Campus News

Congratulations to Oberlin’s Newest Genius

September 17, 2014

Marvin Krislov

From the breaking news department: Alison Bechdel ’81, was named this morning as one of 21 MacArthur Fellows for 2014. Congratulations, Alison, from all of us at Oberlin!

The MacArthur Foundation, which awards the fellowships commonly known as “genius grants,” described Alison as “Cartoonist and Graphic Memoirist expanding the expressive potential of the graphic form in intricate narratives that explore the complexities of familial relationships.”

Alison is, of course, much more than that. You can read the full MacArthur announcement here.

I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know Alison. She is an amazing, inspirational person and a great supporter of Oberlin. She visited campus a couple years ago and was very generous in sharing her time with our students. I also enjoyed seeing Alison’s show “Fun Home” in New York City with Judy Kuhn ’81, the brilliant musical theater star.

She is also the 11th Oberlin alum to receive a MacArthur since the fellowships were created in 1981. That’s a remarkable track record for a small college and conservatory located in rural Ohio.

Speaking of remarkable, I am looking forward to what will be an exciting and historic Homecoming Weekend celebration in Oberlin beginning this Friday.

We have a terrific slate of events and activities coming up. These include celebrations relating to Latinx Heritage Month, the annual President’s Lecture, which will be delivered by Paula Richman ’74, William H Danforth Professor of South Asian Religions at Oberlin College, and a Convocation with Jad Abumrad ’95 and Robert Krulwich ’69—better known perhaps as the cohosts of NPR’s “Radiolab.”

This weekend will also be a milestone in Oberlin history as we celebrate the opening of the Austin E. Knowlton Athletics Complex by playing the first home night game in Oberlin’s football history. Our opponent will be the Fighting Scots from the College of Wooster.

The Knowlton complex is our first, all-weather, multi-sport, lighted facility. It will be used by six varsity teams, as well as club sports and Oberlin High School’s varsity athletics programs. In addition to the new field and stands, the Knowlton complex has Title IX-compliant locker facilities and meeting rooms for our student-athletes, and meeting space for alumni and special events.

We were able to build this wonderful new facility thanks to support from Oberlin donors and an incredibly generous gift from the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation in Cincinnati. Named for Austin Knowlton, a sports magnate and construction company owner whose engineering firm built the 1950s-era Oberlin Inn—the foundation’s mission is to provide student financial aid and support athletics and health and wellness programs at the college level.

The Knowlton Foundation provided $8 million for our new facility. That is the largest single gift from a non-alumni donor in Oberlin history. The foundation has also provided an additional $400,000 for scholarships. On behalf of everyone at Oberlin I am deeply grateful to the Knowlton Foundation Trustees for their vision and their generosity.

The Knowlton complex is a much-needed upgrade for Oberlin’s athletics and health and wellness programs. It replaces Savage Stadium which opened in 1925, just four years after Oberlin’s football team defeated the Ohio State Buckeyes 7-6 in Columbus. No other Ohio college has beaten OSU since.

When Savage Stadium opened, Calvin Coolidge was president of the United States. John W. Heisman—Oberlin’s first football coach—was just concluding his coaching career at Rice University. And Oberlin had just a handful of varsity sports and no intercollegiate women’s sports. Today, we have 21 varsity sports, as well as club sports, intramurals and health and wellness programs. More than half our student body participates in these sports and activities, which are open to all.

As Oberlin’s first all-weather, multi-sport, lighted facility, the Knowlton complex enhances the student-athlete experience here in profound ways. At the ribbon-cutting ceremony and tour of the new locker and meeting rooms this past week, our student-athletes from multiple sports clearly felt honored and appreciated.

The Knowlton complex also relieves pressure on our existing facilities such as Philips Gym. While we are working to renovate and upgrade our fitness and recreation facilities, the new complex gives us much-needed flexibility to better meet the health and wellness, as well as sports needs of our students, faculty, staff, alumni, and our fellow Oberlin citizens who are recreation center members. By enabling us to host a wide range of events, the Knowlton facility will be a tremendous boost for the students, families, schools, and businesses of the Oberlin community.

The new facility will be an import asset in our competition with other top U.S. and North Coast Athletic Conference schools to attract prospective students, student-athletes, faculty, as well as alumni support. Other peer colleges and conference rivals have already invested tens of millions of dollars in building new health/wellness/athletics facilities.

The Knowlton complex honors our great tradition—dating back to Charles Winfred Savage, Class of 1893 and athletics director from 1905 to 1935—of developing sound minds in sound bodies. That history, combined with devotion to our academic mission of working to achieve academic, artistic and musical excellence, diversity and inclusion, was crucial in attracting Knowlton's strong support.


As I did last year, I am offering to meet with members of our senior class to help them prepare for launching a career. Seniors, all you have to do is meet with the staff at our Career Services office, fine tune your résumé, and prepare a brief description of your career goals. Once you’ve done that I will brainstorm with you about job opportunities. To set up an appointment, you may contact my assistant, Jennifer Bradfield at

I met with more than 50 students during the past academic year. While I can’t promise anyone a job, I will do all I can to help you think about life after college, and connect you with people who can offer career and job-specific advice, counsel, and, in some cases, opportunities.

Students have two upcoming opportunities to connect with Oberlin alumni on campus this week. Enjoy hors d'oeuvres with Oberlin alumni, find out about some of the amazing things they've done during and after Oberlin, and share your own stories!

 •  Networking Reception with members of the President's Advisory Council

 •  Thursday, September 18, from 5:30 to 7:00 pm in Perlik Commons

 •  Register online at

 •  Networking Reception with members of the Alumni Council

 •  Saturday, September 20, from 8:00 to 9:30 pm at the Oberlin Inn.

 •  Register online at

There is no charge for these events. We recommend that you dress professionally (business casual is fine.)

As a bonus, a photographer will be on hand beginning 1/2 hour before each event to take photos of students for their LinkedIn profiles. Come early to get your picture taken!

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Response to Proposed Federal Budget Cuts

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