The first annual Community Conversation Breakfast in the Mary Sykes room of Upper Baldwin was hosted by Dr. Harry Bonner, a dedicated community member, and Gabby Henriksen, a senior from Royal Oak, Mich., on Friday. Invited members of Albion College and the Albion community arrived at 8 a.m. to discuss efforts to close the gap between the college and community.
Over a warm breakfast served by Albion College’s Bon Apetitet, laughter filled the room as members conversed and showed appreciation through many thankful comments for the new annual gathering.
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“As I heard about [First Annual Community Conversation breakfast], I thought about the very first time I drove into town, back when I was considering joining Albion,” said Bob Anderson, Vice President of alumni relations and advancement. “And as I drove down Superior street, I called my wife and said ‘There is a lot of challenges here, lots of opportunity, but there are only about five storefronts that are open, so it is going to be a little different for us’.”
The same thought echoed in several other attendee’s remarks throughout the event.
Anderson went on to explain how far Albion has come from when he first arrived. Over the past several months, with the help of the BVK campaign agency, the college has been conducting research on its values message, which focuses on how people understand the promoted value of Albion. In order to do this, the agency conducted interviews with students, staff, faculty, and alumni.
“The information was really interesting,” said Anderson. “I think one of the most important pieces of information I can share this morning is about how this is a welcoming small town. This is a town where people can learn how to live together and how to work together, and that they love doing that.”
The campaign agency, which is known for emphasizing the importance of higher academics, made it clear to Anderson that the community of Albion played a vital role in the college’s value message.
“[The company] said [Albion] is really a place where people learn from each other as they do everything, not just through the college but through the way that this town interacts with each other,” said Anderson.
Bringing Albion Together
Recently, the community appointed Darwin McClary to take on the role of Albion City Manager. Speaking on his behalf, Mayor of Albion, David Atchison,spoke highly of new community efforts.
“In the opportunities that [McClary] sees, so much is possible,” said Atchison, “He just exudes enthusiasm.”
Atchison continued by sharing his first experience of Albion and how it has come a long way since then.
“Albion is really moving forward as a community, and I don’t think it is any secret that I have been a strong supporter for Albion College ever since I’ve been here,” said Atchison.
Many attendees of the event agreed that the college is one of the best things going on in the community. Even in his absence, Albion College President Mauri Ditzler was greatly appreciated for his vision and hard work towards promoting the members of the college to also play a role in the community.
“[Ditzler] supports the community and does things that benefit everybody in the community,” said Atchison.
As notes of appreciation and agreement filled the room, the conversation turned toward the current students and youth of Albion.
Brain Marrison, Albion High School ‘94 graduate, plays a large role in the community as director of community and youth development. He is also a member of the John Maxwell Team that supports leadership training.
“The first thing I did when I got here was I sat down with the mayor and talked a little bit about my goals and my vision,” said Marrison.
After sitting in on panels and discussions within the Albion community, Marrison came to realize that Albion is a very powerful community.
“There is a sense that there is something going on here, and you can feel it,” said Marrison.“It is the sense that while you listen to these people engage and talk in the community, and their vision for what Albion is right now and what it will be in the future. I stand in awe.”
Several community members in attendance were retired teaching staff from Albion public schools. Others were parents whose children attended Albion schools all the way through high school, eventually winding up at Albion College.
Robert Giles, Principle of Harrington Elementary school, commented on how important it is to have a thriving education system in a town.
“I have met some outstanding people, and I plan to stay here [in Albion],” said Giles. “I know and understand that without a vitable public school in any community it can not strive, it cannot grow.”
Born and raised in Albion, Al Benson, Pastor at the Albion Free Methodist Church, has seen what it takes to make a great community.
“Everybody talks about diversity now. We were diverse,” said Benson. “Albion has come a long way since then, but what I see in this community is what I saw growing up – different people, of all ages, all sexes, all races, coming together again trying to make this community so much better.”
CORRECTION. This article, originally published Oct. 16, has been corrected Oct. 16 as follows:
The college’s marketing partner, originally cited as 160over90, is BVK.