Three Schools, Three Generations:
One Family's Story
Four people in three generations of my family graduated from Keene State. When Mother arrived there, the Roaring Twenties were in full swing and Babe Ruth was at the top of his game. Women had recently won the right to vote. Our alliance with Keene has taken us into the new millennium. Here is our story.
Anne Josephine Crahan '29, Keene Normal School
My mother grew up in Pittsford, Vermont, near Rutland. Her mother had emigrated from Ireland on her 19th birthday and worked as a servant until she married my grandfather. My mother was their first child, followed closely by a son, John, and then twin girls, Mary and Sarah. Soon after, my grandfather died of lung cancer, leaving Grandmother with a young family.
Although the Crahans had property, they had little money. Mother told of carrying her shoes to save the leather as she walked three miles to the village. Everybody worked. The family kept a few cows and made but-ter to sell in the village. They picked berries, cut wood, gardened, and picked out butternut meats to sell.
The Crahans also loved to read. Twenty years after my grandmother's death, neighbors recounted that she had read every book in the Pittsford library. The four Crahan children were at the top of their classes at Pittsford High School.
Mother was the class valedictorian in Pittsford. What makes her story unusual is that her neighbors, who thought it a pity to have such talent go to waste, paid her college tuition at Keene Normal School (KNS). She worked for her room and board by washing dishes for the dining room, a job she described with great hilarity.
Mother loved to reminisce about her years in Keene. She played violin in the college orchestra, learned to play tennis, picnicked at the college camp on Wilson Pond, and hiked up Mount Monadnock. She did her student teaching at Wheelock School in Keene. We heard many stories about that, as well as the fact that she had to repeat her practicum in Peterborough. She said she was failed because she had only one dress to wear to school.
Upon graduation, Mother returned to Pittsford and taught at the Furnace elementary school. She met my father when she moved to Bethel, Vermont, to teach at Camp Brook School.
Mother was passionate about children, and she loved science, nature, and Vermont history. She organ-ized a 4-H Club and produced a national 4-H clothing winner. She was the only woman in our community who was college educated, and many relied on her. She died of diabetes at age 51.
Mary Catherine Crahan '33, Keene Normal School
Mary Crahan '33 (lower left), at a class reunion. The photo was probably taken in 1963 or 1968 for her 30th or 35th reunion.
My Aunt Mary, a tall, thin woman, distinguished herself in both sports and academics at KNS. She played var-sity basketball, baseball, and volleyball, and, although it doesn't say so in the yearbook, I know she was on the hockey team because I inherited her skates. She was on the Rifle Team and participated in the League of Na-tions. She was inducted into Sigma Pi Epsilon and the Academy of Science. Whatever "De La Salle" was, she was there, too.
She loved Keene and came to the alumni reunion almost every spring. After graduation, she returned to Pittsford and taught in elementary schools for more than 30 years. She was particularly fond of eighth graders, and each year she proudly took them on a trip to Boston to walk the Freedom Trail and go to a Red Sox game.
Aunt Mary never married, and, in fact, I never in my life saw her with a man unless he served on a committee with her. She gave her life to community service through the Grange, Catholic Church, VFW, League of Cities and Towns, and Agency on Aging. She was a Pittsford selectman for nearly two decades (and don't you dare call her a selectwoman). The community room at the town office building bears her name.
Barbara Anne Williams '63, Keene Teachers College
All dressed up for the Nu Beta Epsilon banquet in 1960: (from left) Geraldine Burgess, Patricia Penrod, author Barbara Williams, and Carolyn Madden.
Keene was a paradise for me. Within an hour of the time my parents left, I shed my "ugly duckling" and "outsider" persona and hit the campus with my head up and a smile on my face.
I might have been a little too cute and chatty, because in my first campus job, at the library, I was quickly sen-tenced to spend my hours putting stacks of magazines in order in the basement. Second semester, I transferred to the dining hall, and in June, Ma Hunt chose me as head waitress, a position I held for the next three years.
I was a home economics major – something I knew about, because my mother was blind during my high school years and I ran the household.
I was surprised to find I was also competent in academic classes.
I had the good fortune of testing into Mr. Keddy's freshman English class. I learned some humility there. Mr. Keddy gave me the only "B" on my first report card. It was a grade I deserved. The English majors were bril-liant, and so was he.
By the time I was in my third year, I had distinguished myself as a speech writer and was often asked to deliver remarks at home economics events. My advisor was Margaret Chickering. She was one of the dearest women in the world. She, too, was a Keene graduate.
As did my mother before me, I loved to dance. I never missed a Friday or Saturday night record hop or a college formal. Sometimes dances were held at the college camp on Wilson Pond.
I never did climb Mount Monadnock. But I must have been the last one to leave the campus on gradua-tion day. I cried all day. I took time to reflect on the growth and confidence I gained at Keene, then drove slowly away to face the real world. My first job was with the University of Vermont Extension Service. I next taught home economics for five years. After taking 10 years out to raise my three young children, I earned a master's degree in counseling from Antioch University and worked as a school counselor for 25 years, retiring from Essex (Vt.) High School in 2003.
Jonathan Marshall Sheperd '94, Keene State College
Jonathan Sheperd '94 with his son, Javin.
Two years later he approached me on New Year's Day. "This is the year I'm going to get my life on track," he said.
"How do you plan to do it?" I asked.
"I'm going to college," he replied. "I'm going to Keene State."
And he did. Jon will tell you that he got into Keene through the back door (the admissions office was willing to take a chance on him). He started out on probation and earned every credit. He completed an associate's degree in 1994. Jon spent a couple of years in Maine working with handicapped children, then returned to Vermont, where he is raising a young son and working as a special projects manager.
Keene State is an enduring theme in our family history. Three generations of our family thrived as a result of our association with the college. As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of Keene State, I stand proudly in red and white with a big "K" on my sweater.