As we celebrate our 125th Anniversary, we’d like to capture your reflections of your time at Rollins. Read on for reflections submitted by fellow alumni or click here to share your favorite stories. Help us make your experience a part of our permanent history!
Dr. H. Eugene Simmons '50
Gene Simmons went to Orlando High School and was a day student who took the bus to Rollins. He is an avid student of Rollins history who has an autographed book by Alfred Hanna, former professor of history and dean at Rollins who wrote several books on local history. Gene was a member of the Bach Choir and the Chapel Choir all four years and worked under Nita Mutispaugh in the Rollins Bookstore.
In the Chapel and Bach choirs, I had four years of marvelous experience learning the world's classical religious music under the inspired direction of Dr. Christopher Honaas and Dr. Herman Siewert, Chapel organist and organ professor. Sunday morning rehearsals began promptly at 9:00 a.m., and one was only late once, for Dr. Honaas would stop the music with a feigned mock welcome to the latecomer, and the 60-member choir would go, "Tsk, tsk, tsk." The chapel choir would make concert trips to St. Petersburg and Palm Beach, and we once provided choral background in Orlando to Gladys Swarthout, the Metropolitan Opera star of the era.
The independent (non-Greek) students used to hold an annual show in the Annie Russell Theatre that would send up major Broadway productions and lampoon various things. Annie Get Your Gun was the big show one year, so we did “Fannie Get Your Harpoon.” My senior year, a year after the Soviets detonated their first atomic bomb, the student show was “Up and Atom.” Fred Rogers '51 played the mayor of an interplanetary town. He was such a cut-up in those days and was a major contributor.
The Animated Magazine was a major event. I sang in the choir when President Truman came to Rollins, and I also saw the actress Greer Garson. She had flowing red hair, and had pinned a sprig of white azaleas in her hair. I was in elementary school when FDR came to Rollins in 1938. They let us out of school at Princeton Elementary to see the motorcade, and I saw him drive by in his limousine.
Alice Smith (Jackie) Johnson '51
I was a Kappa Alpha Theta and enjoyed being part of the Thetas a lot. I made a lot of friends, and after leaving Rollins I moved around a lot, but could always get involved in local Theta alumni organizations. We had a lot of dances and parties, and played the Kappas every year in a football game; that was crazy. We would all greet Hamilton Holt at the train station when he returned to campus. He was so interesting.
Even though Rollins was so small, we had some really remarkable people there. Some of my classmates were Fred Rogers '51, you know who he was; Shirley Fry Irvin '49, who won Wimbledon while I was there; Nancy Morrison Orthwein '49 and Pauline Betz Addie '43, who were also great tennis players; Alice O’Neal Dye '48 and Pete Dye '50, who were excellent golfers and later designers of golf courses. It was quite remarkable.
Gwen Ogilvie Salyer '60
Gwen attended a "huge" high school in Winnetka, IL. As she walked home "in a mini-blizzard one wintry day, my mother picked me up in the car and casually asked if I would like to go to college in Florida. I said yes and immediately had visions of sandy beaches and majoring in ‘Sunbathing 101.’ Rollins wasn't exactly that but it was pretty close to it."
Her husband and fellow Chicagoan, Don Salyer '59, attended Rollins on a full athletic scholarship and rowed varsity crew for four years. He became a Reinsurance executive with Marsh and McClennan Cos., based in New York. They lived in New Jersey almost 30 years.
As a freshman, I lived in Corrin Hall, which had no air conditioning -- hence a trip to Miller's Hardware for a much-needed fan. We all soon found out that there were only two places on campus with air conditioning: the Administration Building ("The Pink Palace") and the stacks in the library (Mills Memorial). We spent a lot of time "studying" in those stacks.
Part of freshman orientation consisted of passing (or not) a swimming test in Lake Virginia. No fancy pool for us. The legendary Fleet Peeples had us swim 50 yards or so out to his boat. This ordeal proved to be fortuitous for me, as the student lifeguard on duty the day of my test became my future husband.
Joyce Powers Diehl '40
Joyce's father, John Powers graduated from Rollins in the late 19th century and rode his horse to school every day from the family's cattle ranch in Orlando. She played basketball in junior and senior high and at Rollins. She worked for Hamilton Holt as a student assistant. In 2006, at the age of 88, she traveled to the Galapagos Islands with the Alumni Travel Program.
One day in 1936, I was lying on the grass on the library lawn, reading Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, which was a new book then. Dr. Holt came along, saw what I was reading, and asked if I would like to meet the author. I glanced over my shoulder and said, "Not particularly, but I surely love the book." He paused and said, "Well, I think I’ll introduce you anyway." I turned all the way around and saw Margaret Mitchell standing with him. I wanted to crawl into a hole. But she was sweet as can be and got a kick out of it. That story got around campus.
I lived in the old Cloverleaf dorm, which is gone now. Across the hall was a lovely girl named Alice Booth [Alice Booth Blodgett '39], whose older sister also went to Rollins with us. We became close friends, and one day she came up to me and said, "Before anyone else tells you, I have to let you know that our great-grandfather was John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin. We feel very embarrassed about it, but we weren’t there."
I got to know Dr. Holt rather well and he was a very kind and generous man. He was beloved by the students. He spent a lot of time walking around the campus, talking with students; there couldn’t have been a more caring man. Students would skip up the steps of the Administration Building wanting to see him, and he would always take the time unless he was doing something very urgent.
Flora Harris Twachtman '43
Flora grew up in Winter Park and joined her older sister Rachel, and brothers Billy and Paul Harris, at Rollins, all attending at the same time. Flora was a Gamma Phi Beta and her brothers were members of Kappa Alpha. Paul and Billy interrupted their college careers for World War II; Billy was killed, and Paul later became the crew coach at Rollins for many years. She and her husband were married in the Knowles Memorial Chapel, and President Hamilton Holt gave the Rollins blessing. When they renewed their vows 40 years later, then-President Thaddeus Seymour re-read the blessing.
We all made it a point to attend the Animated Magazines and we’d make a little extra money selling programs. When President Franklin Roosevelt came to Rollins in 1938, I saw Eleanor Roosevelt on Holt Avenue. I went up to her and asked her to shake my hand, which she did.
Mary Martin Hayes '55
Mary grew up in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, and visited Rollins one summer while investigating colleges. She found it so beautiful and "far enough away from home, but not too far" that she decided to attend. She was a Pi Beta Phi. She studied elementary education and became a teacher for a time after graduation.
We loved President McKean. He embraced everybody, and he could speak easily to students. He was so funny during his Convocation speeches. No one wanted to miss them. He wanted to keep the campus small to preserve the intimacy of the College environment. I was once invited to his house with a group of other women when Jeanette was out of town, and we were asked to cook his food. He provided the food, of course. Afterwards, he invited us to talk about various topics and showed real interest in our views.
Mary Martin Hayes with friends at 2010 Grove Party
What stands out in my mind about campus life in our era is that you could always try out new things and you were always welcomed. You could play a sport or try out for a play or whatever you wanted to do. I had been a swimmer in high school but there was no swim team at Rollins, so I tried out some sports I hadn’t played. I played basketball for a year and became very proficient at archery, so much so that I could teach it at summer camp. Everyone had an opportunity to do things they were interested in, and Rollins was a friendly place.
The grove parties took place at several different places. I remember going to a place near the Wekiva River and to the Iron Bridge in Oviedo, over the Econ River.
Women had a curfew and men didn’t, but we didn’t mind too much because most of us had curfews at home. Some of the men were entrepreneurs who would make bologna sandwiches and come up to our dormitory door at night offering to sell them to anyone who wanted one.
Jack Liberman '42
Dr. Holt ("Prexy," slang for President) was a fine gentleman whose Conference Plan and Animated Magazine were great accomplishments. For some reason, he chose me as a member of a small group who got to discuss things with H.G. Wells, the great English writer.
We met Wells sometime after 1 September 1939, when the Germans invaded Poland, and before 7 December 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. We met in a building on campus and he sat in an armchair and, I believe, I sat on the floor at one side of the chair or in front. I had written a "News of the Week" item for the Sandspur. Not news of Rollins, but of the world. I'm sorry to say this but I was probably the campus spokesman for the isolationists; that is, those opposed to our becoming involved in the war. I was not a traitor because once Pearl Harbor happened I backed our nation, and I did serve in the armed forces from 1943-1944.
Katherine "Kit" Bowen Harra ‘50
Kit describes herself as "loquacious" with a mellifluous Southern accent and is very happy to reminisce about her Rollins days. A native of Chickamauga, GA, site of the first national battlefield, Kit went to a girls’ prep school in Chattanooga, TN. She first applied to Florida State University for Women but they were filled for two years. A friend recommended Rollins, and her father hit it off with Dean Wendell Stone, with whom he came to an agreement how to pay off tuition. She was a Chi Omega and majored in Commercial Art. Her classmate Charles Harra ‘49 later became her brother-in-law.
I remember serving dessert to President Truman when he came to Rollins for Founders' Day and the Animated Magazine in 1950. Television has copied the Animated Magazine. President Truman traveled in a motorcade to President Holt’s gorgeous house on Interlachen Avenue; he had a Florida room that stretched across the entire back of the house, with French doors the entire length of the room. Several sorority women and fraternity men were invited to serve at the event, and I was on the dessert team. I think we served key lime pie. President Truman was very charming and I spoke to him for a moment. Hamilton Holt often had students to his house to talk by the fireplace.
Jim Lyden '60
Jim met his wife Kristin Allen Lyden '60 his freshman year, and they got married at the end of their freshman year. They moved to a tiny apartment off campus and had two children by the time they graduated, so they did not live the stereotypical "carefree" existence of a collegian. Jim succeeded his crew coach, U.T. Bradley, at Rollins upon graduation and spent the next 20 years coaching here. His son Scott ’80 also rowed crew at Rollins.
Hugh McKean was a great guy, very friendly, and he loved to mix with students. On Wednesdays, we didn’t have classes until noon, so Dr. McKean would come into the Student Union at 8:30 or 9:00 or so and just sit around shooting the breeze with students for three hours.
Don Tauscher '55 and Jeanne Rogers '56 Tauscher
Don and Jeanne Tauscher are a quintessential Rollins couple, attending the College together and sending their daughter Heidi '82 there.
Don: A major event comes to mind that has stayed with me since my graduation -- I was on the baseball team that went to the College World Series in 1954 in Omaha -- the smallest college ever to participate in that event, and the last to ever occur, as college sports were divided into divisions thereafter and Rollins could never again participate against major colleges for sports championships. Divisions took place depending on the size of the college. Being a contender in the 1954 College World Series was indeed a highlight -- I believe we finished second, losing out to the University of Missouri.
Jeanne: I loved it when President McKean would call a Fox Day. And the trek to find white deer on his property the morning before we graduated, followed by breakfast in the McKean's beautiful home. President and Mrs. McKean were always so hospitable and warm.
Nancy Neide Johnson '50
Nancy is a native of Winter Park at one time lived in the town’s oldest house on Bonita Drive, which used to be the camp of Chief Osceola. She grew up across the street from Hugh McKean and his brothers. She met her husband, George Johnson '50 at Rollins. George joined the military and actually turned what used to be the Orlando Air Force base over to the Navy in the late 1960s, whence it became the Naval Training Center and then the Baldwin Park mixed-use development. He also had the idea for the Rollins Sports Hall of Fame and worked with Bill Gordon '51 and the committee to develop it.
I knew Hamilton Holt very well. Around 1940, Hamilton Holt took in a ward, Penny Drinkwater, whose father was the poet and playwright John Drinkwater. They sent Penny to Florida to be safe during the Blitz. She attended Rollins for three years before leaving when President Holt retired in 1949. She and I became great friends and for many years we would see each other every summer in England. She became a wine expert who traveled all over the world.
Tom Grubbs '56
Tom arrived at Rollins in 1954 after two years of college at Kent State and six years of military service. His first tour with the Army was at the end of World War II, serving with the Military Government in Germany. Following his discharge, he attended Kent State in Ohio. In 1950, when the Korean War broke out, he reenlisted. After teaching infantry basic in Kentucky, he volunteered for Korea. He became Sergeant Major of the 6th Tank Battalion on November 1951, serving in that position until July of 1952, both in Korea and Japan. “Wanting to get away from the cold of Lake Michigan, I took a furlough to Florida. While here, I saw Rollins College and became intrigued. After returning to duty, I wrote to Rollins for information. Wow, was I impressed. After sitting in classes of 50-plus at Kent, the Rollins approach appealed to me.
As a theatre arts major, Tom first met Wilbur Dorsett when he cast Tom in the opening show. Later that year, Wilbur transferred to the English Department, where Tom had him for a Shakespeare professor. The following story begins after he graduated.
In 1957, I dropped by the campus. Across from the then Student Center, I saw a policeman putting a ticket on Wilbur's car. Knowing an opportunity when it knocks, I immediately headed for the library. I found a book of Shakespearean quotes and began looking for quotes about laws, policemen, etc. I found about ten of them; authenticated them by listing play, act and scene, and headed back to Wilbur's car. I folded my notes in with the parking ticket, and hid nearby.
Finally, Wilbur appeared. He removed the papers from his windshield wiper and read the ticket. He was furious. Then he began to read my quotes, and started to laugh and laugh. Time passed. In 1961, Wilbur had written a play, "Song for Rollins," which was staged in late April to celebrate Rollins' 75th anniversary. In the cast were faculty members, former theatre arts majors... a huge group. Wilbur called me and I was cast as Mr. Lyman. After our Saturday closing, we all headed for Wilbur's house for a cast party. I had gone into the kitchen to fix a drink, when Wilbur approached me.
"Tom Grubbs, I want to ask you a question," he said, "many years ago I got a parking ticket, and with the ticket were some Shakesperean quotes. I have thought and thought and the only person I can think of who would do something like that is you. Did you do it?" I confessed. He said, "Let me ask you this. Did you remember them or did you have to look them up?' Without missing a beat, I said, "I remembered them."
Valerie Baumrind Bonatis '60
One of the most memorable things during the late 1950s was a McKean campus party. The girls had to check into their dorms at 10:00 o'clock on weeknights, so we were usually already in our nightclothes. Then we would hear the bell on the patio of the Student Center ringing. That was a message that President McKean was throwing a party. Everyone hurriedly put on their robes (or quickly got dressed) and headed to the patio. The males were usually dressed since they didn't have any specific time they had to be in their dorms.
Hugh McKean threw a good party--refreshments (all non-alcoholic) were on him, usually sodas and cookies. He usually called one of those parties when he had an important announcement to make. The most memorable announcement, as far as I am concerned, was the night that he announced that the peacocks on the Windsong property (where he and Mrs. McKean lived) were breeding and if we were all quiet we could hear them calling to each other. The entire college, standing in the patio of the Student Center, got quiet so we could hear.
Richard "Dick" Knott ‘50
Richard grew up in Ottawa, IL, about 80 miles from Chicago. He was thumbing through a Collier’s magazine in the back of English class his senior year and saw an article entitled, "Rollins College: We Major in Tennis." It showed pictures of the lakefront and the campus architecture, and talked about The Pelican and free memberships to Dubsdred Country Club, and Richard thought, “Hey now, this may be the place for me.” He took the train to Winter Park, staying up all night in the day coach, and "hit the campus on September 8, 1946." He met his wife, Carol Reed '52, whom he married in the Knowles Memorial Chapel, and later sent their two daughters, Diana Knott Bridwell '72 and Sally Knott Lundquist '78, to Rollins, so it must have been the place for him after all.
One gorgeous Florida day, Economic Professor Paul Fenlon held class on the Mills Lawn. As in high school, I got way in the back, and leaned against a huge tree. Finally I went behind the tree, laid out, and went to sleep. I was awakened a short while later from pressure on my chest, applied by none other than Hamilton Holt. He was a big man, and he kept his foot on my chest as I woke up. He smiled at me and said, "This is what I like to see: a student who doesn’t let his class work interfere with his education."
Norm Copeland '50
Norm was a Marine in World War II, joining up in 1942 and serving in a support battalion for the 3rd Marine Division. He participated in the invasion of Guam. Norm came to Rollins in 1946 as a star tennis player and served as the Rollins tennis coach from 1955-95. His teams won NCAA championships in 1966, 1972, and 1991. The tennis stadium adjacent to the Warden Arena is named for him.
When I played tennis at Rollins, you didn’t really play as a team; you played individual singles and doubles. The team concept came in the 1960s. But we played a lot of top teams from other schools, and in 1948 and 1949 we probably had the top team in the country. We never lost a match, and Gardner Larned was national champion.
Many of the men at Rollins when I attended were returning GIs from World War II. They had a lot of kindred spirit and camaraderie that carried over to the fraternity system. They had very strong commitment to their fraternities. [Norm was a KA.]
Students really rallied to the Animated Magazines, and they brought together faculty, students, and staff as well as the community at large. I saw Harry Truman speak at an Animated Magazine.
I got to be very friendly with John Tiedtke, who did so much behind the scenes for Rollins. He built the first hard courts on campus, which are still there, and he at times paid out of his own pocket when Rollins faced financial difficulties. He was a tennis player, a pilot, and an avid duck hunter. I went duck hunting with him in the '50s.
Joe Justice was another one who was a giant at Rollins. He was a great football player and coach. He used to pay for his own recruiting trips to Maine and other places up north and for follow-up calls. Rollins had no budget for that stuff.
When Paul Wagner came to Rollins in 1949, he was a brilliant businessman who was charged with putting the College on firm financial footing. He wanted to do away with things that weren’t paying for themselves, such as the football team, and some academic traditions that were very dear. He was very personable and outgoing. But he stirred up too much opposition, and when they decided on a new president, Hugh McKean was the logical in-house person. He was an art professor but a good friend of John Tiedtke and he also gave a lot of his own money to help the school, even as a faculty member. We had a quite a rally, and I remember people saying things like, "Here comes The Kid," and "Youth will be served."
Dean Waddell '43
Dean Waddell and his older brother George '38 attended Rollins. George died on January 17, 2010, unfortunately, and so could not be contacted for this article. He and George regularly attended the Bach Festival through the years. Dean, who turned 89 on March 2, 2010, shared his memories.
I went to Rollins for two-and-a-half years. I had my 21st birthday in March 1942, three months after the attack on Pearl Harbor. I went to a military prep school and had a certificate of commission. I got a letter from the War Department saying, in so many words, you can come into the Army as a 2nd Lieutenant or be drafted as a buck private. They had no recruitment office in Orlando, so I found a federal judge and he made me swear officially to everything in the War Department letter, and I left Winter Park and went north. I never returned to Rollins.
I served as a navigator on a B-24 and was based at the island of Kwajalein in the Western Pacific, and later in Western Australia. I flew over Hiroshima two days after the atomic bomb was dropped there, and it was a sobering experience. There was nothing there, just some smoke in the air.
I had some fantastic professors at Rollins, such as Charlie Rendell in the English Dept. I was upset the war interrupted my time there. I was a KA, and I remember during Hell Week they dumped a bunch of us off in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night, on a February night and it was sort of cold. We were left in the Dr. Phillips area, which was mostly orange groves. We went to the packing plant there and banged on the door of the loading dock, and asked the guy who was working to let us use the phone to call someone to pick us up.
Hamilton Holt was a very gracious gentleman, courteous, a great sense of humor, generous with his time, who enjoyed talking to anyone. He knew most everyone by name, and if he didn’t, he would ask you.
Bill Caldwell '76 (From transcription) "It changed me, coming to Rollins… I learned more about people."
Bill Caldwell with friends
Dave Berto ’56 (From Transcription)
Dave Berto '56 with Trustee Francis H. "Frank" Barker '52 and Peter T. Fay '51
"Discipline. I learned discipline at Rollins College because I had to have it."