Oglethorpe Alumni Trip to Savannah: A Walk Through Time

Statue of James Edward Oglethorpe

When the trip to Savannah to celebrate OU’s 175th anniversary was announced, my response was, “I’m in!”

During the 70’s I traveled to Savannah on business several times a year. During those trips, I always marveled at the shabby appearance of the downtown area. The sidewalks were crumbling, paint was peeling from once-beautiful buildings, and the area seemed unsafe. Didn’t anyone care about their city?

During the mid-80’s, my family and I lived in Savannah for two years. Remarkably, the areas that had been slum-like during my business travels to the city, were being snapped up by young professionals for renovation. During two years as a resident, I heard that renovation costs were multiples of the purchase price of the property. Again, I was amazed at the appearance of the city, but for positive reasons this time.

There had been no reason to travel to Savannah in the 25 years or so since we had returned to live in Atlanta. I looked forward to seeing the city again with the alumni group, this time as a tourist. Since my husband had passed away at the end of December, this opportunity represented a chance to vacation with a group of friends in an environment that would feel safe. There would be no stress; someone else had planned the itinerary. All I had to do was show up with a few changes of clothing.

Bill ’64 and Carole Aitken '65

Again, there were plenty of reasons to be amazed. We learned that during the late 1970s, a group of seven very determined women restored the Davenport House to show the city fathers and the citizenry the possibilities of restoring the Historic District. They did such a good job at restoration and selling the concept, all the houses and the squares in the Historic District have been restored. Areas that were once slums are now in good repair and are very pricey.

As might be expected, I learned more about Savannah and its history–as well as James Edward Oglethorpe’s contribution to the city and the colony–in the three days I was there as a tourist with the alumni group than I had learned during my business travels or during my residency. Our group walked and walked and then walked some more as we took a walking tour of the Historic District. We learned that Oglethorpe had laid out plans for the city, including the squares, before ever leaving England, thus becoming the New World’s first urban planner. Oglethorpe had five rules for the new colony: no Catholics; no Jews; no attorneys; no slaves; and no rum. He was the final authority in all disputes among the residents of the new colony during the 10 years he was in Georgia.

OU alumni and President Schall and his wife Betty gather for a meal together in Savannah.

It was wonderful to revisit the grand old city with a group of fellow alumni. From our first outing at the Pirates’ House for lunch on Friday, to the dinner at the Olde Pink House on Saturday evening, we had a delightful time. After all these years, I finally learned where Yamacraw Bluff is located: it’s where the Historic District meets the canal along River Street. Who would have thought it? We all left Savannah with happy memories and more information about Savannah and Oglethorpe than we had dreamed possible. When is our next trip?

Oglethorpe Alumni Board Offers Way to Stay Involved

Austin Gillis '01

When I was asked to join the Oglethorpe Alumni Board, I really had no idea what to expect, but I was honored to be asked. I knew that if I could devote a little of my time to making Oglethorpe a better place, I was going to do it.

In August, I attended the Alumni Board retreat. The retreat has left me genuinely excited about the role I can play in Oglethorpe’s bright future. Needless to say, I was very impressed with the folks who are serving on the Alumni Board. I found that the board is comprised of intelligent, successful, and fun people who all exude excitement for Oglethorpe.

It was interesting to meet and speak with folks who attended Oglethorpe before I did and great to see so many people still dedicated to Oglethorpe after many years. It was also great to see some familiar faces from my time on campus, and reconnect old friends who are now serving on the board with me.

During the retreat, Peter Rooney, Oglethorpe’s Vice President for Development, spoke to us about current and future building initiatives on Oglethorpe’s campus, which sparked a very lively discussion. Oglethorpe has made remarkable strides with its finances at a time when many institutions are struggling. One stat in particular I found to be very impressive. This fall, the dorms on campus are so full that there are only five empty beds. Five! Of course, with the amazing dorms Oglethorpe has built since I graduated, I shouldn’t be surprised that so many students will be receiving their mail at 3000 Woodrow Way this year.

My favorite part of the Alumni Board retreat was the breakout sessions. In one particular session, we brainstormed about campus traditions that should be revived (and in some cases, started). That session got me thinking about events that I attended at Oglethorpe, from career-oriented seminars, to community service projects, to plain old parties. But this session was more than just a trip down memory lane. We were actually hatching ideas that could shape what Oglethorpe is to current and future students. It was humbling to think that work I was doing with the Alumni Board today could affect what Oglethorpe is tomorrow.

At one point in the retreat, our fearless leader, Alumni Board Chair Randy Roberson ’97, emphasized to us that these are, in fact, the “good old days” for our alma mater. After meeting the folks involved in the Alumni Board and hearing about the current state of Oglethorpe, I couldn’t agree more. I am very honored to be serving on the Alumni Board, and after the retreat, I cannot wait to get to work.

Shakespeare on a Budget

At Oglethorpe University on Thursday, February 25th , Friday, February 26th, and Saturday, February 27th ran the  abridged version of “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare,” presented by Rehearsal Room C (Oglethorpe’s student-led theatre group).

The Monty Python-style comedy incorporated Shakespeare’s 37 plays and154 sonnets into one hysterical 99 minute period, and starred students Ben Silver ’13, Danielle Hitchcock ’13, and Christo Taoushiani ’13. Many had a good laugh, and let’s face it, in this economy, who couldn’t have used one?