September 30, 2021

The ‘Beloiters are everywhere’ phenomenon holds up over time

Don Lane’48 would have graduated with Beloit’s centennial class in 1946, but Uncle Sam and World War II intervened.

This spring, after the initial hoopla over Beloit’s 175th anniversary, Lane mailed a generous check to the college and included a short, hand-written note reflecting that his Navy service shifted him out of that earlier, historic class.

“I never thought I’d live to see Beloit’s 175th anniversary,” he jotted in the note.

Don Lane'48 Credit: Danielle Epp courtesy of Emerald HeightsWhile Beloit may be many decades in the past for Lane, his memories of the place and its people are vivid. Over his lifetime, Beloit people have popped up regularly, and in at least one case happily altered his destiny.

He credits Beloit with having a hand in matching him up with Vivian, his beloved wife for more than 70 years and mother to the couple’s two children.

George Steacy’47, Lane’s SAE fraternity brother, brought the couple together on a blind date in 1949, and they married in 1950. “That was the same year Elizabeth Taylor married for the first time,” he says with a chuckle. “She crowded us off the front pages.”

The tidbit about the first of Taylor’s eight marriages hints at one of Lane’s lifetime passions: He loves trivia.

Now well into his 90s, Lane is a self-described “Jeopardy! junkie,” watching and playing along with the TV game show every day.

He also has some great stories, including accounts of running into Beloiters around the world.

After starting his freshman year at Beloit in 1942, the height of wartime, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, which sent him to Western Michigan University for officer training with other fellow students. By 1944, he started midshipman’s school in Chicago, and discovered that his company commander was a Beloiter. Once he had his assignment in the Philippines, he learned that his ship’s gunnery officer was also a Beloit student. In Manila, he bumped into another Beloit serviceman who had been president of the TKE chapter.

After his war service, Lane returned to Beloit, completed his economics degree, then pursued a business career that began in Chicago at General Mills. The Lanes were later transferred to Minneapolis for seven years. There, he met the person in charge of quality control for the company. Yep, he was a Beloiter, too.

Today, Lane lives in a retirement community in Redmond, Wash., and discovered a couple of years ago through a mutual friend that Karen Siegel Brody’60 is also a resident.

Lane’s Beloit memories include his freshman year, when the fun social life of dances and parties was tinged by the sadness of having to say farewell to friends joining the armed forces.

When he returned to Beloit in fall 1946, he witnessed a college coming back to life and entering an exciting era as a basketball powerhouse under legendary Coach Dolph Stanley.

He also recalls a towering friend and Beloit classmate who went on to become a worldwide celebrity: James Arness, the six-foot, seven-inch tall actor who played Marshal Matt Dillon in Gunsmoke, the iconic TV western of the 1950s-1970s.

“Jim Arness had the most tremendous singing voice,” recalls Lane. “I don’t think he ever had a role in movies or TV where he sang, but he sang in the choir at Beloit.”

Lane eventually capped his career in the life insurance business in Seattle. He thinks his well-rounded Beloit education served him well, including in his long-standing hobby of tracking the interesting details of everyday life. His wife often called him “the master of trivia.”

That leads us back to Jeopardy!

“I’m surprised sometimes at what they don’t know,” Lane says of the show’s contestants. “But you know it’s a generational thing too,” he adds. “I know a lot of the things they don’t know because I’m older.”

Also In This Issue

  • A Clark Super 100 gas station on the corner of a busy street.

    Freshman at the Pumps

  • Alana Coats Rankin’05 teaches remotely with her daughter, Autumn, nearby. She’s one of nearly a dozen alumni who helped their former Beloit teacher and mentor during the pandemic. Photo by Greg Rankin’08.

    Teachers to the rescue

  • President Scott Bierman speaks to the Class of 2025 during the 2021 Convocation ceremony.

    As we round the next corner, are you All In for Beloit?

  • Ariadne Awakens: Instructions for the Labyrinth


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