“Destination on the right,” droned my GPS as my car crawled along the snow laden Rudisill Blvd. I hardly needed help finding the building—the two-story white house that sat peacefully against the gray sky seemed to beckon me in. I climbed the back steps to the house to find the figures of Bill and Joyce Gerig at the door, waiting to open it for me. “This doesn’t feel like a business,” I thought as I stepped into the house. “This feels more like . . . home.”
Day one of my practicum with the Fort Wayne Alumni & Friends Resource Center was filled with similar surprises. After sipping hot soup at a cozy deli along Calhoun Street with Bill, Joyce, and Michael Mortensen, who gave me a 30-minute glimpse into Fort Wayne campus history, we took a snowy tour of Fort Wayne. Coming back down South Wayne, we passed Kinsmoor Ave., where the founders of the school stepped off the trolley in 1904. We saw Schultz Hall and the First Missionary Church, which featured so prominently in the lives of the Fort Wayne students and administrators. And we paid homage to the grave of Samuel Morris, namesake of the Samuel Morris Scholars Program and the figure bridging the history of TUFW and TU Upland, the place I hail from. As a senior Professional Writing major, I realized all at once: I’m part of this legacy, too. Why haven’t I learned about it before?
Back at the Resource Center, Michael showed me their astounding wealth of records, yearbooks, photos, and other material chronicling the history of this great campus. I met Dr. Jay Platte, former professor and committed volunteer at the Resource Center. We talked about the website for the Resource Center, specifically about the long list of Distinguished Campus Servant biographies to be written. We talked about music, a passion we share—him as a music professor and me as a harp student. He mentioned names of current TU Upland professors who, little to my knowledge, were part of the Fort Wayne campus staff. The connections between me and Fort Wayne kept growing.
By the end of the day, I had accumulated a pile of literature, CDs, and memorabilia to jump start my “homework,” which is to learn as much about Fort Wayne history and heritage as I can. My research thus far has already helped me feel like part of the FW family, and I’m excited to be a member of the next generation to appreciate all God has accomplished through the college/university. But my research has taught me something else: in order to truly know the college, I need to know the people. Buildings and books are one thing; personal stories and memories, whether of laughter or sorrow, are what real history is made of. As I continue my practicum—writing for the FW Alumni & Friends publications, interviewing alumni, delving into the past—I will discover part of what shaped you, my audience, into the followers of Christ you are today. And hopefully your experiences will shape me, too. Now that’s a legacy.