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Mother Midge

A wise promoter of all things Oberlin, Midge Brittingham ’60 will soon take her leave.

by Michael K. McIntyre
Photo by Al Fuchs

Midge Wood Brittingham buzzed through her final Commencement/Reunion Weekend with the intense attention to detail she’s had for nearly 30 years as executive director of Oberlin’s Alumni Association. She quadruple-checked schedules, menus, and the preparations inside the massive tent set up to serve a 2,000-person lunch in a few days. Using a motorized cart, she seemed, as always, to possess the ability to appear in two places at once. Those who remember her whizzing through campus on a bike in past years are not mistaken; the cart is a concession to bone spurs that make her feet ache.

Her omnipresence on Oberlin’s campus hasn’t gone unnoticed. As the chief liaison between College and alumni, Brittingham, herself a 1960 graduate, has shepherded fellow Oberlinians through reunions, Alumni Council meetings, educational programs, committee sessions, and trips abroad. She has offered sage advice and worked long hours, assuring even the most activist of alumni that she has their best interests—and the institution’s—at heart. It was no wonder, then, that Mary Louise Enigson VanDyke ’47 would honor Brittingham by rewriting the words to the Oberlin school song Ten Thousand Strong for the Half-Century Club reunion dinner in May.

As Brittingham worked her way around Carnegie Building’s Root Room, VanDyke and her husband, Don ’47, passed out the new lyric sheets. They worked to keep the whole thing a secret while Brittingham busily made sure that everyone had a seat, a drink, and something to talk about. She fussed over fixing the collar of 95-year-old Dorothy Smith ’29, the oldest graduate in attendance, who was preparing to have her picture taken. Still, predictably, Brittingham suspected what was coming—she’d spied the box containing the lyrics, her eagle eyes missing nothing that seemed out of place.

Photo GalleryThe song was a sweet serenade:

The time has come for everyone
To stand and give a cheer
For the friend of all of us, our Midge
In lands afar by cruise or safari
She led us every year
Oberlin’s far reaching worlds to bridge
Our friend and our guide, that’s Midge!
Now her leaving leaves us grieving
How we’ll miss her, our loved, honored leader
O, Midge, good luck we wish you
Alumni director, dear
We crown you fairest leader
Your name we all revere.
No class you didn’t know well,
No job for you too tough,
To Midge, congratulations,
Our thanks and our love.

Such appreciation would have been music to anyone’s ears, and Brittingham was, of course, moved. But what was she really thinking?

“I was thinking that they were going on too long,” she grumbles. “People had to go on to other events.”

Classic Midge. Even as the guest of honor, she’s worried about hosting the party, about ensuring that every graduate who returns for a reunion has an enriching experience.
Six years ago, she crashed her bike two days before reunion weekend and smashed her elbow into five pieces. Not even that kept her from her life’s work.


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