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Remarks by Donna Klepper ’75
Remarks by Donna Klepper ’75
I am honored to be a part of the dedication of Andrews Hall and to speak to the contributions of Ira Andrews during my tenure at Randolph-Macon College.
In 1971 I applied to Randolph-Macon College a small private college describing itself as representing an educational ideal of a “College for the Individual Man." This was further described in the same catalog as an education centered around the individual, his needs and aspirations. A Randolph-Macon education involves direct participation by the individual and seeks to develop each student’s full potential. In short, Randolph-Macon strives to be a “college for the individual man."
Apparently, I was an easy sell since this same catalog put a sticker on the front of it saying
NOW! College for The Individual Woman, Too COEDUCATION IN 1971
and on that day when the sticker was stuck on the R-MC brochure Dean Ira Andrews life and my life were to be changed forever.
On March 11, 1971 I received a letter from Becky Severin in the Admissions Office:
How does it feel to be a potential member of the “elite few”? Congratulations! There are about 700 guys who are waiting to welcome you, too…
And, once again for both Dean Ira Andrews and myself our lives were once again changed yet we had not yet met.
In September 1971 Dean Ira Andrews I met for the first time. And, of course, when I met the Dean of Students, I met the Dean of Men and our Dean of Women, Dean Betty Jo Seymour.
It was apparent from the first meeting that these two would be a formidable pair in providing leadership to this strange new co-ed culture at RMC. I could tell from the beginning that Dean Andrews knew what we were up to...he just had that sixth sense and also he spent lots of face time with students in the fountain area so he and Dean Seymour were hard to avoid. As many of you know these were challenging times for academic and student leaders, with the Vietnam War protests and counter-culture activities present and now adding a cadre of new female students in the mix. Dean Andrews was exactly the leader needed to guide us during these times.
Again, returning to the pages of the 1971 RMC brochure:
Each student is assumed to be honest and responsible. The honor system, established and governed by students, is an integral part of this responsibility. The student is on his own. Self-discipline, honor and integrity are important qualities each student at Randolph-Macon should cultivate. As a member of the college community, the student shares not only the responsibilities but also plays an active role in the decision-making concerning his own affairs.
Does this description about an ideal student also describe the Dean who we are honoring today with this remarkable building celebration?
As to why it is so important to name this remarkable new residence hall at Randolph-Macon after Ira Andrews let’s remember where most of our students spend their time in college? For most students, the residence hall is our second home when we attend college. We make lifelong friends, we combine academic and social lives and we grow up.
In 1971 it was the backdrop for all kinds of expression about the global world and the small community of Randolph-Macon College. Mary Branch residence hall, my new home for 3 years, became the College’s home for protests on the war and protests on the different rules being applied to women attending the College. Again, how did Dean Ira Andrews respond? By teaching and leading us in the classroom and connecting those teachings to life, by observing what we were doing, from the fountain area, of course, by talking to us and really trying to understand our feelings and then by guiding us to do things in a responsible way so that we would not end up regretting our actions. In talking to my friends from this era of RMC we all felt like we could change the world for the better and we truly believed that our actions would do this and we felt supported and safe with Dean Andrews as our leader. And, isn’t that feeling that one can change the world the greatest outcome a college and its student and academic leaders can provide for their students?
Of course, as we moved beyond the protests we also have Ira Andrews to thank for holding us accountable for our personal actions. This is not the time for personal stories but just to let you know that my parents were relieved to hear that one of their many letters from Dean Andrews wasn’t about my R-MC boyfriend staying in my dorm room after men’s visiting hours (yes, there were such rules at the time!) but this time it was my very large Irish Setter needing to move out from my dorm room. Go figure? And, of course, for those of you who may be concerned about my mention of a boyfriend at R-MC in my room, not to worry, we have now been married for almost 37 years.
Again, when talking to my friends from R-MC about our time at the College and those who impacted us the most Dean Ira Andrews is the name that comes up universally. Once his name comes up, the stories are endless and end with genuine admiration for this man’s commitment to our development as responsible adults and his endless patience. He was everyone’s best friend, teacher and mentor and at the same time our gentle leader on the pathway to adulthood. And, we thank him for this by honoring him with Andrews Hall. May consecutive new generations of students have the same wonderful and transformative experience we had at R-MC guided by the name of Dean Ira Andrews.
And, finally let me end with one more excerpt about R-MC from the 1971 catalog that seems to be written for what Dean Ira Andrews inspires and has inspired for generations at RMC and what I hope and know the naming of this building will represent for our entire college community:
Whether in or out of the classroom, the student will find the College to be much more than a place, a group of buildings. College is a set of experiences, academic and social. Randolph-Macon seeks to provide a certain set of experiences that protects individual freedom and requires individual responsibility. Randolph-Macon education, therefore, is comprised of every experience, every decision, every morsel of learning the student strives to possess.
Thank you, Dean Ira Andrews for what you have done for so many students over so many years at R-MC to enrich our experiences at RMC.
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