The Impact of Harlaxton

“It is probably fair to say that the first Ridgway Scholarship place was not as widely advertised as it is today. It was a time before internet, and even Harlaxton Manor was not at all well-known in the Lincolnshire area. It was providential that I spotted the advert in the local paper, fortuitous that I was selected for interview, and fortunate – when I was eventually offered the place – that it was possible for me to drop everything and go!

At that time UE did some graduate degrees, and – having completed my BA already – I calculated that I could manage to get an MA during my year if I worked really hard. I did! Balancing a 4.0 GPA, life in a new country, a range of new subjects and the chance to explore a bit during the regular school year was a tall order, but from the moment I opened the offer letter I was aware that this was a chance in a lifetime, and needed all the focus and energy I could muster, to be worthy of that chance. Times have changed, and Ridgway Scholars now go to UE before their first degree: I think I personally would have found that even more of a challenge, but probably equally rewarding!

The chance to study a range of subjects from some extremely talented faculty was a huge treat… I capitalised on the University’s great strengths in literature, creative writing, linguistics, philosophy, education, history of art and studio art, during my time there. My one regret was that I discovered an interest in ceramics several years after my return to England, rather than doing so in time to study with the legendary Les Miley whilst I was at UE. But he taught me art history, and we are still in touch. I’m still in touch with Mike Carson, another UE legend, and a Harlaxton one, as Mike (with wife Maggie and his family) did a remarkable five teaching stints at Harlaxton.

I was looked after really well by so many people – faculty, administration, trustees, which made a big difference in an age before skype and email. I didn’t see my family for a calendar year, and we phoned only occasionally: communication was by letter!

The immediate benefits - new subjects, new perspectives, new experiences, a new confidence as I was called on to speak in public on various occasions to student and adult groups – all had a big impact.

There was a new language, too: parking lots, candy, jello…. Me trying not to laugh when American students talked about going out in ‘vest and pants’ (= waistcoat and trousers), American friends not laughing when I talked about leaving my ‘jumper’ at a restaurant (sweater in English, but dress in American).

Travel during the year, to a number of other Universities when I was allowed to tag along on Admissions Office visits, to schools in the city, and to a rather dodgy part of Atlanta on Spring Break, was good. Travel after the degree course finished was fantastic: on a budget and not liking Greyhound buses, I bought month-long passes on Amtrak, and in 10,500 miles of travel, saw about 20 states, from California and Oregon, to Florida and Rhode Island. The visit to Bill Ridgway and Mel Peterson, then living in Sonoma, California, was the highlight.

If the immediate benefits were obvious, then assorted longer-term impacts of that first Ridgway Scholarship year have been part of a much longer ‘reveal’. Over more than 33 years, I can honestly say that this really did change my life. Firstly, it precipitated the offer of some teaching work at Harlaxton, alongside Library work, cataloguing, audio-visual logistics and summer conference work. Bless those bright and very patient students, John Poff, Elizabeth Hobbs and Beth Horn, amongst my first ever Art History survey class at Harlaxton in spring 1984, as I pedalled hard in the first few weeks to keep a few pages ahead of them, and frequently failed!

But my time at UE and Harlaxton opened doors for me, preparing me to work with international students and with university teachers (which has been my career for almost all of those 33 years since), and, for some 15 years, giving part-time adult education teaching opportunities in Belfast and at Cambridge. Knowledge of the American education system helped enormously in the early years of my current post, and knowledge of American ‘geography’ still helps me to bridge gaps with newly arriving students each summer. Because of my professional associations and links with the US, I have a network of friends and colleagues there, literally, from ‘shore to shining shore’.

If the Scholarship made a difference professionally, it is the friendships that have had the greatest personal impact. I was ‘adopted’, initially for just one week, as I arrived in Evansville in September 1982. That ‘adoption’ continues, 33 years later, and Suzy Lantz (then Admissions Director at UE for Harlaxton) has been a ‘surrogate mother’ ever since. I am part of her family, yet still continue a professional relationship, as the wheel has turned, and on two occasions now, she has led a group of adult students from the USA to participate in the International Summer Programmes I run for the University of Cambridge.

Being back at Harlaxton this last week to share in the unveiling of their copy of Magna Carta brought back cherished memories: of visiting during the lead up to my departure, of living, teaching and working there. It has been marvellous to re-establish contact through the Alumni meetings, to re-visit UE, and to see, first hand, the flourishing embodiment, at both UE and Harlaxton, of the vision of a quiet, brilliant and generous man. Both establishments – thankfully - continue to have many amazing supporters, but the unselfish act of Dr William Ridgway has made ‘a magnificent difference’ to UE. His gift of the Manor has enabled generations of hundreds of American students to have their own unforgettable semester or year-long experiences. The club of Ridgway Scholars is a far smaller one, but - I could argue – even luckier. The ranks grow by just one a year, but I suspect we have all taken away a lifetime’s worth of new opportunities as a result. It’s a big responsibility to live up to the donor’s vision and standards (so no pressure, newest recruit!), but a huge privilege."

“I love Harlaxton because it’s more than a destination, it’s the start to a lifelong journey. Studying abroad can show a student the world outside of her normal surroundings. It can introduce her to unknown cultures and experiences. It can help her find a new favorite food, friends for life and travel proficiencies. If she is open to learning, studying abroad can teach her values congruence and the impact her actions have on herself, her community and the world.

Harlaxton does more than offer the study abroad experience: It becomes part of each student’s lifestyle. When she attends Harlaxton, she joins a family of men and women who paved the way to do better, expect more and who continuously strive to make a difference. Long after her time in the manor is over, the Harlaxton student is still learning with vigor, still living life to the fullest and still balancing the need to do well and do good.

Ask anyone who attended Harlaxton why they love it. Their smile will evoke past memories and their actions will show you their journey isn’t over.”

“As a young UE student from the Chicago / NW IN suburbs I never had the ability to experience cultural diversity and International travel until attending Harlaxton. I enjoyed meeting, developing lifetime friendships and traveling with other students and faculty from different countries and learning more about their cultures. These positive experiences changed and impacted me greatly, although I never really realized the impact on me until I was older. While attending Harlaxton I was able to visit parts of the world that I would have never been able to if I had not been so fortunate to attend the college. During my stay in England I was connected to part of our family that none of us in the States had ever met. I was able to visit with them at the Manor as well as make several trips to their home.

Having an American in their small town on the coast was something that made me sort of a “celebrity”. I remember eating fish and chips in their community square, visiting the discos with family friends and being interviewed by the local media and actually receiving an actual “Bobby’s Helmet” from their Chief Constable who went on to say that if I was going to wear the official helmet I would need to get a haircut! Having the official helmet was very exciting and it required special approval and a ream of paperwork to take it out of England. I proudly have it on display as well as the “official” Rugby plaque I was provided from their local Rugby team! These new family members even came over to the States to visit my family a few times. I have kept lifetime friendships from my days at Harlaxton and continue to develop new lifetime friendships from those that attended or worked at Harlaxton both before and after me. The Harlaxton Society has been a great resource for me to stay connected to my Harlaxton Experience that never ends. I was also able to visit Harlaxton with my spouse during a summer Alumni trip so she could also experience the Harlaxton difference for herself and now she is hooked as much as I am!”

“For someone who had not had the chance to travel internationally, studying abroad at Harlaxton College afforded me an opportunity not only to explore a different culture and place but it also helped me view my academic studies from another perspective. Having the opportunity to live in England for four months provided tremendous experiences that challenged me in so many ways.

My Harlaxton College experience helped me gain confidence, problem-solving skills, and the chance to hear how people around the world viewed the United States. My Meet-A-Family, British Studies professors and Harlaxton College staff provided me with essential exposure to actual Brits, allowing me to have a more immersive experience and better understanding of the special place where I was living.

I have now worked in international education for 18 years, advising students for study abroad and assisting international students and scholars who come to the U.S. I now am able to better understand others’ perspectives. I am culturally curious and crave new experiences. I am a more confident traveler, always ready to explore another part of the world and face challenges when they arise. I now consider how my choices impact the environment and world. When something happens half way around the world, I consider what it must be like for those who are affected, as I often know someone from that region.

My experience studying abroad at Harlaxton College continues to affect me in ways I have yet to consider. I am so grateful for the opportunity that I had to study abroad and am so glad that I can continue to help others pursue transformational study abroad experiences.”

“Harlaxton is where I really connected with history. My path to Harlaxton was a bit different than most. I attended a 3 week summer seminar with my mom after graduating from college. At Harlaxton you realize how history intersects with contemporary from classes that you learn about Charlotte Bronte and Shakespeare to visiting their home's. We not only saw a play by Shakespeare and read a book by Charlotte Bronte, we then took in the new (at the time) musical "A Chorus Line" in London. Harlaxton is where I became who I am today.”

“Harlaxton is... a living presence in the hearts and minds of the many thousands of students who have passed through its great Lion Gates. In it can be found all things of meaning and inspiration to propel the imagination on a lifelong journey of discovery, a journey seemingly without bounds but tethered ultimately by a fine golden thread to the very source of wonder, wisdom, and dreams, our magnificent Harlaxton home. With undying gratitude and deep affection, may we carry its spirited legacy onwards for generations of students to come. A true Harlaxton heart is forever young.”

“For me, Harlaxton is home—the place that teaches life’s most significant lessons. My time at the Manor transformed me from a self-oriented eighteen-year-old into a more globally aware, more altruistically focused adult. Taught by loving friends and mentors who became family, the person who returned to Indiana in the spring of 1977 was a greatly-improved version of the one who left for England in the late summer of 1976, so much more willing to care and to give.

Now, I have the privilege of returning to Harlaxton each summer with my own students. I remind them that I am sharing my home with them—that it will become their home as well. It is the truth. Though their stays are brief, they learn many of the same significant life lessons I did. In that manor house in the Midlands, they form bonds that would not be possible anywhere else, and they have the chance to discover which of the many new paths open to them they want to pursue. Most importantly, in their learning about themselves they are transformed; they begin to understand that these experiences require them to accept responsibility to do whatever they can to improve the world for others.

Our principal in 1976-77, Dr. Paul Bulger, often said that the purpose of Harlaxton is to offer its students “roots and wings—roots to stay, wings to soar.” Like any good home, Harlaxton gives enough “solid ground and open sky” to provide firm footing and countless possibilities. We might not be able to return as often as we’d like, but my students and I (and thousands of others) remain rooted there….and we always carry with us the essence of the place that grew us up.”

Harlaxton…Life Impact

“In August of 1978, I left my Indiana home with my Chicago-based roommate and we headed to Harlaxton. Our intent was to drink alcohol legally and have a great time. We had no philosophical ideas of what this may mean to our lives, only that we were going to have a great time.

We did have a great time. We were living in the manor for a full school year, and the student body was made up of Americans, Europeans, Arabs, Jordanians, and Turks, etc. While we lived, ate, studied, and played with all of these, our new friends, we grew without even knowing it. We made great friends, saw great things and generally had a blast.

Thirty-six years later, as I reflect on my Harlaxton Experience, I realize that 1978-1979 was the most transformative year of my life. I now see that during that school year I learned so much that has carried me through the rest of my life. I learned about other cultures and how to get along when you’ve had too much togetherness! I learned that kids from other countries, cultures, and religions were just like me with fears, insecurities, and curiosity about everything! I learned to trust and to rely on others. When traveling went wrong, the lessons of how to recover and protect myself have proved invaluable throughout my life.

Today I work in a Fortune 500 company. One of the core values of this company is ‘diversity’! Well, I was diverse before diversity was cool! I am more knowledgeable about geography (because the Harlaxton experience gave us so many opportunities to travel), cultures, behaviors, travel and friends than before I left. Harlaxton taught me how to be a friend. Harlaxton gave me friends for life.

Thanks to the amazing technology of today, last year when my father died and I posted on Facebook that he had just passed away, the first ring of my phone was from one of my Harlaxton Turkish friends, calling me from Istanbul. He just saw the note about my dad and wanted to call to express his sympathy. Another time, one of my best friends at Harlaxton was passing through the US and stopped by my house for a day. Harlaxton isn’t a semester or a school year…it is a life transformation disguised as a lot of fun! Enjoy!”

Words cannot do justice to the transformative experience that is Harlaxton College for me, and also, my family. Two generations of Reeds have studied, learned, and grown in the setting that is ever changing and yet unchanged. The Reed journey began with my eldest brother Len who attended in spring 1975 when UE’s adventure in the Midlands of England was raw. Simplistic accommodations and bland food were unimportant against the backdrop of intense learning, deep friendships and the excitement of exploring the Isles and the continent. From the moment we received his first letter, I knew I wanted that adventure for myself.

I decided to attend the University of Evansville for its theater program and the hope of attending Harlaxton. Once I had arrived at Evansville, studies in theater and many friends began to push away my dream of Harlaxton. I was worried that I could not finish my BFA and take a semester off for study in England. On a Labor Day trip to visit my brother and sister-in law Cynthia (Harlaxton alumni ’73), they pressed me for reasons why I was not planning to go. The more I argued for staying home, the more I realized my arguments rang hollow. Late in September or early October, I heard the deadline to apply was closing. Without warning, I called my family and told them I had applied and been accepted. I did not know how I would afford it or what it would do to my BFA plans, but I could not pass up this opportunity.

I left UE at the end of the quarter to work the six weeks before my departure. At Christmas, I travelled with my brother back to New Jersey to save the airfare from Cincinnati. On a cold and dreary January in 1980, my brother and sister-in-law dropped me off at JFK to board the international flight and begin my journey. The first person to greet me at the airport was a UE student I had met earlier in the semester, Lynn Foshee. Little would I know what that meeting would mean.

Everyone who has ever arrived at Harlaxton from the A607 remembers their first vision of the Manor. Mine is undoubtedly no different. Awaking from an uncomfortable slumber after an overnight flight, an interminable wait at the airport and long coach ride from London, I stared at the Manor rising from the mid-morning winter haze. I had seen many photos, but reality is both softer and harder than images on a page. From that moment, I knew my world had been altered forever.

The friendships of Harlaxton are those of stone. Carved in the darkened corners of the Great Hall and cemented in ale and travel and bonds of honesty. One of those friendships was to Lynn. Married now 33 years, we are a true love story of Harlaxton. We both came seeking refuge from other relationships and a way to experience the world well beyond our provincial homes. We found in each other a love of learning, an appreciation of English and Europe culture and deep understanding that our future would be molded by what we found in ourselves in this place.

Harlaxton was different from the early 1970’s Len and Cynthia had haunted its halls. By 1980, it had become a layover for international students transitioning from many lands to Evansville. The Manor was a United Nations of its own with students from Turkey, the Sudan, Libya, Europe and the Middle East – including Iran. The self-important boy from Cincinnati who thought Evansville was a village learned quickly that his perceptions of the world were more than naïve.

Only a few months before, the US Embassy in Tehran had been seized. US citizens were captives of a brutal regime. Yet I would learn from my fellow students that the individuals who inhabit nations do not always believe in their government’s actions. In the case of one Harlaxton student, her nationality, not her politics, would prevent her from going to the US to study and it would separate her for a significant time from the man she learned to love at Harlaxton. She found her soul mate behind the limestone walls just as I had found mine. I learned that the world was a far more complicated place than I had imagined and that if we are to survive, we must begin to think globally not locally.

At Harlaxton, I met many amazing teachers but none more so than Dr. Sam Longmire. What a complete joy to sit in his class and learn about Fielding, Hardy, and Sillitoe. When would I ever have the chance to study the “Mayor of Casterbridge” then actually visit “Dorchester” and walk where the characters walked while Dr. Longmire explained the symbolism of “Maiden Castle.” It was on one of those bus rides, that Sam told me he thought I would be good in student affairs. While I scoffed at the absurdity of me being the person in charge of the same kind unruly collegians as myself, he pressed me saying I could find a home in the collegiate setting. Although I had many great encounters with caring and interesting teachers, none would have more impact on my life than those classes and bus rides with Sam Longmire.

I returned to the US after travel throughout Europe. As all who have had their semester abroad can attest, one may return to your place of birth, but the perception of oneself and one’s home is never the same. Three years later, the magic of Harlaxton would again direct my life. When I was approached about applying to graduate school in student affairs administration, the words of Dr. Longmire rang in my head. For Sam, I would try the thing called student affairs. At that moment, my spouse and my career had come from my Harlaxton experience.

I started my graduate classes with the firm idea that I could go back to Harlaxton to be the Dean of Students just as Lee Anne. The problem was that Lisa Gaus, a Harlaxton Alum and friend of Lynn was there for 2 years. She would still be there when I finished my degree and would need to find a job. The Fates would have it otherwise. Lisa decided she needed to come home and the position of Dean would open in summer of 1985. Lynn and I were exuberant beyond words. After a brief meeting with Graddon Rowlands and an interview with Jim Dawson, we were confirmed as the Dean of Students and a Math teacher for Harlaxton. Our infant son Michael would join us for his adventure.

I could tell the story of those two years but I will leave it for another day. I will say this. Because of Harlaxton, my children have all studied overseas. Michael, our intrepid Harlaxton toddler, I firmly believe was imprinted with Arabic and Mid-East sensibilities from the “Jordanian Girls” and various other students from the desert climates, has his degrees in International Relations and Middle East Studies, understands Arabic and Pushto and works for the State Department. Our daughter Hana is named for friends from Harlaxton and is a Harlaxton alumni from 2007.

I know this is long and but it should be longer. I have not told the tales of friendships formed and lost to untimely deaths; of world perspectives that shape every day of my work in university administration; of the experience of growing as a person and as a citizen of the world. What is most amazing is that my experience, although extended by my time as Dean, is not unlike the thousands that have walked the Manor drive or stood alone in the Blue Corridor waiting, hoping, praying to experience something unearthly. It is in the sharing that this study abroad program becomes so more. It is the Harlaxton Experience.

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