Senior year is a parade of lasting moments: The last Gala. The last class. The last meal in Commons. The last night with friends.

“It’s been a year of a lot of lasts,” says Jonathan Depew ’18 as Senior Week winds down. “And not just for me.”

He’s referring to his mom and dad, Brenda and Mark Depew of Hudson, Ohio. In fall 2008, the first of their four children, Nathaniel ’12, arrived at Bates. At two-year intervals, he was followed by Emily ’14, Caroline ’16, and, finally, Jonathan.

Commencement Livestream May 28

Bates’ Commencement on Sunday, May 28, will be livestreamed beginning at 10 a.m.

Which means that Mark and Brenda have moved to the beat of Bates life for nearly a decade.

And it’s been a strong beat: All four Depews have been varsity swimmers at Bates, with their parents mighty involved with and supportive of the program. “Mark and Brenda have played a big role for the team since Day 1,” says Peter Casares, head coach of swimming and diving.

This Sunday at Commencement, the Depew chapter at Bates draws to close. “I feel what they must feel,” says Jonathan. “It’s hard.”

Jonathan Depew ’18 and his parents, Brenda and Mark, talk with Professor of French and Francophone Studies Kirk Read (right) during Back to Bates Weekend in 2017. (Phyllis Graber Jensen/Bates College)

“It’s been a lot of years of driving and flying to meets, and sitting in the stands and cheering,” says Brenda Depew. “It’s been a lot of moments of being really proud parents, and some moments of helping them pick themselves up when things didn’t go their way.”

Siblings have been coming to the college ever since Bates was Bates. Of the 473 seniors set to graduate Sunday, about 10 percent have a sibling who’s a current student or alum. (The family with the most Bates siblings is the Chace family: Todd ’75, Melinda Chace Bracken ’76, Paul ’77, Jesse ’80, and Melissa Chace Trace ’82.)

The Depew family poses at the 2018 NCAA Division III Swimming and Diving Championships. From left, Brenda, Jonathan ’18, Caroline ’16, Emily ’14, Nathaniel ‘12, and Mark. (Larry Radloff for Bates College)

The very first Bates sibs were the Stockbridge brothers of Mexico, Maine. Winfield graduated in the first Bates class, in 1867. He became a preacher and, later, a restaurateur in Washington, D.C.

George Stockbridge graduated in 1872. He was a mathematical engineer, patent attorney, and a published poet.

Indeed, the Stockbridge brothers were siblings, but very different individuals. Brenda Depew can relate to that. Her children share a college and a sport, “but that’s the only real similarity. Each has different interests and passions. And Bates supported each of them in their own endeavor.”

“And I fell in love with Bates — by myself.”

Jonathan graduates Sunday with a mathematics major and geology minor. He’s also a FAA-certified drone operator and has been a leader in the college’s Big Brothers/Big Sisters “Cats and Cubs” program.

Jonathan Depew ’18. (Theophil Syslo/Bates College)

Four years ago, he didn’t want to follow his siblings to Bates. So he looked at larger universities, but then decided he’d prefer a smaller college. Despite his wariness about following his sibs’ path to Bates, he visited campus, something he’d done many times. “But I hadn’t looked at Bates by myself. And I fell in love with Bates — by myself.”

The Depews aren’t the only ones affected by the end of an era at Bates.  “They’ve supported their kids and all the swimmers,” Casares says. “They came to every meet. They organized parent groups and senior dinners. They’ve made gifts to the program and helped us chase after things that this program needs in order to improve.

In an era when cautionary tales abound about parents, their children, and sports, the Depews have always been part of the solution for Casares, his swimming and diving program, and the Bates athletic department overall.

“Our own parents were very involved in our lives but allowed us to grow along the way and become independent people,” says Brenda. “Nathaniel started competitive swimming when he was 5. You look around the pool, and you know you don’t want to be ‘that parent.’ That’s where it starts. The coach is there for a reason.”

“They’ve simply done everything they could, in their roles as parents, to help Bates swimmers have a top-class experience,” says Casares. “For me, when you see parents send four kids to your program and to Bates, you feel trust. Their confidence inspired me.”

It’s a bittersweet time of endings. But also beginnings.

“Bittersweet” comes up a lot as the Depew parents talk about Jonathan’s approaching graduation. A decade being around Bates means that “we’ve been able to make some very good friends among Bates parents,” Mark says. “But we may never see them again.”

“You’re seeing your babies leave their undergraduate experience,” says Brenda. “But they’re also doing exactly what you hope they would do — become contributing, resourceful members of their communities. It’s a bittersweet combination.”

Or, as Jonathan dubs the situation, noting that he and his sibs are now spread out from Chicago to Boston, “it’s a mom’s worst nightmare!”

Yep, it’s a bittersweet time of endings. But also beginnings. Jonathan heads to Boston for his first job, with Toast, Inc., a cloud-based restaurant software company. And in August, Nathaniel will get married, to Katelyn Drake ’10.

“There are a lot of unknowns,” says Jonathan, who will be his brother’s best man. “Because we’re all young.”

 

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