To paraphrase Don Asher, from his book Cool Colleges for the Hyper Intelligent, Self-Directed, Late-Blooming, and Just Plain Different, there was something magical going on in at a private dining room in the Mariott Wardman Park in Washington, D.C. On March 13, 2012, dozens of Cook Honors College alumni gathered for a special evening of food and a re-uniting of old friends, as well as the creation of some new ones.
It did not take long for the charm of Whitmyre Hall to return to the collected alumni. As Andy Snyder, who graduated from the CHC in 2000 and is now working as a policy specialist at the National Academy for State Health Policy, said, “It surprised me how quickly we were able to slip back into the groove of talking about big ideas in a big way.” That was encouraging for Janet Goebel, director of the CHC. “I so much enjoyed being able to talk with alumni whom I very much miss, to realize that they still love to talk about ideas,” she said.
One of the centerpieces of the event was the auction of Blind Lady Justice—a copy of an iconic statue that has been a longstanding decoration at the front of the Great Hall, to the highest donor of the evening. After some intense bidding, Ken Sosnick, class of 2003, took her home. She is now sitting in a conference room at the Office of Administrative Litigation at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, Sosnick’s workplace. “She will watch over many negotiations and meetings in my office over the years to come,” Sosnick said.
Deep intellectual discussion, though, was not the only benefit of the evening. The alumni were also able to reconnect with each other and faculty and administrators of the CHC. “It was terrific seeing my friends again from the class of 2000. Sometimes you look back and wonder if the experience was really as great as you remember, and then you get together after so many years, and it's exactly like old times” Brian Ziman, also class of 2000 and currently a software engineer for Matron Avionics and professor at George Mason University, said. Sosnick agreed: “I was able to catch up up with fellow classmates as well as hear about many success stories from more than 10 years of graduates.”
Another special treat of the evening was the presence of Charles Cashdollar, professor emeritus of History at IUP and an HC Core faculty member for many years. Andy Snyder confided that the great conversation they enjoyed was probably “because we kept Dr. Cashdollar at our table all night.”
Goebel declared the event a great success, saying how great it was “to learn about the meaningful and interesting things the alumni are doing with their lives. Seeing so many people from our very first graduating class brought back wonderful memories.” Lisa Halmes, the administrative assistant often known in Whitmyre as the “HC Mom,” also deeply enjoyed the evening. “The event was a huge success! It was so great to get to see everyone! I knew the students in the HC always had a special connection—it truly showed,” Halmes said. Snyder, for one, did not want the night to end, and added, “I hope we’re able to do it again soon.”
After the conversations came to a close, everyone went their separate ways and took a little bit of the HC magic home with them.