After summiting Mount Monadnock, Owen, Molly, Tip, Hannah, and I approach the trailhead after a four mile rock climb in three and a half hours; we notice swarms of young woman and men just beginning their climb to the top.
They look like first year students on a bonding climb as they begin university life. Think back to starting out in college, if you were so fortunate. It can be a lonely and challenging transition from the cocoon of one’s hometown to the trials of dorm living and making friends. Universities are now welcoming students into the college family by outdoor team building experiences.
Could I ever have used such an experience back in the fall of 1966 when I entered the College of Wooster in Ohio! Though I had core group of childhood friends growing up, the problem was I didn’t really know how to make friends. My friends from Fair Lawn were just always around.
Muddling through, I eventually made it through thanks to three relationships: the guys on the tennis team, my roommate Jim Francis, and the girl of my dreams, Hannah Kraai (pronounced CRY).
Looking to confirm my suspicion, I speak up to a gaggle of passing students, What kind of group is this? They are students from Franklin Pierce University, not fifteen minutes away in nearby Rindge. Upbeat and high-spirited, wave after wave of groups of ten to twenty happy kids chatter by.
As we get to the trailhead itself, we pass by the university vans that brought the students to this popular state park. I then notice plastic-wrapped packages of 24 water bottles near a covered open air structure with four or five adults. Buoyant from our successful climb to the top of the mountain, I shout out, Are you from Franklin Pierce?
When they reply in their affirmative, I add, looking to Owen, We have a member of the Class of 2031 for you!
Immediately, a welcoming man approaches and engages us in conversation. Guessing the man is from the campus Alumni Relations or some PR arm of the university, I nod yes when he says, Would you like to meet the president of the university?
And just like that President Kim Mooney comes over and greets Owen, Hannah, and me.
Whoa! La presidenta. It turns out Kim is the first female president of FPU and the first alum named president. They navigated the Covid year successfully on campus and are here as part of 50-year tradition of FPU students climbing Mount Monadnock to start the school year. And then we learn that upbeat man is her husband, Greg Walsh.
As we wrap up our conversation, Greg hands Owen a coin of friendship. Walking to our picnic table for our lunch touched by their kindness, Owen poses with his first silver dollar.
Though Owen and his brother Max seem like future Sun Devils from Arizona State University – the Harvard of the West and my alma mater, who knows, maybe Owen will be a Raven from Franklin Pierce University!
PS I sent the blog to Kim this morning. She responded almost immediately.
On a morning when Greg and I have already shed tears thinking about the perfect fall weather morning on 9/11 twenty years ago, your email filled our hearts.
Our encounter with you, Hannah and Owen has stayed with us too. Thank you for memorializing it so vividly in your blog below. You captured the spirit of Franklin Pierce students so we’ll!
Our best to you, Kim and Greg