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  Alumni / Advancement    
    Twenty years of "The Classroom Revisited"

By Marcy Vandale '87

Twenty years ago the General Alumni Association began sponsoring a day of continuing education for alumni. The event has been organized for its entire run by the father/son team of Richard E. Onofrey '55 and Richard E. Onofrey, Jr. '87, but both are quick to give credit for the day's success and endurance to Holy Cross' administration and faculty.

Reflecting on the program's genesis, Onofrey, Sr. explains that the GAA wanted to attract alumni to the College for something other than a sporting event. “The Classroom Revisited” was structured to be a full day in the spring, a time when the beauty of the campus is at its peak. Presenting a current view of the Holy Cross curriculum seemed to fit perfectly with the missions of both the GAA and the College. “The event is exciting,” says Onofrey Sr. “It is like stepping from the past to the present to see what is going on in the classroom at Holy Cross.”

In organizing the program, both father and son say that working with the academic deans and faculty has been especially rewarding. For the past several years, Mary Morton, associate dean, and Tina Chen, director of academic services and learning resources, have been instrumental in shaping the class offerings. Working with the Continuing Education Day Committee, Morton and Chen identify professors who have received awards or grants, are doing special projects, or whose specialties focus on current events. Once enlisted, faculty prepare the class syllabus and even offer “homework” for the ambitious “students.”

Chen speaks enthusiastically of the experience. “The professors enjoy sharing their research and current classes with the alumni, many of whom are former students,” she says. “The event is all part of the GAA's effort to reconnect alumni to the classroom and share the current academic excellence. Professors typically participate twice in a 10-year period although there are a few exceptions. Any time an event runs this long it is impressive. But this really shows Holy Cross' commitment to a lifelong learning experience.”

A day in the life of the “alumni student” begins with a welcoming reception. “Students” have preregistered for three classes, choosing from nine electives. A minimal “tuition” charge is required, but the GAA and College largely underwrite the day. The first class is followed by lunch, with classes resuming promptly for the final two sessions. When class time is over—or when people stop asking questions—the day concludes with a celebratory Mass. Onofrey Sr. still sees the Mass as an integral part and a perfect cap on the day. At the day's conclusion, students and faculty attend a closing reception during which, not surprisingly, many participants continue their discussions from the classroom.

Past offerings and student favorites have included classes that focused on buying, selling and collecting art; the classics department's Perseus Project; Chinese language; acting; Jesuit higher education; Shakespeare; chaos theory; Christological study; performing a successful Web search; and even a class on sleep!

Former students repeatedly mention one class as a standout. In 2000, the Continuing Education Day expanded to use facilities outside of Hogan for the first time and held a class in the Brooks Concert Hall. In that class, associate professor of music, Emma Tahmizian, spoke for about a half hour on Schumann's “Carnival Opus 9,” and then performed the piece. Students called it “truly beautiful.”

The 20th Continuing Education Day was held on April 27, 2002. Classes included: Visiting Assistant Professor Nancy Mardas (Philosophy), “Cloning: Ethical Response and Responsibility”; Assistant Professor John Schmalzbauer (sociology & anthropology), “Catholics in American Journalism: From the Margins to the Mainstream”; Associate Professor De-Ping Yang (Physics), “Seeing the Polarized World: What the Naked Eye Cannot Discern”; Associate Professor Judith Chubb (Political Science) “Reconciliation vs. Justice: Responses to Mass Political Violence”; Professor and Eleanor Howard O'Leary Chair Ambroise Kom (modern languages and literatures), “The Colonizer's Model of the World and Postcolonial Conditions in Africa”; Professor Frederick Murphy (religious studies), “What Are They Saying About the Historical Jesus?”; Associate Professor Carol Lieberman (music), “String Quartets from Joseph Haydn and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A Comparison”; Assistant Professor Shawn Lisa Maurer (English), “Revisiting Jane Eyre”; and Associate Professor Thomas Worcester, S.J., (history) “History Beyond Boredom and Seduction.”

Since the event began, over 2000 alumni have returned to the classroom. Speaking of the anniversary, the day's success and his 10th year serving as chairman, Onofrey Jr. beams. “The day ran very smoothly,” he says. “Our 90 students were treated to classes that varied from physics to history to music. We had our first ‘field trip' in the day's history with the physics class on polarization. Each class was marked by lively discussion of the topics, which I unfortunately had to end to keep the day's schedule. It's especially rewarding to work with the College administrators and professors and learn about the various academic pursuits of the faculty. I wouldn't miss it, even if I weren't running the event.”

Onofrey Jr. proves that last statement by pointing to the 1993 Continuing Education Day, held on May 15. Onofrey Jr. was married on May 1 and planned his honeymoon so that he would be back in time for Continuing Education Day!



Professor John Schmalzbauer teaches “Catholics in American Journalism.”

Professor John Schmalzbauer teaches “Catholics in American Journalism.”

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