Many Connections. One U.

First-Ever Alumni Trip Showcases Italy

on August 26, 2010 by Sarah Kidwell

Maryville University makes a point to keep in touch with alumni, even if they end up thousands of miles away. Of course, it makes it a lot easier keeping these connections if the reason for such distance is the first-ever Maryville alumni trip.

On June 11, a group of 28 alumni, faculty, staff and guests set off for Italy to begin their journey. From the ruins of Pompeii to the quaint city of Siena to the Colosseum in Rome, Italy is full of destinations for curious travelers to visit. The group visited Venice, Tuscany, Rome and Naples, along with several other locations.

The 17-day trip was planned by James Harf, PhD, associate vice president and director of the Center for Global Education.

“There has been talk of an alumni trip for the twenty-one years I’ve been here,” said Erin Verry, director of alumni relations. “But it never occurred until Jim made it happen.”

The trip was a big success, she said. Not only did the travelers get to experience Italy, but they also had the chance to meet other alumni from various age groups.

“We had graduates from ’07 to ’68, but everyone blended well together. Some had not come back to Maryville until now. It wasn’t just that we enjoyed another country, but we enjoyed each other’s company.”

Among the travelers were Maryville professors John Wickersham, PhD, professor of philosophy, and Dennis Wachtel, PhD, professor of history. Verry said having faculty along added something extra to the trip.

“John had the best time reading Latin and translating it for the alumni, and Dennis was able to tell us a lot about the history of the places we visited,” Verry said. “They taught and helped us extract significance out of what we were seeing.”

Not only did the alumni appreciate having Wickersham and Wachtel along, but both professors said they enjoyed being there.

“I’ve been to Italy before,” Wachtel said. “But I saw things this time that I’d never seen before.”

“The trip was incredibly well conceived, managed and directed,” Wickersham said. “It was a flawless performance.”

The group visited many historical sites in Italy, including a trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the Colosseum and Duomo Cathedral in Florence. Visiting Siena was one of Verry’s favorite excursions.

“Siena is very quaint. It’s made up of seventeen districts and each has its own identity and flag,” Verry said. Wickersham and his wife, Barbara, ’65, also enjoyed Siena.

“I also enjoyed the Vatican experience,” Wickersham said. “Pompeii was my favorite historical site; it was nice to actually see it and experience it.”

The visit to the Villa Borghese in Rome was Wachtel’s favorite part of the trip.

“The Villa Borghese is a park in the north end of Rome,” he said. “We got to see some of Bernini’s sculptures and a collection of Caravaggio pieces there.”

Another popular part of the trip for many of alumni was the Trinità dei Monti church in Rome, which houses a painting called the “Mater Admirabilis.” The painting, created in 1844 by Pauline Perdrau, features the Virgin Mary and is often associated with the Society of the Sacred Heart.

“Maryville used to be a Catholic school, so the ‘Mater Admirabilis’ was very near and dear to the Sacred Heart alumni,” Verry said.

Near the end of the trip, the travelers also had the chance to visit Pompeii, the site of the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvio.

“We went to Mount Vesuvio and most of us climbed it. The climb was hard, but satisfying,” Verry said. “At Pompeii you could actually see the rut of the chariots they used in the roads. You could also see paintings in the houses and signage on the shops. It was like stepping back in history.”

Not only did they experience extraordinary sites; the group also sampled fabulous food across Italy.

“We had pizza in Naples, which is the best pizza in the country. And, of course, we had to sample Gelato everywhere we went,” Verry said.

Verry said Italy was always on the top of her list of places to go and she was more than ready to see what she had read about in real life.

“I expected a lot, but I wasn’t disappointed,” Verry said. “Italy far exceeded my expectations.”

With the Italian trip meeting with so much success, Harf said he is already planning the second alumni trip next summer – this time to France. Maryville employees are also invited along. The tentative itinerary includes locations like the Bayeux Area, Mont St. Michel Are, Loire Valley, Carcassonne, St. Remy De Provence, Versailles and Paris.

“Right now, I’m expecting final pricing for the trip,” Harf said. “We think it’s going to be sometime in mid to late June.”

Article by Sarah Kidwell, junior – graphic design
Photos by Prof. Dennis Wachtel, PhD

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