Les McAllister, Field Terms, and Sexual Assault Survivors
Impact of Les McAllister
There are people who make an indelible impression on your life. Les McAllister was one of them. When I arrived on the Beloit campus in the fall of 1969, he became my faculty adviser and guided me through the many crises and joys of being 17, idealistic and insecure in my knowledge of self. His sense of humor, curiosity, diligence in helping guide my erratic path toward adulthood, but most important, his belief in me and my capabilities, engendered a confidence that has enhanced my life. I cannot help but smile when I remember the many hours sitting in his office being scolded by him, this man who took the concept of in loco parentis so seriously. Like all great guides, he may have passed on, but he will always live in my memory.
So, Mac is dead, and I’m sad. According to Beloit College Magazine he died at 94 back in October, but it was news to me when I read about it today. He was one heck of a teacher and a good man. Like the best of founders and mentors, he is a hard act to follow.
It’s been over 40 years since I saw him last, so his part in my life is intact even though he’s passed. The man must have left fragments of immortality all over the place in the lives of his students. When I tell my grandkids about what college used to be like, what it can be at its best, stories about him get passed along.
Like most of my classmates, I spent much of the first years finding out what different disciplines had to offer. (In my case it was more a matter of finding out just what they were.) I can remember the reaction of the head of the physics department when he heard I had Mac for an introductory economics class: “There goes another science student.” Mac was the head of the department and still taught the introductory course.
It took me a long time to realize that what captured me in Mac’s classes was not economics, but his passion for the subject. I don’t use the word “passion” lightly here. I suspect the only wear on the heels of his shoes occurred when he leaned back to read what he’d written on the board. Other than that, he spent most of the time pivoting on the balls of his feet, poking us with ideas, looking for holes. I don’t think he taught like he played tennis; I suspect it was quite the opposite.
Field Term Insight
I immensely enjoyed Joe Engleman’s feature story on what the Field Term meant to that interesting selection of the 5,000 or so who had the experience way back when. I applaud them and their contemporaries, who had decided in the first place to attend Beloit partly because of, if not in spite of, the Field Term opportunity/requirement.
President Miller Upton wisely recruited two completely complementary souls, Hugh Allen (visionary and motivator) and John Biester (realist and organizer), to get it off the ground in 1964 and keep it sailing along in all kinds of weather.
And finally, hats off to the faculty who embraced this decidedly un-academic part of the new Beloit Plan, and the board who had the ultimate say-so. Those were heady days for all players in this chapter in the life of Beloit College, which by doing so drew itself closer to a changing nation and world far and wide.
P.S. Thanks also for Jon Haller’s’02 entertaining and insightful article on the “juggling” act of “Writing for Television.” I definitely recall Tim Allen’s director John Pasquin’67 from his campus days, not that I had even one iota of impact on him. I just recall his being such an engaging and talented guy, and like so many others, I enjoy the fruits of his work in the industry. All our boats are lifted by such alumni.
Assistant Field Term Director 1968-74
In your article about Field Terms at the Beloit Tutoring Center in Mississippi, you write that the center was a “college outreach program.” Actually, it was a totally student-run operation, as the college was too conservative at that time to have any association with the center. I had brought the idea back to campus after my field term with the Delta Ministry in Cleveland, Miss. With other students, we raised all the funds to support the center and four tutors for the following semester.
Present day students would not recognize the college that greeted us, the class of 1968, upon entering in 1964. We found a very conservative administration and non-diverse student body. No blue jeans in the dining hall, formal dress in the dining hall on Sundays, all students forced to attend at least some (Protestant) chapel, and in a line for dances, only the African-American student’s IDs were checked (white students walked right in). Of course, all these situations were changed through sacrifices of probations, expulsions, and arrest records. The national sentiment was split 50-50 for and against the Civil Rights movement in general, and combined with the conservative nature of the administration, officially the college would have nothing to do with the center.
To be fair, Dean of the Chapel the Rev. Andy Clark helped us organize the Sympathy with Selma march to Madison and sent some of us to Hattiesburg, Miss., for training to be civil rights workers with the Delta Ministry. This training ultimately led to the student organization of the center.
E. Drexel Godfrey’68
I spent my Field Term working for the Fulbright Commission for Cultural and Educational Exchange with Iran in the Tehran office. In 1967, Tehran was a key city in the region and there was a large British, French, Russian, and U.S. presence. I hadn’t really studied that region of the world before I arrived but came away with treasured memories of a rich culture with an amazing history. If you ever want to actually hear history go to Persepolis. My lifelong belief that we are a global society and that we must work on understanding and respect for one another began in those long ago halcyon days.
Suzi Cates Overly’69
I will never forget arriving on campus for our first term in the fall of 1978 and being told that the Beloit Plan was dead. Like many others, I was in shock—the creativity of the Plan and the promise of field terms was one of my main reasons for selecting Beloit. Like most, I ended up sticking around and was lucky enough to create a “Beloit Plan” of my own, including two foreign seminars and a summer job in Paris. I can only hope that students of today are inspired by this retrospective to find a way to live their dreams within the modern construct of a college education—my own 17-year-old is on that path herself.
Remembering Allan Patriquin
I was saddened to see the news of the death of Professor Allan Patriquin. I knew him as the coach of Beloit’s last team to compete on the GE College Bowl, a TV show that pitted school against school in a quiz of general knowledge. We appeared on the show on Nov. 8, 1969, and were trounced by the team from Bradley University in their fourth consecutive appearance. We lost not for lack of trying: We were so anxious, we tended to hit the buzzer before the question was finished and before its denouement was clear. And definitely not for lack of training: Professor Patriquin had us meeting for weeks beforehand and drilled us on Nobel Prize winners, literature, anthropology, and, yes, philosophy and religion—all elements of an eclectic Beloit education. He was a good sport even though we let him—and Beloit—down.
New York, N.Y.
A recent article in Beloit College Magazine about campus archaeology brought back some fond memories. It was the spring semester of my senior year, 1960. We all had plenty of credits to graduate.
John Martin’60, my good friend and an anthro major, asked Nubar Srabian’61 and me if we would help out the anthro department. They had offered a course to excavate one of the Indian mounds, but not enough people had signed up. John told Dr. Godfrey, the head of the department, that he could probably get two of his buddies to take the course so there would be enough students to offer the class. The deal was that Nubie and I were guaranteed a C, we didn’t have to do any homework, and we didn’t have to take any tests. All we had to do was stand around and watch. We agreed.
After several weeks of standing around and being bored, we decided to have some fun. Another friend, Fred Surls’61, was a math major and spent time in the astronomy lab and observatory. Fred had found a rat skull in the basement of the building and we decided to bury the skull in one of the dig areas. It was discovered by one of the students, who was very excited. Since that worked so well, John got an arrowhead with the college inventory number on it and we buried that, which also led to a very excited student until the class and the instructor realized that it had already been inventoried.
Our cover was blown, but we still got our C. I assume it’s safe to tell this story as the statute of limitations has run out on our pranks.
Sexual Assault Survivors
First, I’d like to thank Caitlin Paterson’15, Sarah Miller’15, and Haleigh Thomas’15 for their work on sexual assault at Beloit College. I’d also like to thank Lynn Vollbrecht’06 and Beloit College Magazine for writing and publishing the story.
As a male survivor of sexual assault, I’d like to add a reminder that these issues affect all people, regardless of gender or sexual orientation. I applaud the inclusion of males in the MASV group and as supporters to their partners.
With that said, let’s remember that sexual assault does not discriminate. I know how difficult it is as a male to find support—we are often seen as only the perpetrators, and rarely as survivors. I am proud that Beloit College students continue to endeavor to address difficult and complex issues.
In a story about Beloit’s Field Term, we published a couple of incorrect details about Caroline Burkat Hall’76, who completed her Term at the Presidio School in San Francisco. Caroline was born in Boston, not New York, and she majored in history at Beloit, not education, as we reported.