May 21, 2019

Mentors, More Basic Elmo Sightings, and a Legacy of Paddling

Mentors, more Basic Elmo sightings, and a legacy of paddling on the rock river.

Paddling Legacy

I love the cover photo of a Beloiter paddling a canoe on the Rock River. Immediately, this image took me back to 1957 when, as a sophomore, I chose canoeing as my required fall P.E. class. On the Rock, I learned the basic strokes—forward, draw, J, C, and others. It was much more fun than tennis, which I flunked and ended up repeating. Learning to canoe as a Beloit student was immensely beneficial when later paddling down Indiana’s streams and rivers with my husband and daughters.

Ruth Ann Cornish Ingraham’60
Indianapolis, Ind.

During final exam week when I was a senior in 1953, Jane Gilmour Boutet’53 and I decided to take a break from studying and take a little canoe trip up the Rock River. We took lunch with us and stopped somewhere to have our meal. When we headed back to the canoe, we encountered strong winds that kept pushing us off course. Jane had some experience with canoes, but I was an absolute novice. We just couldn’t keep the canoe headed in the direction we wanted to go. The wind kept pushing us into the bank. We finally gave up, landed, and called for help. Someone came and rescued us, tired and sunburned, and we were finally able to get back to our studying. I’m glad to see that students are getting back on the river, and I applaud the development that Beloit has done along its banks.

Jo Ann Colvin Mullen’53
Lafayette, Ind.

I loved the “Going with the Flow” article. It reminded me of how far we’ve come. In my Beloit years, 1961-65, we were treated frequently to episodes where the Rock River produced a fog of bubbles from excessive industrial phosphate effluent discharges. After grad school, my first job in Washington, D.C., with a Wisconsin Congressman had me living in Arlington, Va., on the banks of the Potomac. Again, polluting discharges, this time inadequately treated municipal sewage, rendered the waterway unusable for recreational use and fishing was chancy. I’m so glad to see the Rock—and the Potomac—so vastly improved that their use has become a community asset.

Dick Hanneman’65
Arlington, Va.

When I was a student at Beloit, we were required to have taken two years of physical education to graduate. Spring semester of my second year, I took sailing; we learned to rig the very small boats, which were kept in the boathouse, and then sailed on the Rock. So glad students are discovering it again (even without mandatory P.E.)!

Daphne G. Fautin’66
Medford, Ore.

I was so excited to see your Going With the Flow article in the last issue! I remember longing for Beloit’s campus to relate more to its (incredible) location along the Rock during my time there. I spent some pensive days picking my way down among the rocks to gaze into the water, but didn’t discover kayaking until after I graduated and moved away from the Midwest. It is such a free feeling, to be out in your own little craft, moving under your own power and interacting with your natural environment. I live in Anchorage, Alaska, now and have had some pretty incredible opportunities to get out on the water with my two children, ages 7 and 9. What an incredible boon to the college and a beautiful offering of connection to place that these students have set up.

Allison Koos Fox’01
Anchorage, Alaska

Suppose That …

In my time on campus, 1973-76, I was only dimly aware of the Elmos, being in fact more aware of fellow ’76er Elmo Ruffin, who was truly a massive presence on campus. I always assumed he was somehow involved with that group, or maybe even its leader.

But an interesting piece of memorabilia: The “Suppose That” name for the Basic Elmo’s softball team came about because whenever legendary Beloit Mathematics Professor John V. Finch proved a theorem in a class, he would start his hypotheses by saying, “Suppose that …”

Although I eventually became a mathematician, and currently teach at the University of Massachusetts-Boston, I never had Professor Finch for any classes. But his legendary “suppose that” introduction to the day’s theorem became famous far outside his classroom, and I have frequently borrowed his phrase in my own classroom, shamefully without attribution.

Jon Ball’76
Jamaica Plain, Mass.

I had never heard David Huddle’s story about the football team and Elmo Ruffin. In fact, early, on we had to explain to an irate Elmo Ruffin’76 that Basic Elmo had nothing to do with him and we were in no way being insulting. The name [Basic Elmos] came about in the fall of ’72 because our LEC (Learning Environment Counselor) in Chapin, Curt Smith’76 would joke around and ask “What’s the basic situation?” whenever there was a disturbance. At the same time, we were calling each other “Elmo,” in the same way you would call someone “Bozo.” The two conflated into “What’s the Basic Elmo?” and it went on from there. Incidentally Curt played a major force in the development of the Basic Elmos whereas the poor RA in Chapin got stuck with a floor full of idiots, when all she wanted was to have a good time with her friends in a nice, rent free room. The baleful glare of Phil Rosenblatt’76 at Len Pagliaro’76, wearing the asbestos fire suit, illustrates the general opinion of the Basic Elmos on campus at the time. Can people still get into the steam tunnels?

Tim Miller’76
Ithaca, N.Y.

I had to laugh when I read Eric Schroder’s letter containing the story of the German language penguin joke. During my first semester at Beloit, I heard the joke and its connection to the German seminar. It is quite likely that I heard it from Eric himself, during a German club gathering. And it stuck. I have told the joke to my upper level high school classes every year to this day. Es lebe der Pinguin Witz!

Ed Vaitones’80
Derry, N.H.


I enjoyed this issue of the magazine, especially the article about mentoring. Dr. Woodard was my geology professor while at Beloit, and I was most fortunate for the experience. Dr. Skip Davis’59 was a classmate of mine, and his distinguished career certainly reflects the training provided by Dr. Woodard. Although I only worked actively in geology for a brief period, the education provided at Beloit greatly enhanced the career I did pursue.

Charles Kjelland’59
Oro Valley, Ariz.

Marion Fass (biology) was my mentor. I didn’t realize until later that not everyone had mentors like I did. She essentially created a public health curriculum [at Beloit] before one formally existed. It was fun to devise research together: she supported me going to Tanzania to study maternal health, and supported my studies in malaria, and eventually I would go on to study at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine and earn my master’s degree before my M.D. I was so lucky to have her has my mentor. To do this day, I thank her for the path and the connections she created for me, whether it was in Beloit to have an opportunity to job shadow, or across the country at Johns Hopkins.

Dr. Ashley Neils’04

Also In This Issue

  • President Scott Bierman

    A Showcase of Love and Support for Beloit

  • Inside the Powerhouse auditorium as it takes shape in the spring of 2019.

    Powerhouse Goes from Vision to Reality

  • Fulbright Student Scholars Headed to Iceland, Malaysia

  • Natasha Islam, a Beloit College sophomore, stood quietly all evening in Moore Lounge on March 27. Her sign lists the names of Iraqis killed in Baghdad in 2007 by Blackwater guards.

    The Controversial Speech That Never Happened


This site uses cookies to improve your experience. Read our Web Privacy Policy for more information.

Got it! ×