The Albion College Fund Keeps Connections Strong
Through their years of giving, Dean Smith, ’47, and Bonnie Holmes Chadderdon, ’81, honor a family history, a life-changing study experience, and future Britons.
June 10, 2020 | By Jake Weber
“It’s funny how you start going through old letters and find someone else who attended Albion,” says Dean Smith, ’47, of a decidedly unlikely experience.
Through his parents’ families, Smith knows of at least 50 Albion alumni relatives stretching back to the 1850s. A member of the city’s long-established Dean family (which built and later donated Bellemont Manor to the College), he is nearly finished editing the letters of grandfather Carmi Smith, Class of 1886, who regularly wrote from Albion to his Coldwater-area family. He expects this work to be ready for publishing later this year.
Smith recalls that during his boyhood, Albion College Homecoming was also a family reunion of sorts. Each year, he watched the parade with Carmi, a founding member of Sigma Chi’s Alpha Pi chapter at Albion, then listened to stories of 19th-century fraternity days. “It’s what we did. If you didn’t come to Homecoming, there was something wrong,” he says.
Growing up in Albion, Dean Smith attended Washington Gardner High School, often eating lunch with his father, C Reginald Smith, at the Union Steel Products Company near campus. And while he started but didn’t finish his undergraduate degree at Albion, he returned for a master’s degree, studying alongside Elkin “Ike” Isaac, ’48, for this distinction. He also met his wife of nearly 67 years, Caroline Beslock, ’55, during this time.
Smith’s reflections include the couple’s decades-long support of their alma mater through the Albion College Fund. “Albion was my hometown, and Albion College felt like home,” he says. “It’s part of my life to show some kind of appreciation for things that have been important to me.”
And while Smith spends a lot of his time looking into his—and his family’s—past, the giving is also strongly tied to the future. “Liberal arts are in demand more and more from business and industry,” he wrote in a recent alumni survey.
“Whenever you get the Io Triumphe!, you see students who are excited about learning, speakers coming to the College that are unique,” he adds. “We see what’s happening and can’t do anything else except make a contribution.”
Bonnie Holmes Chadderdon, ’81, loved her time in Albion but still says her most memorable college experiences took place three time zones away. With six classmates, she participated in Albion’s Guadalajara Program, studying with Mexican teachers and living with a host family for a semester.
“It’s still one of the best experiences of my life,” Chadderdon says, explaining why, in 2016, she and three program participants had a reunion in Indianapolis. Their Albion Spanish professor, Lynne Overesch-Maister, traveled from Florida for the occasion.
“We got so close during that experience—two participants eventually got married,” Chadderdon says. “Thirty-five years later, it was great to see each other and our professor. How cool is that?”
Chadderdon has spent most of her life and career in southwestern Michigan, and in retirement founded and currently directs an after-school program for teens in Berrien Springs. With her firsthand appreciation for how her alma mater can open the world for students from small towns, she has encouraged her students for years to look at Albion. And this year, thanks in part to Bonnie, the entering Class of 2024 will include two students from Berrien Springs.
“I’m planning to come this fall to visit them,” she says. “I’m excited for them to be at Albion.”
It’s students like hers—along with the memories of the student she used to be—that have inspired Chadderdon to support the Albion College Fund year after year.
“Why wouldn’t you give? Albion gave us so much,” she says. “I had great academics and relationships with professors and so much growth. I can’t imagine anywhere else that I would have been as happy. We all need to support education and Albion is a great way to do that.”