Ron and Mavis Barkley spent some of their happiest years at Elmhurst College.
They met on campus during freshman orientation in 1969, graduated in 1973 and got married in Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel in 1974. Every year, the couple returns to campus from their homes in Florida and Michigan for a visit.
So when their first grandson was born in Glen Ellyn and the couple wanted to spend a few weeks nearby, their thoughts naturally turned to Elmhurst.
“I wondered if there was a way we could stay in a dorm room on campus over the summer so we could spend as much time with the new baby as possible,” Ron explained. “Grandma Barkley absolutely had to be close to her first grandchild.”
Ron called Mica Matney, the College’s manager of conference and guest services, who found the perfect home for them: a one-bedroom unit at the College’s Elm Park Apartments.
The Barkleys lived in the apartment for six weeks during the summer of 2014. In addition to visiting their grandson every day, the couple relished the opportunity to be part of campus life, taking morning strolls around the campus and enjoying meals in the cafeteria. “The campus is so beautiful,” Mavis said. “It was like going back in time.”
While they were on campus, the couple celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary at Hammerschmidt Memorial Chapel, where they were married.
As they walked through the chapel doors on June 29, Ron and Mavis were greeted by 17 friends and family members. There was a surprise visit from the couple’s oldest son, David, and his wife, Melissa, who flew in from Florida without telling Mavis. David and his younger brother, Erik, provided music for the occasion. David played Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata” on the chapel’s concert grand piano. Erik played “Humoresque” on his grandfather Lund’s violin.
Friends also got in on the celebration. Ed Jana ’73, a groomsman at the couple’s wedding back in 1974, spoke about the rewards and challenges of marriage and the Barkleys’ devotion to one another. Kathy Costello, Mavis’s maid of honor at her wedding, brought the original wedding vows to the ceremony so that the couple could renew them.
The Barkleys have fond memories of their Elmhurst days and what they call a quintessential college experience.
“The four years we spent at Elmhurst were some of our best,” said Ron, a psychology major and education minor who went on to become a teacher at Downers Grove North High School. “The College is where I had my last truly joyous immersion in intellectual pursuits. Learning for the sake of learning was such a joy.”
“It was an exciting place to be,” added Mavis, who majored in elementary education and went on to teach for decades in the Elmhurst community school district. “And we met lifelong friends there.”
If all goes as the Barkleys hope, the College will extend its circle to the next generation. “God willing, I can watch my grandson graduate from Elmhurst,” said Ron. “I definitely see it in his future.”
In the shorter term, Ron and Mavis hope to return to campus next summer.
“It was such a great experience, and I can’t wait to do it again next year,” said Mavis.