth-generation graduate in the family thus far.
An intriguing variation on the legacy theme--a legacy
within a legacy--is manifest in two Elder families. John Dixon Elder
'53 and the brothers Joseph '51 and David '54 Elder all came of
age during the Korean conflict. The two Elder families are not related,
but all three men all became Oberlin Shansi representatives in the
1950s as a service alternative to the military.
John had been accepted into the Chicago Presbyterian
Theological Seminary and had qualified for military deferment. Shansi
service in Japan provided a way to "give back," assuaging
his sense of national guilt over the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Subsequently, he served as pastor of First Congregational Church
in Oberlin for 18 years and is an honorary member of Oberlin's Board
of Trustees. His son, Mark Elder '78, also represented Shansi in
Indonesia and is married to Kiki Speidel '86, whose parents served
Shansi in Taiwan.
The other Elders, Joe and David, were the children
of missionaries in Iran and viewed Shansi as the most distinctive
link between Oberlin and the outside world. David and his wife,
Betty Jean "B.J." Rugh '55, served as the first reps to
Taiwan. Joe and his wife, Joann Finley Elder '51 (or Joe-Jo, as
they call themselves), became Shansi's first representatives to
India. "We graduated in June, married in August, and sailed
in September," Joann says. The couple still celebrates Thanksgiving
with four or five Shansi families. Both of the Elder couples eventually
became Quakers, actively dedicating themselves to world peace and
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of Family Tree, Oberlin Roots