H. Jay Burns, Editor.

Don’t cry for me, says the editor

By H. Jay Burns, Editor

Tears don’t much impress me. I even welled up when Smarty Jones lost the Belmont, but that didn’t bring back my $20.

So I can understand why Bates seniors — atop Mount David at sunrise, on the brink of Commencement and the real world — might shed a little tear (see photo, below).

I find the photo compelling for another reason. You and I are able to view it from a perspective the seniors in the picture don’t have, yet. In the coming years, these new alums won’t often find themselves sharing, with 10 or 15 or 20 trusted fellow travelers, intimate moments that force them to stop, take a breath, and leap forward to a new place.

Sure, they’ll soon trek around the country for Bates weddings (please send photos), and weddings rate a 10 on the epic-emotion scale. But at those things you’re also liable to bond with Stew, the groom’s cousin who sells dental implants — and brings a sample to the rehearsal dinner.

Sunrise Sadness.

Yet someday, another mountainous moment will come along for these alums. Maybe something like the Modern Dance Companycelebration (page 5). Or, like the evening I witnessed at Reunion 2003, when Milt Lindholm ’35, still a year away from the happy public occasion of his honorary degree this past May, arrived at Lindholm House for a quiet dinner, organized by Dave Welbourn ’71. The guests were fellow travelers in a particular sense: Each had once served as Milt’s assistant. Milt was their first boss.

Sick that evening, Milt came through the door looking frail. But still he came. He sat and listened to stories: the time absent-minded Dick Steele, on Milt’s staff 40 years ago, visited a high school and noticed a cemetery nearby — “just like the school I visited yesterday” — and introduced himself as “Dick Steele, representing Bates College,” to which the principal replied, “I know. You were here yesterday.”

Milt rallied, and the talk changed voice, toward the second person. “You never went on vacation after the decision letters went out,” Erik Bertelsen ’72 said, reflecting Milt’s compassion for hearing out those families not accepted to Bates. The group talked about his respect for peer schools “no matter where on the pecking order.”

“I was spoiled by working with Milt Lindholm,” Bertelsen continued. “I know now I’ll never be able to duplicate the experience. You mentored us and gave us careers we would not have ever imagined.” And, yes, tears did follow for these fellow Bates travelers.

H. Jay Burns