I'll See You Again Soon
What can I possibly say after 28 years of working with Oberlin alumni? Well, first I can say thank you for making this such a wonderful career. I've especially enjoyed the chance to work closely with many of you on the Alumni Board and Council, the Executive Board, and the Board of Trustees. Others I've gotten to know through our memorable travel tours together.
During a tribute celebration held for me during Alumni Council Weekend last fall, my son made an important observation: our nuclear family—Smith; me; our sons Smith IV and Billy; our grandsons and daughters-in-law; and very soon, our new granddaughter from Russia, Natalie—has expanded far beyond us 12. Be it alumni eating dinner at our home, staying overnight, or visiting our summer home in Maine, the expansion of our "family" goes on and on. My family was surprised at times to find Oberlin alumni so intertwined in our lives, but they had no choice—I consider all of you my family. (Wait, not all of you. Certainly not the alum who threatened to kill me if he received one more piece of mail from Oberlin, or those who have been so angry at a College policy that they felt justified in heaping verbal abuse on me. But they are among the few. The rest of you are fair game for Brittingham family-hood.)
I've often thought that I'd earned a PhD in nametags, menu planning, and small talk. But that assessment doesn't do justice to this job—those tasks are merely the tools that lead to successful alumni involvement. Certainly the nametags are necessary; I get very nervous when I enter a roomful of alumni and see two or three of you without name tags—I've been known to scold. But the job has taken its toll: 28 years of stand-up receptions have ruined my feet, and nearly three decades of alumni meals have added weight to my bones.
I am often asked what I will do in retirement. I'd like to spend more time with my grandchildren and at our summer home in Maine. I'd like to work out and get in shape, have foot surgery, pay attention to my arthritic pains, and try to live without a packed schedule. I'll miss the meetings, I know, because that's how we've spent our best times together. Oberlinians love to talk about issues, real and imagined; it's how we socialize.
Carl Bewig '62, former admissions director and my great friend, and I once brainstormed a "Farewell Tour" for Midge. I could visit friends across the country and drop in on people in almost every state. The idea is fun to contemplate, and I just may do it in the next several years (so start those invitations coming!). Oberlin people are in my blood—I can't do without you—so this isn't a farewell— it's an "I'll see you again soon."
I want to commend my excellent staff: Margaret Sahs Erikson '62, a wonderful friend and organizer; Paul Wolansky, whose energy has infused our regional program; and Kim Kosonovich, Linda Gwinn, and Kathy Ward, our wonderful administrative assistants. I'm particularly delighted to turn the reins over on January 31 to new Executive Director Laura Gobbi '91. Please welcome her with the same affection and support you have given me.