Spring 2003 Contents OAM Home Oberlin Online Home
Feature Stories
Money Matters
Family Tree, Oberlin roots
Operation Internship
[cover story] Fury and the Sound
David Rees Gets His (Bleep) On
Around Tappan Square
Alumni Profiles
The Last Word
One More Thing
Inside Oberlin
Staff Box

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.

"All of the children in our family grew up
hearing about nothing but Oberlin.
It was tattooed on them that the College
had to at least be one of their options."

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 freedom.


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