At age 43, Kathleen Yager '04 is a first-generation
college student, the proud daughter of a working-class family from
Lorain County. Married right out of high school, then divorced with
children, she'd had no formal education for 22 years when she enrolled
at Oberlin full time two years ago.
Last fall, her daughter Mallory became the second
generation of Yager Obies. Mallory is a little irked that her mom
stole her thunder by enrolling first, and quite irked that her mom
sold Mallory's childhood home and moved into town. But because of
that decision, Mallory has enjoyed a thorough immersion into Oberlin
life. In her engagingly impish way, she claims she was virtually
hustled. "Mom had a lot of friends who were professors. The
dean of students actually wrote me a letter when he heard
I was thinking about applying and said it was a good idea. I thought,
'Oh my gosh, how big of a deal is this?'"
Kathleen Yager is hardly the first mother to move
to Oberlin to support her child's education; many 19th-century mothers
did the same. These women served as the original housemothers, renting
rooms to students. Kathleen's move resulted in full immersion for
both herself and daughter, and who knows the ripple effect?
"When I got to my lowest point, feeling as though
I didn't belong here, my academic advisor reminded me that I was
here for a very specific reason, a reason that I might not yet understand,"
Kathleen says. "Oberlin is a school from which you don't just
take--you leave your mark. Every day I ask myself, 'what is it I
want to leave? What is it that I want to give back?'" For starters,
she's given her daughter.
George Bent, who regularly audits Oberlin courses,
has some humble thoughts about his own chances of entry into the
College today; he cites by example an event he witnessed in one
of Professor William Hood's art history courses. Hood read aloud
two students' answers to an essay exam so that classmates could
gain an appreciation of the talent level of their peers.
"I was stunned," Bent says. "One of
the essays was written by a junior. One by a sophomore. Their command
of the language and the way they expressed themselves were just...well,
I don't know how to describe it. I just know that if I applied to
Oberlin College today, I'd never get in. Family or no family."
This rambling forest of family trees is perhaps the
real Oberlin Arb. It's worth reflecting on the brood related to
the word legacy. Derived from the Indo-European root leg-, meaning
to collect, and having other derivatives meaning to speak, its kin
include lecture, legend, lesson, diligent, intelligent, select,
eclectic, legitimate, privilege, colleague, delegate, logic, analogous,
and prologue. All of these would seem collected at Oberlin.
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of Family Tree, Oberlin Roots