June 26, 2012
Contact: Karen B. Eldridge, Director of Communications
Sanding and staining the front staircase in Maryville College’s 136-year-old Crawford House last summer, Kin Takahashi Week volunteers were motivated by the knowledge that they were helping the Mountain Challenge program make a good first impression.
This summer, that first impression just got a little stronger.
During the week of June 11-15, a crew of five volunteers installed a much-needed new porch on the front of the historic farmhouse.
“We at Mountain Challenge work with a variety of corporate groups, businesses and CEOs, in addition to college students and youth,” said Mary Steger ’94, marketing director for Mountain Challenge, the 25-year-old outdoor adventure education program that operates on the campus. “For them, Crawford House is their introduction to Maryville College, and the first thing they see, actually, isn’t the staircase inside the house; it’s the front porch.”
The porch was in rough shape. Wooden planks were broken at the edges. At the far end, where water drained from the rooftop, planks were breaking apart from the rest of the structure. Much of the support structure underneath was rotten.
Steger watched as the crew of alumni, one parent and one spouse of an alumna jacked up the support beams, tore out the old lumber and constructed a porch out of a 100-percent recyclable material. She cheered volunteers’ efforts to fix the drainage problem.
“It’s really cool,” she said of Kin Takahashi Week, the annual gathering of alumni, parents and friends who return to campus to complete manual-labor-type projects.
Begun in 1997 and named for a student from Maryville College’s past, Kin Takahashi Week celebrates the “can-do” spirit of a student who, during the 1890s, founded the College’s first football team and led a project to built Bartlett Hall.
“The porch had been in bad shape for a while, so to see a project like this get done is pretty cool, too,” Steger added.
Dr. Terry Bunde, professor of chemistry who just added “emeritus” to his title last month, worked in Sutton Science Center most of the week. A faithful Kin Takahashi Week volunteer, Bunde was glad to see Sutton Science Center – his home-away-from-home for the last 35 years – also receive some much-needed attention.
“One-third of our faculty have offices in Sutton, and about one-half of our student body come through Sutton every day [during the fall and spring semesters],” he pointed out. “These improvements will be a morale boost for everyone.”
Indeed, it won’t take students and faculty long to notice the differences. The downstairs entryway doors have been sanded and stained. The first-floor hallways have been painted a bright off-white, and the rubber baseboards have been replaced. (Removing dried adhesive proved to be the toughest part of the job.) Classroom 115 has a new coat of paint and new chalkboards, as well, and more space since three large, unused storage cabinets have been removed. Classroom 233 received new paint on the ceiling and walls where prior water damage had left stains and spots.
Just the difference the paint makes is “amazing,” Bunde said, adding that while the interior of Sutton Science may not technically qualify as “curb appeal,” the term is relevant; the building is on many prospective students’ and prospective faculty members’ tours.
“Classroom 115 is where we teach a lot of introductory courses,” he said. “With the improvements, it’s more pleasant. It looks like a classroom.”
Robert Earley understands curb appeal. As the College’s grounds supervisor, he manages a crew of six that plants, mows, weeds, prunes, rakes, waters and fertilizes large portions of the 320-acre campus throughout the year.
Earley said he counts on Kin Takahashi Week volunteers to help his department catch up on landscaping projects that he has neither the crew or the time to complete in the spring. During Kin Takahashi Week, he and his employees have the extra job of picking up garbage bags filled with trimmings and weeds left behind from volunteers who efficiently move from flowerbed to courtyard to garden.
“After the volunteers finish, I can see a big difference in the trees and shrubs,” he said.
“KT Week,” as it has become known to frequent participants, includes a range of projects – those that take minimal skill and only hours to complete to those that require familiarity with a nail gun and require the entire five days to finish. For the landscaping crew, the “big project” was relocating a running trail in the College Woods for the cross country team.
The crew of 22 volunteers also planted 36 Leyland Cypresses near the tennis courts, which will eventually serve as a windscreen for players. The crew was finished in one day.
Keeping up with the volunteers and supplying then with the right tools and materials at the right job site at the right time can be challenging, Earley admitted, but he and his crew are thankful that with KT Week, they can get caught up.
Mary Hammontree, the College’s custodial services manager, agrees.
With the responsibility of getting residence halls ready for summer camp occupants, she and her employees only have a few days between the end of the Spring Semester and the arrival of the first residential camp to clean rooms and bathrooms, hallways and lobbies.
Sending a “turbo team” of fast KT volunteers to tackle needed jobs in the Clayton Center for the Arts and Thaw Hall, she and her housekeepers were able to concentrate on the residence halls and get them into shape.
“[KT Week volunteers] get us into a spot where we can breathe again,” she said. “Actually, they moved so quickly and efficiently, that I had to search for new projects. I thought I had enough.”
The cleaning crew eventually joined the painting crew in Sutton, and some fanned out to assist with other projects.
Two new storage sheds for the football team were erected late in the week. Prefabricated inside a Physical Plant’s workroom, the walls of the sheds were moved to the rear of Cooper Athletic Center mid-week, when volunteers gathered for a mini “barn raising” activity. Football alumni were among the laborers on the storage shed project, and they were joined by Head Coach Mike Rader and members of his coaching staff.
At a dinner held June 15 to conclude KT Week, Coach Rader addressed participants and admitted that, as someone new to the campus, he didn’t know what to expect from the annual work week.
“Soon after I got the job, I went to [Physical Plant Director] Andy McCall and told him that I didn’t have enough storage. I told him, ‘I would love to have a couple of storage buildings. Two or three months later, I have a couple of storage buildings.”
Rader called the week a “testimony to [alumni] loyalty” to their alma mater.
“From the bottom of my heart, I want to say ‘Thank you,’” Rader said, before inviting the crowd back to campus in the fall when they could cheer on the Scots.
In all, 126 volunteers completed more than 50 projects across campus, donating more 2,700 hours to the College.
Dan Greaser ’60, who helped organize the first Kin Takahashi Week in 1997 and has volunteered every year since, shared the statistics and applauded participants’ contributions at the June 15 dinner.
“That number doesn’t count the pre- or post-KT Week time,” he explained, nor did it include hours contributed by physical plant staff members and other college employees.
“I estimate 3,200 total hours of contribution and added value to the campus,” he said at the dinner.
Following reports from team leaders and a presentation of before and after photos that elicited some “oohs” and “ahhs” from the crowd, Maryville College President Dr. Tom Bogart and Wayne Kramer ’74, chairman of the College’s Board of Directors, went to the podium to thank volunteers.
“Being the president of Maryville College is a humbling experience on numerous occasions, and it’s especially humbling this week,” he said. “I tell other college and university presidents about you, and no one believes it.
“I am so impressed by and so grateful for what you do.”
Kramer, whose grandfather was sixth Maryville College President Dr. Ralph W. Lloyd, said his grandparents would be proud of Kin Takahashi Week and all the people who make it happen.
“This week embodies the spirit of Maryville College,” he said. “There are a lot of great colleges and universities in this country, but there is a spirit at Maryville College that doesn’t exist many places.
“It is exemplified and embodied in Kin Takahashi Week.”
Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state‘s third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for its academic rigor and its focus on the liberal arts, Maryville is where students come to stretch their minds, stretch themselves and learn how to make a difference in the world. Total enrollment for the fall 2013 semester was 1,168.