FYI Magazine

Golden Memories

Members of the Fifty-Year Club and Elmhurst students find common ground.

It was a classic, yet creative college prank. George Tormohlen, Tom Sawyer, both Class of ’61, and two of their dorm mates decided to hijack a mannequin from the local Grant’s department store and place it in the bed of an unsuspecting friend as a bedtime surprise.

The foursome successfully snatched the mannequin from Grant’s, but they were caught by the Elmhurst police before making it back to campus in their getaway car. Hauled off to the local jail, they awaited their fate behind bars for three hours. The Elmhurst dean who was called to the station to retrieve the students said for all he cared, the police could keep them there. But the powers-that-be at the department store intervened, granting the miscreants a reprieve.

“We had some great times,” Sawyer recalled during a tea for members of the Class of 1961 celebrating their 50-year reunion on the Friday afternoon of Homecoming 2011 in October. “We were a close-knit group of guys, and there was a lot of razzing going on. All good-natured, of course.”

Sawyer, a retired professor of social work who lives in Pueblo, Colorado, was no stranger to on-campus teasing, given his literary namesake. (He is no relation to Elmhurst psychology professor Tom Sawyer.) Tormohlen, his partner in mischief, is a retired minister from Prairie Village, Kansas.

The weekend’s festivities brought 40 members of the Class of ’61 to campus. Nine members of the class organized the program: John Bock of Elmore, Ohio;  Joyce Chum Carey of Oak Park; David Kniker of Kewanee; Ron Koeppl of Geneva; Charlie Kreichelt of Lombard; Richard Lammert of Enfield, New Hampshire; Marlene Dettmer Peaslee of Lombard; Richard Schnelle of Louisville, Kentucky; and Gail Schreiber of San Diego, California.

Hearing tales from the past impressed Elmhurst students at the tea, which was held at the home of Chaplain H. Scott Matheney. “It makes you realize that you’re part of this rich tradition and how important it is to stay tied to this college, to stay connected,” said Chris Poulakos ’12, a psychology major from Glen Ellyn.

To ensure that current and future generations of Elmhurst students continue to stay connected, Poulakos and a few other undergraduates are working with the Office of Alumni Relations to launch the Student Alumni Association. The group aims to generate school spirit among today’s students in the hope that the ties forged with Elmhurst will continue after graduation.

“Elmhurst is a small school where everyone reaches out to make sure you feel comfortable and at home,” Poulakos said. “That happens while you’re here and should continue after you leave.”

Beverley (McNulty) Krohn ’10, assistant director of alumni relations, said the time is right for such a group. “This College has such rich traditions and a strong culture of pride,” she said. “At the end of your freshman year, you’re considered an alum and you forever belong to the Elmhurst College community. This group aims to foster that sense of belonging.”

For the moment, the Office of Alumni Relations is gauging interest in the group among current students and organizing events such as on-campus Spirit Days. In the future, Krohn would like the group to expand its scope and develop a philanthropic arm. “Many students here benefit from the philanthropy of others,” she said. “For this to continue, we must pay it forward to future generations of students, just as those who graduated some 50 years ago are doing.”

Back at the tea, Tormohlen and Sawyer recalled that as part of the plot, they had planned to somehow send the mannequin up a flagpole, although they had never nailed down how they would pull that off. After hearing the reason for the mannequin’s abduction, the Grant’s representative said the students could keep it for the weekend. By then, however, the four undergrads had tired of the escapade. Besides, the Backwards Dance (where women invited men) was that evening, and each had a date waiting on campus.

John Sallstrom '61 talks with Christopher Poulakos '12, a member of the newly formed Student Alumni Association.

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