Not even Hurricane Rita could stop Joe Blair, class of ’65, from coming back to his alma mater. “This place has been a beacon for me,” he said. “It was here I really grew up, and here I met some of my best friends that have been life long. It was here I experienced understanding my calling. It was back here I looked forward to coming every year.” Though he may have been the only Raven who fought a hurricane to get back for Anderson University’s Homecoming, alumni and their families filled the university’s section of Fifth Street for Ravenfest Saturday. Wearing a brand-new AU windbreaker, Blair took a break outside the alumni tent to tell his story.
After graduation, Blair’s work as a Church of God minister took him everywhere from Seattle, Wash., to Louisville, Ky. Two years ago, he moved to Beaumont, Texas.
“We were in the eye of the storm,” Blair, a soft-spoken man with a slight Southern accent, said. He and his wife evacuated to a friend’s house. Blair chuckled as he remembered how the three-hour trip took nearly 20 hours.
When they returned, “it was just a ghost town. There were trees on people’s houses, roofs off in people’s yards. Some houses were flattened,” he said, staring ahead.
Ultimately, the Blairs decided Joe, who grew up on a farm outside Anderson, would keep his ticket to Indiana.
A member of AU’s alumni council, Blair said it’s important to keep up with past students.
“It’s saying, ‘We’re still interested in your life. We’re still part of your support,’” he said.
Meanwhile, in the middle of the festival, someone flipped on a set of large black speakers and a gospel rap song filled the air. A throng gathered around a group of five students as they swung, shimmied and shook to the beat.
The dancers are part of Untold Story, a four-year-old club whose members “minister the word of God through dance,” said its founder, AU senior Pierre Berry.
“We want to say it’s OK to dance,” he said. The group will perform in Byrum Hall in January.
Behind the speakers, Andrea Hoover, class of ’95, sat on the curb, eating a deep-fried turkey sandwich in front of a green “No U-Turn” sign. Her mother, Sharon Davis, sat beside her and her twin two-and-a-half-year old daughters, Ellie and Leah, faced her.
“They’re eating popcorn for lunch today,” Hoover said, smiling, as the girls, dressed in matching rainbow-striped sweaters, pulled kernels from their white paper carnival bags.
“All of my kids went here,” Davis, 58, said. Her youngest son, grew up to be an admission counselor at AU. He featured his twin nieces in an admissions photo, sitting next to a sign that read: “Welcome to Anderson University.”
— Lindsay Whitehurst is a reporter for the Anderson Herald-Bulletin. Visit the Herald-Bulletin Web site at www.theheraldbulletin.com