Penn Pizza, Bethlehem PA, Q. Cassetti 2011Wow. It was quite a few days. We are all running a bit ragged. Thursday, we drove down to Westminster, MD with a few side trips (which included a tour of Susquehanna University in Selingsgrove, PA). Susquehanna is a nice school…beautiful campus, nice facilities, nice students, wonderful music facilities. Standard fare liberal arts program (a math, a science, a this, a that to graduate)…but we were charmed by a music teacher who spoke with us (and her string instrument students) which made Alex feel good and wanted. Plus, they have a remarkable series of luxe practice rooms alone with one complete with a pipe organ. Susquehanna wasnt planned for, but it was a good thing as a point counterpoint for the other schools we saw. As an aside, the graphics and graphics program that Susquehanna were extrordinary. They really have their stuff in gear insofar as marketing their institution and parsing that information. Kudos.

We drove around and through Elizabethtown College (Elizabethtown PA) and it felt like Susquehanna to a lesser degree. It was 6 p.m. and we were all anxious to get to Westminster MD to spend the night as we had a day with McDaniel (formerly Western Maryland College), and one of the 40 Schools that Change Lives . I have become a real believer in the 40 Colleges ideals and it hasn’t disappointed me. 

We did our usual drive about to get the lay of the land, see the campus before we officially see the campus and do a little walk about to see what was happening. Alex was electric. He loved the school even before we dropped into a gospel choir rehearsal or  walked through the arts building.  He felt that this place felt right…and this might be a place he could grow.

The next day was a perfect fall day (so things couldnt help but be good). Rob and I had a separate experience than Alex (he attended a class) and we all met up in their nice cafeteria (we were offered lunch) and had a chance to meet Alex’s contact, ask some more direct questions, and generally feel at ease. I loved hearing from the President of the school as well as the Provost. Their amazing, friendly and direct way was philosophically in line with our thinking on education followed up with some very straight talking from the Dean of Student Life and the Admissions Director who were charming but pointedly candid. So refreshing from the standard bubble that most schools wrap around the talk around funding, lifestyle and living, and the world outside the classroom.

We toured the music building on our own, but he Gospel Choir, the people and the bright students we had a chance to talk to  and see on campus really said great things about McDaniel. Put it on the list.

We got back on the road to get to Bethlehem as we had a tour at Moravian College the next morning. It was dark when we got into Bethlehem, driving down the “wrong side” of town by Lehigh, laughing at the old train bridge that held the Sands Casino logotype, and then finding our way to see Moravian by night (before dinner). The campus is beautiful and historic (6th oldest school in the nation)— all stone buildings and everything we love. Rob left Alex and me off at the student center where they were having the most lacklustre pep rally I have ever seen. Pathetic. It was punch and cookies and balloons. No college mojo. It was students sitting in chairs around the perimeter of the room shaking foam #1 fingers at each other. Wooo hooo. Alex looked worried.

We then went into town to have a nice dinner at the Bethlehem Brew Works which for Rob and me felt very “Pittsburgh” in the tone and feeling of the place. I guess its the steel heritage that both towns have…and it has communicated to the culture which is interesting.  Honest, hard working people drinking beer. We had hope about the next day…and those hopes were sadly dashed by the worst tour we have ever ever had… from literally the tour of every hallway on campus (we saw no dorm rooms, no studios, no practice rooms, no concert halls, nothing), the dining rooms and  witticisms from an untrained tour guide. Did I mention no information session….so it was all pretty unformed combined with it being Homecoming…so we felt we were in the way. The most brilliant thing was the tourguide (who couldnt show us dorm rooms, proudly walked us by these student apartments which were highlighted with crowds of students smoking and drinking at 10:30 am—the right message for a school that has a Theological Seminary that is part of it’s institution. We were so looking forward to being blown out of our chairs with Moravian…and those hopes were dashed.

We packed up and came home after lunch on Main St in Bethlehem and the walk down the street to see the dogs in halloween costumes and walk through the Sun Inn.

We are back.