Almost heaven, Alma College


John Denver performance poster in the October 6, 1969 edition of the Almanian Newspaper. John Denver performs with acoustic guitar [LEFT]. His lyrics to his album Rhymes and Reasons [RIGHT]

A rumor has circulated campus for far too long without a clear answer. Did John Denver perform at Alma College? Did he perform Country Roads for the first time here? The answer to both of these questions is yes. And he performed not just once, but multiple times from 1969 to 1971. Although his arrival was a rumor, we can now look back and confirm his impact on campus life over fifty years ago.

American Icon, John Denver, launched his solo music career by performing in small venues and college towns across the United States. Remarkably, John Denver made one of his earliest debuts at Alma College in the Fall of 1969.

John Denver led music concerts across the United States at the height of the Vietnam War. One of those performances was right here at Alma College. In October, he performed his album Rhymes and Reasons live. A room of 800 spectators in Alma, Michigan, watched history unfold before them as John Denver sang music inspired by friendship and love. Words that would eventually work to bring home a generation fighting a war few wanted.

His lyrics were meaningful, and the Almanian called him a “poet” and “sensitive to human emotions.” John Denver was so well-received at Alma College that he would return in the Spring of 1970. There, he would play Rhymes and Reasons again. An album that exploded in popularity upon its release the previous year.

Times were changing, and the campus felt different, politically. Especially towards the war in Vietnam. Students had been conscripted into the war, and peace seemed like a distant memory. When Americans grew to oppose the war, musicians became the voice of change. Musicians like John Denver picked up their guitars and played at venues and parks to protest the war. Students especially were highly receiving of this entertainment and a cause to end the violence.

The Almanian writers – in the same edition of the newspaper – directly opposed the war in Vietnam. “The Vietnamese people have fought a long time against western imperialism. People in America must realize and condemn this imperialism to effectively oppose the war.”

John Denver sang words etched in the memory of those who remember protests against the war. “For the children and the flowers are my sisters and my brothers. Their laughter and their loveliness could clear a cloudy day.” Alma College loved his music because they saw him as a poet of their generation. The lyrics were printed in the October edition of the Almanian. Proof he performed these songs live in a casual setting before they went on album.

In 1970, John Denver returned to Alma with new songs. “The way he sings reflects all the things John Denver is.” His music was poetry, and his poetry was music. He performed Leaving On a Jet Plane on two shows on the Alma College campus. The 13th and 14th of January were sold-out performances. Crowds stood in applause and demanded an encore.

One of his last performances at Alma was in February 1971. Alma welcomed his return, and he sang Country Roads for the first time before its release in April 1971. Alma College students who attended the concert were among the first to hear that iconic song most people know today.

When he arrived, he apologized for being late. “When he got on stage, he explained that he had fought with the blizzard and that the weather had won by forcing his car into a ditch.” Country Roads may have been forgiving, but Michigan roads were not. He then promised he would do his best to give an excellent performance. He did.

Linda Heiss – former Almanian writer – described the atmosphere that John Denver created in his performance.

“The concert was informal and relaxed which made the bleachers seem more comfortable than usual. He entertained well because he wasn’t Just performing, he was expressing himself. He sang songs which were full of life and which surveyed life in our country. The second part of the program consisted mostly of songs of his beliefs concerning people, life, war and America, very poignant.”

“The crowd experienced and informed John that he had made up for being late. That they enjoyed his outstanding concert was evident by the final standing ovations he received. What can be said but…. Thank You, John Denver.”

Incredibly, John Denver performed here at Alma College. What changed? Why have the wandering musicians stopped their pilgrimage? Perhaps, when we societally adjust to life in Covid-19, more artists will emerge to sing of friendship and love. If they do, send them to Alma College.

Students spend spring term on campus


Alma College has many unique and amazing opportunities. One such opportunity is the ability to take spring terms. This is set up primarily due to the 4-4-1 academic calendar year. One of the requirements that students have for graduating from Alma College is the completion of two spring terms.

One of the options for spring term is that students are required to have an “S” course completed. As stated on, an “S” course is an “immersion in a secondary language, crossing geographical boundaries, exploring cultural/social/ethnic/economic differences outside the classroom, and applied experiences requiring extended daily interactions with instructors. Internships do not satisfy the ‘S’ requirement.”

Since COVID-19 required Alma College to switch to virtual learning back in March 2020, there have also been adjustments to requirements for spring terms. Alma College had to remove all travel opportunities for students’ safety. Many juniors and seniors did not know that they would not have the opportunity to take advantage of the required “S” course, yet the college is either waving the credit or requiring another spring term of their choosing.

For the spring 2021 term, the cost of tuition is $1,764, the cost of board is $600 and no cost for room. Additional costs may include equipment, laboratory, travel and off-campus room/board fee. The cost of spring terms should not alter a student’s decision of whether to do a spring term or not since the school has grants that students can apply for to cover part of their spring term.

The two most popular options for grants amongst students are either the P-Global program or Alma Venture program. These grants are introduced to students during their second year at Alma College and can be applied to their Junior Year Applied Experience. Eligibility and the application along with other information can be found on the Alma Venture program page on

Gabby Blecke (‘21) was able to use her Alma Venture grant in a different way than most students, particularly because of her inability to travel for last year’s spring term. She says, “As a result of COVID, I had the awesome opportunity to use my venture to get my CNA certification.”

Blecke plans to attend the University of South Dakota for Occupational Therapy Doctorate in the fall. In between graduating from Alma College and beginning graduate school, she plans to work in a position that allows her to use her CNA license.

It is important to remember that, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to improve, there is hope for the future of spring terms—hope for travel, learning and growth for the both the students and faculty here at Alma College.

Alabama abortion law discussed at Alma


On Mar. 10, Dr. Wasserman, Associate Chair of the History Department and Dr. Blanchard, Chair of the Religious Studies Department had a spirited discussion about abortion hosted by the Chapel. Their discussion comes at a time when it seems as if everyone has an opinion on the issue and they hoped that their open dialogue would spark more discussions between people in the future.

Dr. Blanchard defended the pro-choice point of view throughout the discussion while Dr. Wasserman defended the pro-life point of view. Both of them believe that just because two people have opposing views does not mean that they cannot come together and have a civil discussion between one another.

Their discussion comes at a time where the abortion debate has again entered the forefront of political discourse in the United States following the passage of a near total ban on abortions in the state of Arkansas.

The law, which does not have exceptions for incest or rape would ban all abortions in the state of Arkansas. It also includes penalties of 10 years in prison and a $100,000 fine for any woman who has an abortion. The law is currently slated to go into effect on Aug. 2 barring any judicial intervention.

“Taking away women’s resources doesn’t stop abortions, it just stops safe abortions, and in those instances you’re losing two lives rather than one,” said Abigail Zerbe (‘23).

“Abortion is a healthcare and fundamental right for all women…the government has no place in a woman’s reproductive system,” said Brenna Smith (‘24).

“The first point I think is at the root of abortion is about personhood; the personhood of a fetus,” said Blanchard in her opening statements.

“The second question is who should be responsible for making a decision, who gets to decide whether a person can have an abortion?” said Blanchard.

The issues of personhood and individual choice go all the way back to the passage of Roe v. Wade in 1973, which formally legalized abortion across the United States. Since its passage Roe has faced many legal challenges including Planned Parenthood v. Casey in 1992 which was the last direct challenge to the ruling.

“Abortion is a very difficult topic to discuss,” said Wasserman in his opening statement.

As Wasserman stated, abortion has remained a very contentious issue that many people have very strong beliefs about. Because of its direct implications on people’s lives, many people harbor strong feelings one way or the other about the issue.

“I think that people often forget the difference between pro-life and pro-choice is that pro-choice is about the choice. It’s not about having an abortion but about being able to choose to do what’s best for you,” said Anika Reid (’23).

“If life starts at conception then terminating a pregnacy is the same as taking a [human] life,” said Wasserman in his defense of the pro-life argument.

The discussion between Wasserman and Blanchard continued in a civil manner and even featured questions from a few of the students who tuned into the event. The event was also moderated by Dr. Andrew Pomerville (Class of ‘01) and Chaplain of Alma College.

“I think [the topic of abortion] is necessary to model a dialogue between people who disagree on something that isn’t just spewing hatred,” said Blanchard following a student question on the importance of having an open discussion between two sides.

“We really need to step out of our personal beliefs and try to see from the other side’s point of view in order to have productive dialogue between both sides,” said Smith.

“I thought that it was important to show that with controversial [issues] like these we should be able to talk about them with one another,” said Wasserman in his concluding statement.

The event concluded with both Wasserman and Blanchard challenging others to begin a dialogue between each other on issues even if you do not agree with the other side.

Senior farewells

To the Almanian,

Working on the staff of the Almanian for the past three years has truly been a good time. I began as a sophomore writing articles every week and soon held the position of layout editor, where I’ve stayed until now. I’ve enjoyed seeing how the perception of campus has changed over the years based on the articles we’ve written. We once wrote about clubs and spaghetti dinners, but now we look at presidential elections, climate change and racial and social injustices. Article topics may have changed, but I’ve found the staff have remained the same, hilarious people they were when I joined. I truly will miss spending Sundays in the office having minor meltdowns when the computers won’t start up, or Adobe Illustrator refuses to work or any of our regular issues comes up yet again. Although annoying when they happen, I’ve found I’m rather fond of those times. After I graduate, I will take a gap year and work as a rehabilitation technician before applying for occupational therapy schools. While this ultimately may have little influence on my career and my intentions in life, I will say with certainty that the Almanian has provided a new perspective on writing that I never really intended to have. I will miss you all and this newspaper greatly.

With love,
Kate Westphal

Dear Almanian readers,

As I reflect on my time as a staff writer for The Almanian, I’m able to also retrace the steps of my life here at Alma. I began my journey with the paper during my sophomore year, needing the extra cash and feeling as though I would be able to get some writing experience out of the gig. Writing for The Almanian was much more rewarding than I ever thought it would be. The experience of seeing something you worked incredibly hard to create on the front page, scattered around campus was quite thrilling. I’ve written everything from Campus Comment and stories on new clubs to political pieces and more. Each time I was given the opportunity to write something out of my comfort zone was an opportunity for personal growth. I’m thankful for my time here at The Almanian. Working for the paper allowed me to have a deeper connection to campus life, as well as giving me a space to write about important topics often overlooked by the mass media. I appreciate The Almanian’s willingness to choose topics that may be controversial, allowing us writers the chance to spark change across our campus community. I also have a sense of admiration for the paper’s push to remain an honest and unbiased source of information, as we oftentimes aren’t given something as simple as that by larger media outlets. I hope that students continue to pick up the paper and learn something, be it about campus, the world or even themselves. Fast forward to senior year, and here I am writing my farewell to The Almanian. Although I never would have dreamt that my time here at Alma would be ending during a global pandemic, I wouldn’t have wanted my last stories to be different than they were. Not only is my time writing for the paper coming to a close, but that chapter on my undergraduate career is nearing the final pages. I’d like to thank all of the Editor-in-Chiefs I’ve had at my time at The Almanian. I’d also like to thank all of the editors, who were kind enough to accept my articles late more often than not. Lastly, I’d like to thank all of those who read my articles; I hope you enjoyed them.

Keep on reading,
Emily Henderson

Dear Almanian,

When I was hired as “sports editor” of the paper, I mistakenly thought I was hired as a sports writer. While grateful for my first paid writing opportunity, this triggered my fight or flight response; I didn’t know enough to write about sports for every edition! I was certainly not qualified to do that. Once the then editor-in-chief informed my naive self that I was instead responsible for editing the layout of the sports page, that thought of impending doom went away and I was excited to get to work. My time working as a writer and layout editor for The Almanian has felt like it lasted for six years, but also six minutes. So many stories have been written and so much feedback has been received, yet it hasn’t felt like enough. In the last three years, I’ve written articles about anything from Alma conspiracy theories, on-campus events or popular culture, to more investigative works where I was in conversation with administration regarding larger campus issues. Throughout my time as a writer and layout editor, I have worked under three incredible editors-in-chief: Jelly, Brittany and now Bailey. These strong women have helped me grow into a more confident and capable writer and I appreciate their willingness to help me whenever I feel lost and ask silly questions. Our staff advisor, Matt Cicci has also been an immense help to me. He always sends his edits and opinions with some sort of witty comment and doesn’t judge me too hard when I send him emails with no files attached. Matt has guided me through a tumultuous senior year, which I am grateful for. I look forward to Sundays when we’re in the office because it is the only time I get to catch up with the other editors. We bond over reading Sorrow-Scopes when they come out, impatiently wait for Joe’s to open together and scream over every minor inconvenience that comes up while editing the pages. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Though I will not be missing the awful formatting issues on page 5, InDesign’s inability to be user-friendly or when my mouse says it is not charged after being plugged in for literally weeks at a time, I will miss these aforementioned things. The Almanian has given me an outlet for the last three years. Yes, it has given me journalistic experience and some extra cash, but moreso, it has given me a place where I can speak out about issues that I feel are important. This position has shown me time and time again why I want to be a journalist, and the people attached to the position are making it hard to say goodbye. To our current staff members and those who join in the future, know that the work you are putting in is important, and for the love of God, make sure to hit 3000 characters without spaces.

With love,
Jordyn Bradley

Dear Almanian,

I can’t believe how fast the years have gone by. I became the Web Editor of the Almanian at the end of my freshman year and have been managing the website ever since. Through these past three years, I have learned countless things by working on the Almanian staff. I have managed teams of people, social media accounts and a website. It was an amazing opportunity that has given me skills to prepare me for graduation, which is quickly approaching! I have seen so many amazing staff members come and go. To the staff who I have had the pleasure of working with: I truly enjoy reading and viewing your content every week; it’s the best part of my job. The editors have done an amazing job taking the Almanian to a whole new level over the past few years, and I have loved to watch it grow. After three years, I say my final goodbye to the Almanian and my fellow staff members. I can’t wait to keep up with Alma happenings by reading the website! I know that the Almanian is in good hands with all of you.

Your friend,
Chapin Kartsounes

Dear fellow Scots,

The past four years here have flown by with many challenges and positive memories that I will always remember. During my first initial visit on campus, I could tell there was small family feel between students, faculty and staff. From every organization and club that I have been a part of, this family culture was centered around each one. Upon my reflection on my time here at Alma, I want to thank my fellow wrestling teammates and coaches who fought with me, laughed along with me and stayed hard with me. I want to thank my professors who pushed me to take on challenges, but always believed in me every step of the way. I want to thank the people that I may have not known but have allowed that family feel to exist throughout Alma College. I also want to thank my many close friends that
have helped me develop into the person I am today. Finally, to the underclassmen, keep on the traditions, take on challenges and keep Alma College as a close-knit community.

Zach Jandereski

Understanding parking on campus



As is likely common knowledge, Alma College allows students who have vehicles to park on various locations on campus. At larger universities, it is not always possible for students to have a vehicle on campus, much less to have the ability to park in such close proximity to residential halls.

Alma College offers two different types of parking passes. Students are able to park in maroon or teal parking, silver parking or in magenta parking at the First Presbyterian Church located one block West on Superior Street. Maroon and teal lot parking passes cost $300, the silver lot passes cost $250, and magenta parking passes costs $150.

The Center for Student Opportunities (CSO) is where students are able to pick up their parking passes. When a student purchases a parking pass, they will be charged to their student account.

You are able to register for a parking pass from either the student portal ( or the parking office. The parking office is located in the CSO and has open hours from 1pm-3pm on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Campus security addresses all parking violations by distributing online tickets while the parking office handles appeals. If a student has any concerns regarding parking, students can email

Bailey Allison (‘23) is the parking assistant who handles all appeals and parking inquiries. Allison says that “Students who want to appeal tickets can either do so through the parking tab in their Alma Portal or they can email [].”

Students are able to view a map of where their pass allows them to park on the Alma College website, or at Here, students can see all options of parking which can also impact which parking pass is best. Allison adds “Students can also find parking rules and regulations on campus website for parking.”

Alma College is currently looking to update policies regarding parking here on campus. The Student Congress President, Will Brown (‘22), is currently an acting member of the Policy and Planning committee and intends to “examine current policies and work with faculty and staff to make any necessary changes that will benefit the parking experience for all of us here on campus.”

Brown is encouraging all students who would like their voice heard on the matter to email him at Any and all suggestions brought forward will be included in the discussion surrounding Alma College parking policies.

The Spanish flu at Alma


Young College men – some in uniform – wearing cloth masks to help prevent the spread of the Spanish Flu in 1918.

“Fashions change, even in war times.” These were the opening words within the December edition of the Weekly Almanian. At this point in time, Alma College emerged into a new chapter of its history. President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany and a deadly form of influenza was spreading globally. Faces familiar to students—friends, family, professors and neighbors—were either off to war in France or covered by a cloth mask.

Amid The Great War, Alma College quarantined in an attempt to slow the spread of the deadly respiratory infection known to millions as the Spanish Flu. By 1918, the Spanish influenza virus had claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands worldwide. Its arrival signs were felt around the state, from Detroit, Ann Arbor, Traverse City, Lansing and even here in Alma.

Masks became a necessary measure to combat the spread of this respiratory disease. Even over one hundred years ago, the Alma College student body’s reaction to masks has remained constant.

“Now must the eyes smile instead of the lips. Now must the forehead and the ears blush in place of the cheeks. Truly the eyes must bear the heaviest burden of expression.” The college was handling the pandemic well in 1918. Students and faculty were more than happy to help their neighbors in a time of social and political upheaval.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Alma College students would uphold the college’s mission statement values. For students to “think critically, serve generously, lead purposefully and live responsibly as stewards of the world they bequeath to future generations.” The generation that lived through the pandemic performed all of these values and more to help stop the spread of the Spanish flu. Today, our campus follows in their footsteps.

Life changed at Alma, and the graceful way the writer recorded the campus—despite the circumstances—brings a smile to one’s face.

“Dr. Brokenshire wears his mask as he attends to everything—religiously. He never pushes it to one side or up or down, nor does he sneak breath around the corner, but always sees to it that his voice and every breath is carefully strained.”

Student men of the SATC—Student Army Training Corps—sang at Alma College’s Chapel in December 1918, adorned with cloth masks distributed by the Red Cross.

“Chapel was, at first, the place of many amusing sights. The seats were filled with mummies who had been embalmed in sitting postures in order to watch the world revolve. Soon, however, there was much discomfort when, as they sang, the notes would re-echo and roll around inside the masks awhile before finding the outlet over the right ear or under the left eye. Sometimes this process would cause an unpleasant sensation called a tickle, so that the unfortunate person forthwith sneezed. Whereat the righteous drew away and whispered influenza.”

These values will always have relevance. Even in a society battling over masks, Alma College has always done what is right for its community.

Alma College honors women


March is Women’s History Month. The month, which is centered around International Women’s Day on March 8, is celebrated with global events honoring the achievements of women and raising awareness for women’s equality.

While International Women’s Day has only been recognized as an official United Nations observance since 1975, its origins date all the way back to 1908, when thousands of women took to the New York City streets to protest working conditions.

In 1909, the U.S. celebrated the first National Women’s Day, honoring the women involved in the protest the year before. Russia joined the celebration and many other nations followed suit not long after.

In 1978, Molly Murphy MacGregor, a schoolteacher from Sonoma County, California, decided to create a Women’s History Week within her district. The idea caught on and suddenly schools across the country were celebrating Women’s History Week.

In Feb. of 1980, President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the week of March 8 National Women’s History Week. In the years following, President Reagan issued an annual week-long celebration as well.

Women’s History Month, however, did not get its start until 1987. The Women’s National History Project lobbied to extend the holiday. Finally, Congress passed a proclamation and Women’s History Month was established.

Over the years, Alma College has been fortunate to have many great women on campus. One of these inspirational women is former Alma College librarian, Helen MacCurdy.

Helen MacCurdy donated her home to the college to be used as a residence for Alma College women, as well as a resource center, providing information about women’s and gender rights and history.

The residence is home to an extensive collection of literary and media resources. When the building was renovated in 1992, retired Michigan State University women’s studies coordinator, Dr. Joanne Rettke donated her own collection of resource materials.

Today, residents of the MacCurdy House are tasked with creating and organizing volunteer opportunities. Over the years, the house has welcomed many guest speakers and writers, including Eve Ensler, Lucille Clifton and Dorothy Allison.

Kaitlyn Stymiest (’22) admires Professor of Religious Studies, Kathryn Blanchard. “She is an extremely great professor and one of the wisest, kindest people I have met,” said Stymiest.

Another influential woman in Stymiest’s life is her sorority president, Lexy Maas. “How she manages [the sorority] is a mystery to me, but she does it with grace. She is overall such a hard-worker and such a light in our lives.”

Alma College history professor Liping Bu has also been a positive influence in Stymiest’s life here at Alma, “I adored her class. She carries herself with the greatest dignity and a sense of humor to match.”

Women’s History Month is an important time for Kayla Schmitz (’21). “[It] means making extra time to appreciate, learn about and empower women from all walks of life,” Schmitz said.

Schmitz admires Professor of English and Gender Studies Prathim-Maya Dora-Laskey, who doubles as Schmitz academic advisor. Schmitz also feels fortunate to have learned from former Professor of Communication, Joanne Gilbert.

In addition to her professors, Schmitz looks up to her boss at the Alma College Bookstore/Mailroom, Ashley Strawn and the women custodians she worked with at Facilities and Service Management.

Schmitz also adds, “I try my best to be my most authentic self, to consistently educate myself and others and try to stand up for myself in any situation. That is what I have learned from these women and what I try to emulate on a daily basis.”

Seniors discuss commencement


The campus community received word via an email from President Abernathy that as long as COVID-19 cases on campus and in Michigan remain low, the graduating class will have an in-person commencement ceremony on May 1, 2021 outdoors and on campus.

Many seniors are grateful for the opportunity to have an in-person commencement ceremony, especially since the class of 2020 had a virtual commencement last July.

“I think that it’s awesome that we actually get a ceremony to celebrate our efforts and [our] time commitment,” said Savana Shellman (‘21).

“I am glad the administration finally told us the plan [regarding commencement], and hope they keep us informed during the next few weeks,” said Elizabeth Flatoff (‘21).

Due to commencement being over a month and a half away, it is unsure whether or not guests will be permitted to attend the in-person ceremony, and if so, how many.

“It would just be nice to know if we are allowed to bring guests or not sooner rather than later,” said Nolan Kukla (‘21).

“I wouldn’t be [upset] if we can’t have guests, but I’d rather just know. Some people’s parents work weekends and would have to take time off. Additionally, some parents might have to make travel plans and I’m sure it would be better if they figured it out sooner rather than later.”

According to President Abernathy, the wait on the decision to have guests is due to health department regulations on attendees based on the type and size of an event.

“I am open to visitors, [but] it would be amazing if people could get tested before coming to [commencement],” said Michelle Malkowski (‘21).

“I think [that would] give everyone peace of mind.”

“[If guests are allowed at commencement], I think [they] should be limited in order to not have an outbreak on campus,” said Shellman.

A decision regarding guests will be made in the coming weeks but regardless of the outcome, commencement will be livestreamed for people unable to attend.

In the email sent out to campus by President Abernathy, he also reminded graduating seniors to order their caps and gowns from Jostens before the deadline on Mar. 20. Many seniors have issues with the price of the caps and gowns.

“I just think that over 80 dollars for a basic cap and gown is excessive,” said Flatoff.

“I know the school is going through a third party to get them, but especially during this time where guests aren’t guaranteed for graduation, 80 bucks is a lot to drop on a piece of fabric I am using once.”

A graduating senior who wished to remain anonymous also had an issue with the price of the caps and gowns through Jostens.

“Caps and gowns are advertised as $70, but with taxes and shipping it’s $87,” said anonymous.

“That is almost $100 to walk at [a] graduation that we have been working for for years.”

With the pandemic, many students have been unable to return to off-campus jobs during the school year, due to the campus COVID-19 policy of not traveling outside the greater Alma area.

“So many students typically work off-campus as opposed to on-campus,” said anonymous.

“With a limited number of on-campus jobs, how do you expect full time students to just find the money to pay for this? It feels as though this is just another disadvantage that students with no financial support from [their] families have to constantly face.”

Regardless of the protocol and what is to come, the spring 2021 graduating class have an in-person commencement ceremony to look forward to following the end of the winter semester.

“I’m glad the college is actually putting on a ceremony for us; [it feels] like our senior year has just revolved around COVID-19,” said Shellman.

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