A legacy as defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary is “something transmitted by or received from an ancestor or predecessor or from the past.” Reading a definition from a dictionary is fine, but what does it actually mean? In the case of Albion College, the term legacy refers to a person. Specifically, a legacy is a student who had a member of their family attend Albion. What the concept of being a legacy actually means to those it applies to depends on who you talk to.
According to Albion College Financial Services, there are about 130 students who are currently receiving a legacy scholarship. That means about 130 people have a relative who previously attended Albion College. The relative can be anyone, like a parent, stepparent, sibling, aunt or uncle.
I am a legacy because my mother attended Albion. For me, being an Albion College legacy doesn’t normally mean all that much. When my mother visits me on campus, I like being able to see things as she saw them when she graduated in 1984. I like talking to her about what has changed on campus. But when my mother is not here, being a legacy really only means that I get some extra money from the college in the form of a scholarship. Albion College is my home, but I don’t tend to think of my familial connection to it.
Some students have similar opinions about being a legacy that I do. Molly Sprague-Rice, a Owosso, Michigan, sophomore, enjoys Albion, but she doesn’t necessarily think of her time on campus in terms of being a legacy. Sprague-Rice’s mother graduated in 1978.
“I got more money coming to Albion, so that made it easier for me. But also like that, my mom went here,” said Sprague-Rice. “It’s a completely different college than what she originally thought, but it’s the same buildings. She knows where everything is, but she doesn’t really know any of the professors. So it’s kind of like my own unique experience.”
Other students recognize the importance of Albion to their family, but they are trying to make their college experiences their own. One such student is a member of the swim team, Midland, Michigan, sophomore, Mary Noble. Mary’s mother, Suzanne (Leiby) Noble (‘84), was on the swim team and has numerous swimming accomplishments, including setting nine Albion records. For Mary, her mother’s accomplishments are inspiring and she feels “more motivation seeing her name on the record board,” but she is trying to make her own experiences.
“Sometimes I feel some pressure to live up to what she did on the swim team, but I think that we’re both different people,” said Mary. “I’m trying to make my experience my own, so I don’t really concern myself as much with trying to identify with Albion in the way my mom did.”
For others, being a legacy is something that they think is really cool. Holly Pyper (‘16), is one of those people. Holly’s mother, father and maternal grandmother previously attended Albion. In an email, Holly describes the amazing connection among her family that being a legacy gave her.
“To me, being a legacy means having a unique and a special bond with my family,” said Holly. “We share in our collegiate experiences. We share in our passion for our school. We share in a home away from home.”
Each individual has their own idea of what being a legacy means to us, but as we get older, our opinions may change. Because both her mother and her daughter attended Albion, Lee Pyper,‘81, is someone who has experienced multiple perspectives. In the time since she was on campus, Lee’s opinion on being a legacy has changed.
“Being a legacy when I was in school was never a big deal,” said Lee in an email. “No one really ever thought twice about being a legacy. Today it’s nice to read all about the families that have had several generations attend Albion. It makes you feel special.”
Jim Whitehouse (‘69), Major Gifts relationship officer, is one of those individuals who is a part of a long line of family that has attended Albion College. As the grandson of former college President Dr. William W. Whitehouse, he’s had Albion as a part of his life for a long time. Much like the Pyper family, Whitehouse’s opinions have been altered with time.
“It was important to me then, but is a lot more important as I’ve gotten older. You become more aware of the symbolism and meanings of things like that,” said Whitehouse.
For alumni parents of Albion students, their children provide a way for them to re-live college memories and provide them with a common language and experience. Alumni are also able to discuss the ways in which things have changed since they left Albion. This is the experience that Molly Sprague-Rice’s mother Elizabeth Rice (‘78) has.
“When I visit Molly in Albion, many places look familiar to me,” said Elizabeth. “Many places also are new and unfamiliar to me. It feels nostalgic to walk around the study places Molly has found, knowing that some of these places were my study spots too.”
The concept of being Albion College legacies creates different responses in students and their relatives, but what does it mean to the school?
“On a more business-like level, legacies are a great pool of potential recruits,” said Whitehouse. “When you are talking to a high school student, trying to convince them Albion is the place for them, you have to sell them, and you have to sell their parents. If the parents are already sold, then some percentage of the job is already done. But that’s minor.”
On the other hand, the major meaning of legacies is how they affect the college and community environment.
According to Marsha Whitehouse (‘70), the alumni ambassador coordinator, having legacies “enriches the whole environment on campus. It’s very special to those people, and it provides stories. It enhances the college community.”
This environment helps Albion College to become a home for many people while they are here, and that feeling doesn’t really dissipate when they leave Albion. For families that have this legacy connection, it can provide them with a way to share experiences and relate in a way that might not otherwise be possible.
Photo by Katherine Buzan