Alumni Reconnect to Southern on European Tour
The Alumni Association gave 17 former students and friends of Southern a chance to strengthen their relationship with the university and each other during the inaugural alumni tour from April 21 to May 3, 2015.
The group was treated to “Spring Time in Europe” as they journeyed through the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria, and the Czech Republic under the guidance of Bill Wohlers, experienced group trip leader and vice president emeritus for Student Services. The alumni visited castles and flower gardens, hiked up scenic mountains, and even had a snowball fight on the highest peak in Germany.
“I’ve never been [to Europe] before, so I didn’t know what to expect, but Dr. Wohlers was like a shepherd over sheep,” said James Peel, ’58. “We didn’t have to be concerned about anything because he took care of it ahead of time. We really enjoyed it. There were so many beautiful things to see.”
Even more stunning than the scenery was the company. The tour brought together—and, in many cases, reunited—alumni ages 45 to 86 who had been scattered throughout Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, California, Washington, as well as Collegedale. Despite their differences in age and location, the group quickly bonded over their shared Southern experiences. They reminisced about their fondest college memories and talked about what tied them back to Southern.
“We’ve gone on tours where we didn’t know a soul,” said Dolly Fillman, ’53, who traveled with her husband, Don. “This was way more fun—to come into a tour and you already knew half the people there all your life!”
While the trip gave the alumni a chance to reconnect with their alma mater, they also became ambassadors for Southern. They shared their memories and their faith with the bus driver and other travelers they met who had never heard of Seventh-day Adventists or the university.
“We need to do that everywhere we go all the time,” Fillman said. “Whether we’re in this country or in another country.”
Although this was only a test year for the alumni tour, Evonne Crook, director of Alumni Relations and co-host of the trip, believes it was an immense success and hopes it will become an annual excursion—especially since many from this year’s tour expressed interest in reserving a spot for the tour again next year.
“This is a life-long relationship,” Crook said. “We’re interested in our students not just while they’re here, but also after they get their degree. We want to find services and activities that help them stay engaged with the university.”