By Lee Ann Cox
If you think of the college years as a time when young adults break away, do their own thing, and phone home primarily for financial reinforcements, well, the times they are a-changing back. According to a recent article in The New York Times, baby-boomer children, rather than being alienated from their parents, are involving them in both the major and minor issues of their lives at school.
Here at Champlain, we’ve discovered an extension of that trend: students walking in their parents’ paths and, in a postmodern twist, parents following their children to campus. Meet five such families and see how a Champlain education can bridge the generation gap.
Janie Hadsel was in Saudi Arabia where her husband was working, doing what Western women do
Then she logged on to Champlain’s Web site, to see what was going on in Justin’s world, and she discovered the College’s distance learning program. Web access was new and tentative in Saudi Arabia, but Janie enrolled and started working on a degree. “I was amazed that I was able to get on and make it through my classes,” she says. “And in the process, I would hear from other students about what was going on in Burlington. It was a connection to Justin.”
Today, she’s living in Maryland, and working steadily on her associate’s degree in Web Development & Management and is planning to start a home-based Web design business. For Janie, the online format is a fabulous innovation. Her son couldn’t disagree more.
Justin Hadsel is more traditional. He prefers a classroom and personal contact with his teachers. “I got very lucky when I ended up coming to Champlain,” says the senior Multimedia & Graphic Design major. When asked what he got here that he believes he would not have gotten at another college, his answer is emphatic: “Attention,” and the opportunity to work with “some extraordinarily talented professors.”
Being at college at the same time as his mom, Justin says, has changed the dynamic at home. “It’s kind of weird,” he explains. “Nowadays, instead of talking about how I have to do the laundry, she wants to talk about the newest program.”
Dennis “Fish” Demers has spent a lot of time walking around his alma mater over the past few years, recalling old study rooms, old classmates, old times. But it isn’t hyper-nostalgia that has him roaming campus, it’s his two sons, both Champlain legacies.
“It’s the only place I wanted to go,” says Bradley, the older of the Demers brothers. “When I was growing up, I always watched my father in his business. I enjoyed seeing him working with people. I just wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps.”
After graduating from Champlain with a business degree, Dennis went on to Castleton State, where he earned his bachelor’s in economics and then took over his father’s business in Barre. Back in Burlington today, he’s impressed with the evolution of the College, the new buildings and the expanded options for students.
“Champlain was one of the best two-year colleges around back then,” Dennis recalls. “And now, there’s a lot more for my sons than there was for me, which is great. The world changes and improves.”
One of those improvements is Champlain’s transition to a four-year institution. Unlike their dad, Bradley and Brent don’t have to leave to get a bachelor’s degree and they’re enjoying that advantage.
“I’m going to have a bachelor’s in Marketing Management,” says Brent, who was recently awarded the H. Dean Pearl Memorial Award for his enthusiastic support for student activities. He hopes to spin his degree -- along with a passion for motorcycles and snowboarding -- into a successful career at a place like Burton or Fox Racing. He also plans to get a pilot’s license. “I have a creative side,” Brent explains. “I don’t want to be stuck behind a desk with a suit and tie. I think my brother’s like that,” he adds. “He has a desk.”
Bradley does have a desk, at IBM, where he has worked full-time since getting his associate’s degree in Professional Studies in 1999. The company is picking up his tuition and Bradley has taken enough evening courses -- often on a full-time schedule -- to graduate with a bachelor’s in business this spring. “I expect to go to grad school to get my MBA,” says Bradley.
Brent and Bradley have diverging aspirations, but they share a work ethic and sense of commitment instilled by their father. And they’ll always have a common connection to Champlain. “Obviously it’s something special,” Dennis says.
So no one in this tightly knit Vermont family was surprised to see the third-generation son matriculate at Champlain. “It’s cool being part of a legacy,” says Tanner, who graduated with an associate’s degree in Accounting and is now waiting for acceptance into a four-year economics program, a major that Champlain doesn’t yet offer. The older Palmers think it’s pretty cool too -- they give each other a look, laugh and then beam. “We’re proud of him,” Alan says. “And his grades are better than either of ours were.”
But Tanner’s path may have been a bit smoother and straighter than that of those who came before him. “I grew up on a farm,” explains Irving, when asked why he enrolled in what was then Burlington Business College. “I knew I didn’t want to farm. I wanted an education.”
It’s a theme the Palmers return to again and again. They’re Champlain-oriented because they’re education-oriented, and they like the individual attention from faculty and the hands-on work ethic that the College has always been known for. Of course, back in 1935, Irving says, business education included training in shorthand and perfect penmanship. By contrast, Tanner says, “We were taking software classes to learn Power Point.”
Champlain has come a long away, just as the Palmer family has since Irving left the farm 68 years ago. But some things never change. “We believe in learning,” says Alan. “This is what our family does.”
“We thought it was the cat’s pajamas,” says Mel Israel, playfully turning back the clock to 1964 and his freshman year at Champlain. Hamrick Hall had just been built and the College offered meal service for the first time. “It was a great place to meet and play cards,” he recalls.
Fast-forward nearly 40 years and there’s another young Israel on campus. Jodi is enrolled in a brand new major -- Tourism & Event Management -- and her activities include a study tour to Las Vegas, where she went behind the scenes of a major resort hotel and casino. If she’s been dealt a different hand than her dad, both Israels say that the College’s fundamental appeal has stayed the same.
“I wanted a smaller school where I wouldn’t just be a number in a classroom,” Jodi says. “My dad told me what the teaching was like here and I thought it would work for me.”
“The quality was always there,” notes Mel, who graduated with an associate’s in accounting, then went on to earn a bachelor of science in business education at Plymouth State. Mel is a practicing accountant, but he’s also a longtime entrepreneur who, among other ventures, amassed 17 drugstores before selling to Brooks.
“It’s really what I learned at Champlain that gave me the ability to do all these things,” he says. “What I got after I left [Plymouth State] was a piece of paper. What I got at Champlain was an education.”
Mel has returned the favor, serving as a trustee for 11 years before retiring from the board last fall. “I’ve been affiliated with the school in one manner or another since I graduated,” he says. “It just means a lot to me to be associated with a school that’s so caring about its students.”
And clearly, though both say there was no pressure, it means a lot to have his daughter attend Champlain too. “I knew she would be cared for and get a good education. But,” he adds, “she never comes home.”
That may be an ongoing problem for a parent of a student bent on a career in the travel business. But typically, the elder Israel is behind her. “My dad is very supportive,” Jodi says. “He’s got all the great qualities a dad should have.”
When Elizabeth Claflin is awarded her bachelor’s degree next year, with a triple major in Business, Marketing Management and Iinternational Business, her mother won’t be in the audience with the other proud parents. She’ll be right behind her, collecting her own diploma. Peggy Claflin is following in her daughter’s footsteps, a turn of events that pleases them both.
“I was home-schooled,” says Elizabeth, “and she was teaching me. Now I’m giving her advice about professors and assignments. The role-switching is interesting -- and fun.” For Peggy, who’s working on her two-year Accounting degree and plans to get a bachelor’s after that, the support has softened her transition back to college.
“It’s interesting being in school in middle age,” she says. “I wondered how the kids would treat me.” But no worries, her daughter told her -- she’d fit right in. And she does -- she’s even been mistaken for Elizabeth’s sister. The pair like to log on to campus computers to send each other e-mails, often making plans to meet for lunch. “We’ve always been close; this just adds to our relationship,” Peggy says. “But she doesn’t like it if I put my arm around her on campus.”
Just as Champlain has broadened their interactions with each other, both say it’s opened the world to them as individuals. “I feel like I have a lot of potential now,” Peggy says. “I’ve already gotten an education and a position from Champlain.” She secured a job through the College working for an attorney, who wants her to continue with more responsibility after she graduates.
Elizabeth got a job through Champlain, too, a marketing internship that turned into a paid position. She helps promote events and produce ads for Hall Communications’ four radio stations, and she’s the weekend DJ for the country station WOKO. Elizabeth was also selected to represent Vermont on a trade mission to Taiwan and Shanghai early this year. She traveled with the Vermont Chamber of Commerce to help recruit international students and bring business into the state.
“I’ve been able to get involved in so many different things at Champlain,” says Elizabeth. “Different opportunities keep coming along and I think, wow, why me?”
Elizabeth has gotten a lot of recognition on campus because she’s active and she works hard. But there is a little matter with her grades. “It kills me to say it,” she laughs, “but my mom’s GPA is higher than mine.” Peggy has a 4.0, Elizabeth a 3.99.
“I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing,” Elizabeth says, “but perfectionism runs in the family. She always told me, ‘Be the best you can. Don’t settle for halfway,’” Elizabeth continues. “Advice has a way of coming back to people.”