Malcolm Ryder

One of the more glorious things about Wilson College in the pre-Facebook days of 1973 – 76 is that it was pre-Facebook. The mystery of not really knowing  how many memories would survive, and not really knowing whether  we would outlive the College or vice-versa, was an important part of being a member. Bonding amongst others at Wilcox meant knowing things amongst each other that were worth talking about AND that other people not there simply weren’t ever going to know. Much later, some of that stuff has aged beautifully, some has wisped away, and having been forged in the ‘70’s, some of it just got lost and we could never remember where we left it.

The “back in my day” stories are best, however, when we find out from them that the wackiness that made us special then is exactly the same kind of wackiness that makes people special there now. A lot of it is about being around adults who for some reason tolerate, advise, even feed children willingly, just to see what will happen. Some of it is about surviving against the odds, like having a basement theater company that produces outdoor plays drawing Major Theater crowds but also avoids getting shut down for fire code violations indoors involving deep fried chicken parties. Some of it is about excelling at the shamelessly recreational, like beating the P.U. JV volleyball team in a dare and a tournament, or having the greatest touch football team on campus year after year, or having the Foosball singles AND doubles campus champions in residence, plus some pretty good homegrown bands. Some is about leadership, inadvertent or otherwise, with people doing independent or even contrarian majors to back up their idiosyncratic thinking  of the type that Princeton is supposed to actually be about, and having Wilson as a pulpit (at best) and a safe harbor (at least). Some of it is unrepeatable wierdness, like living directly over the volleyball court and learning to scale the outside of the building effortlessly in all kinds of weather to get on or off the roof or just back into the room. There’s 3am whining with or to people you didn’t previously know you might like, who for some reason seem so much more accessible between 2 and 4, that the next day you start sticking up for them, what’s up with that. And there’s life-long imprinting by people just down the hall with pet ducks, who guided you from the dark side of juvenile idiocy or lameness, to the bright side of possibly turning into someone worthwhile some day maybe if. But here’s the deal: it all was what we made it. Back in my day, I got to hang around as a co-chairperson with Pam Wesson ‘76, standing on the shoulders of giants Ray Sawhill ‘76 and Martha Eszersky ‘76, and I watched them make Wilson what it was supposed to be: home away from home, a coupla bucks well spent, getting important stuff to grow fast, hangin wit da homies, and leaving the place in better shape than it was when we got there. What you’d hear from people who want to talk now about Wilson back then is that if we could do it over again, we probably would, only not now but back then again. That’s the way you’re supposed to feel about it if you’re there now, but you might not realize it for 10, 20, 30 years -- except for most of the time, if you’re not screwing it up now. If we found out you didn’t know where you are now, we’d probably have to open up a can of whipass and go all annoyed on you.

-- Malcolm Ryder ‘76 --