Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
Somber mood at last Old Main meetup
MT. PLEASANT — A handful of Iowa Wesleyan alumni and staff members gathered at the iconic Old Main building Saturday morning for one last get-together before the land’s transfer to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The campus was used as collateral for a $26.1 million loan from the federal agency, which has not yet disclosed specific plans for the property but will take possession of it when the university closes for good on May 31.
While the event started as an informal function organized through Facebook, school staff eventually got involved, allowing alumni to enter a few buildings for a walk down memory lane.
Several people in attendance said they were still grieving news of the institution’s closure.
“It feels a lot like a funeral,” said alumna Paula Cook, who drove to town from Illinois for the occasion. “You see people you haven’t seen in forever, that you consider family. And it just feels nostalgic.”
Fellow alumni Ryan Foulkes came to town from Iowa City. He said the knowledge of Wesleyan’s imminent end changed the feeling on-campus.
“It’s one thing to be able to drive through town when the college is open and be like, ‘Oh yeah, we did that,’” he said. “And then, to come back through again like, ‘Are those buildings even going to still be there?’ There’s no new memories being made.”
Lisa Hixson, another graduate of the school, said she was glad to reminisce but still worried about the closure’s impact on the Mt. Pleasant community and many displaced students.
“This was so unexpected … I feel bad for them being disheveled, and scrambling to figure out, ‘What do I do now?’” she said. “I feel good to be able to reconnect with old friends, but it’s sad that it took this to get there.”
The nostalgia of walking through campus was welcomed by the former classmates, however bittersweet.
Devona Siren spent one year at Wesleyan before transferring to the University of Iowa. She compared the day to a visit of one’s childhood home, saying the memories she made in Mt. Pleasant would stick with her for life, whether or not the physical location remained.
“You could always find a floor that there was something going on, and we would have these impromptu dance parties when the power would go out … or, we somehow got up to the art building’s attic, and it was like a time capsule,” she said. “There’s weird little memories like that, but it was the connection and the community and the other students (that) really made this place fun … for me, it’s about a time in my life.”
As the university prepares to shut its doors, yet another alum said she would forever be grateful for the time she spent there.
“I regret that Iowa Wesleyan had a business model that allowed me to go to school here, but really didn’t allow it to continue funding long-term,” she said. “I had a scholarship that allowed me to attend Wesleyan, and had I not had that scholarship, I probably wouldn’t have gone to college. And I certainly wouldn’t have had the interactions with the English professors that really felt like they were lifelong.”
Dawn Bell, from the class of ‘02, said she hoped to stay in touch with her peers.
“I just hope we still get together for class reunions and things like that,” she said. “The friendships you make are what makes you want to keep coming back.”