At the alumni reunion this past week, alumni swapped mem­ories from their time at Hillsdale and caught up on what has hap­pened since. Jo Kroeker | Col­legian

Sixteen alumni from the class of ’67 and five from the class of ’57 gathered on campus last week for the alumni reunion: a week of cock­tails, dinners, and tours.

Art Robell ’57, Dorothy Olsson Messinger ’57, and Robert “Bob” Messinger ’54 sat together on couches on the upper level of the Dow Lead­ership Center, rem­i­niscing and quickly dis­cov­ering that during and after Hillsdale, they led par­allel lives.

Robell orig­i­nally wanted to become a Roman Catholic priest. He even went to school six days a week to prepare for the priesthood until two events tran­spired that would change his plans and lead him to Hillsdale. First, God told him in a dream he would marry a woman named Sandra (“This is a ter­rible dream,” he said, under­standable for someone planning to become a priest) and second, he got recruited to play football for the Uni­versity of Michigan. In a meeting with a UM adviser, however, Robell was told that since he came from a parochial envi­ronment, he wouldn’t like the campus culture or many of the women. The adviser instead rec­om­mended his own alma mater, Hillsdale.

“Long story short, Monday I was on a Grey­hound bus for Jonesville,” Robell said. He’d join the football team as a defensive end and knock a player out on his first  col­le­giate tackle.

Ori­en­tation day, the first girl he met was Sandra “Sandie” Sherk, ’54.

After the tour, a buddy of his nudged him and made an appre­ciative comment about Sherk.

“Sorry, she’s already taken,” Robell replied.

He looked up at the ceiling and water rimmed his eyes before con­tinuing his story.

“She was a senior, I was a freshman. She robbed the cradle,” he joked. They married June 23, 1956, and had three boys. She died July 30, 2014, after 58 years of mar­riage.

As he told his story, Robell began tugging on a necklace below his shirt. Finally freeing the chain from its hiding place on his chest, he showed us his wedding rings, com­mem­o­rating 25 and 50 years of mar­riage.

“I lost both soon after she died,” he said. While doing the wash one day, he decided he’d better check the pants pockets, even though he had already checked them before. He found both rings.

Robell slipped one on his finger but when he swung his hand down, it fell to the ground: “That’s how much weight I lost,” he said. He’s worn them around his neck ever since.

Robell and Sherk’s story was not the only love story of the weekend. Bob and Dorothy Messinger’s was strik­ingly similar.

On a dare from his Delta Sigma Phi brother, Bob Messinger, a senior and baseball player, asked Dorothy Olsson on a date the April of his senior year. The date, unlike Bob Messinger, didn’t come out of left field, since both of Dorothy’s room­mates at the time were dating Delta Sigma Pis as well.

June 25, 1955, a year and three months after their first date, Bob and Dorothy Messinger married, and the fra­ternity brother who dared Bob to the date was best man. They had three girls. (“Isn’t that amazing,” Robell inter­jected, over­whelmed by the near par­allels in anniversary dates and children. Dorothy Messinger just winked.)

Robell ref­er­enced his impressive children and grand­children fre­quently. The alumni were grand­parents happy to recount the success stories of their children, like Janet Mallett ’57, the mother of Jef Mallett, the artist behind the nationally syn­di­cated column, “Frazz.” The comic strip, which began in the 2000s, follows a high school janitor and unex­pected role model and appears in 200 news­papers worldwide, including the Los Angeles Times, Seattle Times, Chicago Tribune and Detroit News. Jane Mallett reads it everyday, and swears she learns some­thing new from it every time, from dis­cus­sions of race to obscure lunar eclipse fac­toids.

“He’s been drawing comics since before he was born,” she joked. “That’s how he got through school, drawing comics, not fol­lowing direc­tions.”

Janet Mallett’s eyes lit up when she talked about Jef and his comic strip, and she deflected ques­tions about herself, finding ways to circle the con­ver­sation back to her children and grand­children.

“I’m nothing more than a mom and a grand­mother,” she said. Wearing a white sweat­shirt appliquéd with instru­ments, she described her duties as a grand­mother: To make, box, and ship roll-out cookies for every major holiday — St. Patrick’s Day, Easter, Thanks­giving, and Christmas — to children eagerly waiting for the next shipment, and to knit mittens for every Christmas. For any readers of “Frazz,” the per­pet­ually-knitting grand­mother should sound familiar — because it’s her.

The mittens stopped coming for Christmas fol­lowing one comic in which Frazz receives only one mitten for Christmas and an IOU, prompting her to do the same in real life. Since many of her children migrated to warmer cli­mates, Jane Mallett now knits mittens for Native Amer­icans living on reser­va­tions in South Dakota.)

During her col­le­giate years, Jane Mallett spent her time in the Old Fine Arts building studying organ and violin, playing organ at College Baptist Church and violin in the orchestra, and accom­pa­nying the choir and solo vocalists. She even guesses that’s where she met her husband Gordon. After getting married, she became a special edu­cation teacher and left the pro­fession of teaching music to her husband. But she said her biggest accom­plishment is being a mom.

“It’s OK,” she said, with a sat­isfied smile. “They make it all worth it.”

Moving Mossey

“When we were on campus, there were 400 stu­dents in total,” Dorothy Messinger said. It cost $350 a semester. The library was one very small room, and Bob Messinger’s senior year, the college enlisted all the stu­dents to carry books from the old Mossey Library to the new one.

The day of the change, it poured. Bob Messinger said they were walking on wet plywood, and if they weren’t careful, they would’ve slipped, with all those books.

Baseball isn’t all black and white.

David Arm­strong was the only left-handed pitcher on the baseball team, then-known as the Dales. He’s a self-pro­claimed “pro-traveler and pro-eater, but not a great player.”

He remembers piling into mon­strous station wagons with five or six other players and all their gear and driving all the way down South for week-long baseball tour­na­ments.

On one such trip, the team traveled to an all-black school in Georgia. J.J. Simmons, the only African-American on Hillsdale’s team — as well as a co-captain for both baseball and football — sud­denly turned to his team­mates and cracked a joke: “Now you know how I feel.”

“It was the fun­niest thing,” Arm­strong said. Sporting a cream suit and a braided salt-and-pepper beard, Simmons just did a jig (momen­tarily for­getting his cane) and flashed a toothy grin.

Here lies “The Hut.” Long live pinball.

On the bus tour, David Arm­strong ’67 recalled hearing alumni exclaim “Oh, the Hut used to be there!”

The College Tavern, fondly nick­named “The Tav,” and later renamed “The Hut,” was the social hub in those days, a cottage house by Mary Randall Preschool that “probably did more business than the student union,” Bob said. Dorothy remembers pinball machines, shuf­fle­board, sand­wiches, and pop.

Arm­strong remembers it as a hub of social activity: “Everybody was always there, it was always busy, there were always cars parked in front of the library.”

The Peacock, an anonymous Col­legian columnist during the 1960s, wrote on April 18, 1962 about a con­tro­versy between the union and the Hut, in other words, between the inde­pen­dents and the Greeks. He expressed hope that the Hut would last because stu­dents need an inde­pendent gath­ering place, but more impor­tantly, there are too many stories and tra­di­tions to let it die (matches were free, too). By 1966, the Hut was torn down and the union reigned champion of social activity.

The lean, green, tee­to­taling dean.

Harold Munn, the asso­ciate dean of Hillsdale College during the ’60s, was better known as “the green dean” because he always wore a green suit.

But he also ran for pres­ident of the United States three terms in a row: 1964, 1968, 1972, rep­re­senting the Pro­hi­bition Party. (“Pro­hi­bition at Hillsdale College, can you believe it?” Director of Alumni Rela­tions Grigor Hasted said.)

His teaching career at Hillsdale began in 1939, as an asso­ciate pro­fessor of edu­cation who also taught American Her­itage. He then became the asso­ciate dean at Hillsdale College, in addition to being the exec­utive of four Michigan radio sta­tions.