I knew the Och Tamale by heart by the time I was eight years old. My sister and I would read the words off of a University of Redlands woven blanket, running around my Grandmother’s living room, chanting it out at the top of our lungs. Painted pictures of the renowned University of Redlands chapel adorned the walls of my family’s home. Maroon and grey University of Redlands apparel was renewed each year. Books about Salzburg sat on book cases and just one simple question about them always inspires a series of nostalgic stories. I love to hear about my many family members’ college experiences and how this special university changed their lives. As I listened to their stories in amazement, I never thought I would someday be a student here at the U of R.
With Homecoming this previous weekend, I was surrounded by both friends and family who share the Redlands experience. New stories and memories arise each time as I meet more of my grandparents’ and parents’ friends. Their laughter and joy to be reunited with one another brings a smile to my face, for I am confident that in twenty, thirty, forty years from now, I to will be laughing about memories I made with my friends in our college days. Every day I am reminded why my family loves this university and can’t help wanting to share that love with everyone they know.
I am a fourth generation student at the University of Redlands and am part of a family who fell in love with the campus and its community and never left their wonderful college traditions behind. In the mid 1930’s my great grandparents, Bernice Ward and George Stevens, initiated my family’s generations of Bulldogs to come. The two met each other and fell in love at the university, while they participated in some of the earliest traditions on campus. George was a member of both the varsity football and swim team, a member of the Pi Chi fraternity, worked in the library for three years, was Senior Class President and majored in Political Science.
Bernice was Sophomore Class Secretary, a member of Spurs and the Delta Kappa Psi sorority, sang in the University Choir and was an English Major. They attended the University amidst an era of strict rules and regulations regarding gender separation and appropriate behavior. There was absolutely no drinking or dancing allowed. No men were allowed in the women’s dorms with the exception of the lobby during limited hours. A woman could not even sit on a man’s lap without a pillow between their bodies. Despite the strict rules, my great grandparents participated in all school traditions including annual hikes to the well-known “R” on the hillside.
Legend has it that, “One night a group of guys put a mama goat on the third floor of Fairmont and her babies on the second floor,” shared my grandmother. “Can you imagine the commotion? They also may have done that with a mama cow and her baby.”
Redlands was a very different university compared to the one we are familiar with today. They went to a University of Redlands, covered in endless orange groves, which required men to work on the smudge pots during the frigid winters in order to save the oranges. They had dirt roads surrounded by only the beautiful campus and their beloved classmates. My great grandparents lived their lives greatly after their graduation, but in their old age decided they couldn’t stay away from the place that brought them together and played such a significant role in their lives. They decided to move into Plymouth Village Retirement Community in 1989 and resided there till their death in the 2000’s.
Almost twenty-five years after my great grandparents graduation in 1935 and 1938, my grandparents made their way into the University of Redlands community in the late 1950’s. My grandmother, Marie Stevens Haskell, was my great grandparent’s daughter. She always knew she would attend the University of Redlands when it was her time to go to college. She began going to football games and other campus events when she was about five years old. It wasn’t till her junior year of highschool, as she began applying to college, when she even thought of attending a different University.
“I think I did it to rebel and wanted to hear Bapa have a fit which he did when I told him I had applied and been accepted at Occidental,” explained my grandmother. “Wow, was he mad.”
Despite her brief period of rebellion, my grandmother ended up at the University of Redlands and was involved in several extracurriculars, including becoming a member of the Delta Kappa Psi Sorority, just like her mother. University of Redlands is also where she met my grandfather, Don Haskell. My Grandfather never planned to go to a university, as it was not encouraged by his parents. Instead he planned to attend a Business College in Los Angeles until one day a friend’s father asked where he would be attending school. His friend’s father told him he should be going to the University of Redlands and that he would send a someone to talk to him the next day. And the very next day, an admissions counselor came to talk to my grandfather, signed him up for classes and three weeks later he arrived on campus: his new home. My grandparents believe he is most likely the only person to be accepted to the University without taking the SAT.
Before they became my grandparents, Marie met Don during her freshman year and his junior year. Their time spent at the University was one of the last of its kind. Then it was normal for men and women to get married and possibly pregnant before they even graduated. There was a tradition called pinning, where men would place their fraternity pin on the woman they planned to propose to. The woman’s sorority and the fraternity would gather in the front of a dorm for this special event. Both groups would sing traditional songs as they celebrated the love of their closest friends. “This was my most vivid and fondest memory of my time at Redlands,” shared my grandfather.
My grandparents married between semesters of my grandmother’s Junior year after my grandfather had already graduated. She was pregnant with my aunt before she graduated in 1962. Their time at the University of Redlands created special memories of friendship, education and most importantly for them, love and relationships.
“Things were so easy and relaxed in bygone years and we have wonderful memories. It always makes me tear up when we sing the Alma Mater because the memories and friendships are so dear,” my grandmother said. “So many of our friends married someone who was in school with us and most of us are still married to the same person some 50 plus years later. Our friendships are a life ago and yet so meaningful to this day.”
My grandparents have been giving back to the University of Redlands community ever since they left. They are now scholarship donors and always make an active effort to support both the students and the university as a whole.
In the late 1980’s my parents, class of ‘93, attended the University of Redlands. While my mom’s parents and grandparents started the tradition two generations earlier, she always knew Redlands was a promising option, but was also drawn to religious, private schools. My father, whose parents attended CSU Long Beach, considered either attending a Naval Preparation academy, CSU Long Beach, or the University of Redlands. My parents were high school sweethearts but didn’t necessarily plan to attend the same college. They both eventually decided to leap into life at Redlands. My mother was a member of the Delta Kappa Psi sorority and was also part of the Women’s Varsity Soccer team. She traveled to Salzburg for study abroad her junior year and continues to share exciting stories to this day. My Father was part of the Pi Chi Fraternity, played on the varsity football team for two years and traveled to Washington D.C. during his Junior year. Both parents balanced their liberal arts education while still creating incredible memories with lifelong friends.
Aside from my family history at the University of Redlands, I also grew up in Orange County, California, filled with my parent’s college friends and children. My best friends are a product of our parent’s college friendships.
Whenever we visited Redlands throughout the years we would tour the beautiful quad to see the chapel and the administration building from a distance, make our way past the Ted Runner stadium and then down Fraternity Row. Every time we entered the campus, my parents were overwhelmed by nostalgia. They would tell stories about their time at the university and share how intimate the community was. As involved students, my parents received a quality education and learned a great amount about life as a Bulldog.
As I grew older, the more stories I was told about the University of Redlands. Some of them about “that one night at that one party,” or “I never left the library during finals week,” and some about the wonders of Salzburg, or the life lessons that made my family who they are today. I spent countless years attending Redlands reunions, visiting the Greek theater on a Sunday afternoon, and taking in the beautiful campus that is the University of Redlands. Surprisingly, as my senior year of high school approached, I was not pressured by my family to attend the University of Redlands. I expected more of a push from my family members during the process. Of course it was easy to tell that they wanted me to experience what they had, but they stayed behind the scenes and watched me decide on my own.
In April of my senior year, I attended Admitted Students Day. I had been on campus several times before and knew it like the back of my own hand, but I had never actually been on a real tour. As I toured the campus, listening to current students testimonies of their life at the university, I felt an instantaneous connection. I waited almost a week to finally tell my parents that I wanted to attend the University of Redlands, and my family was ecstatic to watch me walk into a world they once lived in.
Now as a sophomore, I can fully confirm that this was the best decision I’ve ever made. The community of students and faculty, the endless opportunities to try new things and travel, and the support and encouragement to help students find who they want to be, is endless at the University of Redlands. Events such as Homecoming are reflections of the wonderful experiences students received at this University. No matter how far people go, they always come back to remember their life as a Bulldog and encourage current students to live their college life to the fullest.
“The most important thing we got and have continued with is our friendships,” explained my grandmother. “Redlands brings us back together every time and we feel truly blessed by all of them.”
photo courtesy of the author, displaying four generations of the women in her family.