The Björklunden Tradition

Björklunden* vid Sjön, Swedish for "Birch Grove by the Lake" is a 425-acre estate on the Lake Michigan shore just south of Baileys Harbor in picturesque Door County. A place of great beauty and serenity, the property includes meadows, woods, and more than a mile of unspoiled waterfront.

Björklunden was bequeathed to Lawrence University in 1963 by Donald and Winifred Boynton of Highland Park, Illinois. The Boyntons made the gift with the understanding that Björklunden would be preserved in a way that would ensure its legacy as a place of peace and contemplation. Winifred Boynton captured the enduring spirit of Björklunden when she said of her beloved summer home: "Far removed from confusion and aggression, it offers a sanctuary for all."

Since 1980, Lawrence has sponsored a series of adult continuing-education seminars at Björklunden, interrupted only by a 1993 fire that destroyed the estate's main lodge. In 1996, construction was completed on a new and larger facility, and the Björklunden Seminars resumed. The magnificent lodge and idyllic setting create a peaceful learning environment. Seminars address topics in the arts, music, religion, history, drama, nature, and more. Seminar participants may enjoy a relaxing week's stay at the lodge or are welcome to commute from the area.

Throughout the academic year, groups of Lawrence students and faculty come to Björklunden for weekend seminars and retreats. Each student at Lawrence has the opportunity to attend a student seminar at Björklunden at least once during their studies. Student seminars provide the opportunity to explore exciting themes and issues and the time and the environment in which to embrace those ideas and their consequences. The magic of a Björklunden weekend is in the connection between thought and reflection. Making that connection fulfills one ideal of a liberal education.

The two-story Björklunden lodge is a magnificent 37,000 square-foot structure containing a great room, muti-purpose and seminar rooms, dining room and kitchen, as well as 22 guest rooms. The lodge accommodates a wide variety of seminars, meetings, conferences, receptions, family gatherings, musical programs and other special events and is available for use throughout the year. In addition to the main building, the Björklunden estate also includes a small wooden chapel built in a late 12-century Norwegian stave church (stavkirke) style, handcrafted by the Boyntons between 1939 and 1947.

More Björklunden History

Here are a few chapters in the history of Björklunden vid Sjön, originally published in The Boynton Society Newsletter.

Part One: Introduction

Imagine buying 325 acres — over one mile of Lake Michigan shoreline — for $2,000. Carleton and Winifred Vail did just that in 1928. After roaming their newly purchased property they christened it Björklunden vid Sjön (in Swedish, "birch forest by the water") after all the beautiful white birch trees that dot the shoreline.

Carleton, born in Highland Park, Illinois, in 1881, was a nationally known underwriter and the head of a Chicago-based insurance company. Winifred Case, born in 1887, was the daughter of a minister. They were married c. 1907, and their first child, Carleton M. Vail, Jr., was born in 1908.

Carleton, Jr., went on to become one of the first school psychologists/counselors, before and after serving in World War II. He was a popular student-athlete at Lake Forest Academy and Dartmouth and met his French bride, Andrée, while playing tennis at a United Nations function in New York City. They were married in 1950 and lived on Long Island. Today they live in California, although Carl unfortunately suffers from Alzheimer's and will no longer be returning to Björklunden, where he has attended seminars in the past.

Carleton and Winifred's second child, Edith, was born in 1912. After attending Smith College, she was a music teacher in New York City and died, without ever marrying, in 1973.

The Vail family had vacationed in Door County for many years and, in fact, had a number of summer homes on the shore in Ephraim (and still do today). Carleton and Winifred, however, decided to venture east and found their dream vacation spot in Baileys Harbor. They built the wonderful four-bedroom lodge, as well as the guest house/studio, in 1929 and finished the only year-round residence on the property, the caretaker's stabbur, in 1931.

Tragically, one rainy Saturday afternoon in October, 1932, Carleton was killed in a car accident near Institute, about 15 miles from Björklunden. Shortly thereafter, Winifred spent a year traveling in Europe, trying to put the tragedy behind her. During her travels, she observed a stave church in Lillehammer, Norway, and decided it would be most appropriate to some day build one herself at Björklunden. Perhaps this is most fitting — through the death of her first husband, Winifred found the inspiration for her dream of a "Sanctuary of Peace."

Part Two: The Chapel

From the moment Winifred Boynton saw it, she had to have one just like it. Happens all the time with any number of items -- but with a Norwegian stavkirke?

After Winifred's first husband, Carleton Vail, died in an automobile accident in 1932, she traveled in Europe, where she discovered the aforementioned wooden church in Lillehammer, Norway. In 1934 she married Donald Boynton and, between them, they brought six children to the dinner table, which is precisely where Winifred made the announcement that a chapel was to be built on the grounds of Björklunden vid Sjön, their summer retreat near Baileys Harbor, Wisconsin. The children took a rather dim view of this proclamation -- after all, there were plenty of churches within easy driving distance, but Winifred Boynton was determined, and in the summer of 1939 her dream came true.

The first summer, of what turned out to be a nine-year labor of love, was focused on construction of the Chapel. A local builder -- assisted by the Boyntons' caretaker, among others -- led a crew of talented carpenters working under Donald and Winifred's guidance.

As the foundation for the Chapel was being prepared, it was discovered that Winifred's choice of locations was quite fortuitous. Directly beneath the site where the Chapel would stand, natural fissures in the dolomite bedrock had formed a perfect cross. Upon this discovery, Winifred knew the Chapel was where it was meant to be.

In keeping with a pagan tradition, Winifred wanted dragon heads to be carved at the end of each of the 52 roof joists to keep out evil. The entire Boynton clan was pressed into service to carve enough dragons to keep pace with the carpenters' swift progress. The dragon head experience convinced the Boynton children that their carving days were over, but it only served to whet Donald and Winifred's appetite for the many projects that lay ahead.

With the summer winding down and fall rapidly approaching, the carpenters' tasks were completed. The structure itself was finished, but there was so much more to accomplish. As the Boyntons left Björklunden for the winter, Winifred took comfort in the fact that each morning the sun would rise over Lake Michigan and shine gloriously through the stained glass window, delicately lighting the empty interior of the Chapel -- the interior that she would, over the next eight summers, transform into a work of art.

Part Three: The Wood Carvings

By Marjorie Meyers Graham

Marjorie Meyers Graham, granddaughter of Winifred and Donald Boynton, is owner and director of A Woman's Place in New Buffalo, Michigan, offering retreats and seminars celebrating women and creativity.

Of the several artistic components that grace Winifred and Donald Boynton's chapel at Björklunden, it is their many woodcarvings that stand out as perhaps the greatest "adventure in craftsmanship." They had help building the Chapel itself, and the wrought-iron work and stained glass were made by expert craftsmen. Winifred's years of decorating furniture and creating large murals in the lodge had prepared her for the task of designing and painting the various fresco panels in the Chapel. But, surprisingly, neither she nor her husband had done any previous woodcarving. They were starting from scratch, inspired only by the traditional church and folk carving they had seen in Sweden and Norway. Today, an observant visitor to the Chapel can appreciate their incredible achievement even more by noticing the huge changes in design and execution between the earliest carvings and the final masterpieces.

During the summer of 1939, the site was excavated, the stone foundation was laid, and the exterior walls and roof were constructed. The first carvings consisted of 52 "simple" gargoyles under the eaves and the small dragon heads that appear at the ends of the long scalloped beams that edge the gables. The garage was turned into a woodcarving workshop, and the Boynton children were pressed into service, but they soon retired from carving and left the work of the next eight years to their parents. The following winter a pattern began that would continue until 1946. During the winters, they carved at their home in Highland Park, Illinois; in the summers, the carvings were installed, and Winifred painted the frescoes on-site.

All of the pieces carved during 1939-1940 were done without training. The arch over the exterior doorway, with its dragons and masks, and the two small guardian bears have relatively simple, large-scale designs. The elaborate and detailed baptismal font, completed five years later, presents all 12 apostles. These human figures, carved in relief with symbols and stories in a complex design of panels, took many hundreds of hours to complete. The Boyntons considered the font to be their woodcarving masterpiece.

An important reason for their increasing skill was the discovery of a master woodcarver from Denmark who taught an adult education class at New Trier High School in nearby Winnetka, Illinois. This instructor taught them the all-important theory of resistance, which Winifred called "the beginning and the end of all true carving. We learned the necessity of equalizing the thrust of the right hand bearing the implement, by resisting with the left, an entirely new technique in our experience." The first carving project that reflects their new skills is the altar with its unique Cross of Peace.

Their carving was done as a team. Winifred researched and designed the carved pieces (as she did all the frescoes) and executed the rough carving, giving shape to the forms she visualized. Don, being a more meticulous and careful mechanician, finished to perfection what his wife had created, by smoothing out all the messy little corners she had left. He also was responsible for keeping the tools razor-sharp for them both.

One wintry Monday night in 1941, after working on the Cross in woodcarving class, they emerged into an ice storm and had to walk in darkness down the center of the street. A passing car's headlights caught Don trudging along under the weight of the heavy wooden cross, while Winifred followed with a heavy suitcase full of tools. In surprise, the car's driver slammed on the brakes and skidded sideways while heads popped out of the windows to stare. No one was hurt, but the Boyntons realized that they must have presented a very strange sight.

The following summer, during a dinner party at Björklunden, they harnessed the free labor of their guests. The 12 pew ends had been carved but needed polishing before their final installation, so the Boyntons' friends were put to work using old woolen golf socks to rub sour cream vigorously into the wood. "The whole room reeked of sour cream, but the finish was beautiful," Winifred wrote. "With plenty of rubbing and buffing with the palm of the hand, the wood took on a soft and satiny patina. Each dinner guest was given a pew end to buff. A novel evening's entertainment!"

The next time you venture into the Chapel for a quiet moment of reflection, stop on the porch and bend down to pat one of the guardian bears at the entrance. Thank her for not only protecting the Chapel from evil for over half a century but also for being the earliest ancestor of the beautifully carved apostles and the Angel of Peace on her cross.

Part Four: Chapel Memories

By Katy Vail Sturgis

Katy Vail Sturgis, Saint Charles, Illinois, is a niece of Winifred C. Boynton and the daughter of Malcolm and Peggy Vail, brother and sister-in-law of Winifred's first husband, Carleton Vail.

As a 12-year-old, I was privileged to tag along with my mother as things developed at Björklunden. I remember Aunt Winifred designing and painting the bonaders, designing and painting the window frames, seeing to the installation of the magnificent andirons that Mr. Zahn had made, doing some of the planting and making plans for the gardens, tennis courts, garage (later turned into a workshop), studio, and kitchen garden. She could do anything she turned her mind to -- she sang and played the piano beautifully until she became deaf, then took up, among other things, the Chapel.

Here are some of the special things I remember:

Aunt Winifred and my cousin Carl were so excited when they returned from Europe with plans for the Chapel. She worked feverishly on its designs, then she and Uncle [Donald Boynton] went to school to learn about carving. I remember going to their house in Highland Park to see the first pew ends.

How intensely she studied the Bible for just the right concepts for the wall paintings (ruling out anything that had to do with death), the beautiful Peace Cross, the font, and the lectern.

Because she was deaf, she could turn off her hearing aid so that, in spite of many house guests, visitors, etc., she could concentrate on her painting. I can still picture her on the studio stepladder, humming and painting, oblivious of anything else.

She telephoned my mother upon discovering that the ceiling paint material was wrong and would have to be done over. Fortunately, this was not true of all the walls. It took a year and many trips to Boston to find the right glass for the windows; as I recall, the glass in the first ones was wrong. Her search for the perfect musical instrument also took a long time, and finding lighting that would be appropriate took yet another lengthy search.

The great pleasure she and Uncle Don took in sharing their joy with others was always evident. She always seemed so surprised when people would compliment her and thrilled when they appreciated the true significance of why she had done all this. The Chapel was the perfect expression of her life, talent, and faith.

Part Five: The Paintings

By Gretchen Wilterding Maring '52

I stand outside the Boynton Chapel, warming myself in the autumn sun and admiring the blue waters of Lake Michigan. Soon I hear the rumble of the tour bus on the gravel road leading into the Björklunden campus. People come straggling around the bushes, stunned by the beauty of the vista they are beholding, some for the first time. And then they see the Chapel. I am thrilled each time I see the reactions of these visitors.

I tell the story of the Boyntons and talk about the building of the Chapel and then invite them in, warning them that "yes, it will be dark, but your eyes will adjust, and yes, I am very good at squeezing 55 people into a building meant to hold 40."

I tell about the carving on which both of the Boyntons collaborated and my listeners sit quietly, trying to absorb the wonder of it all. I explain that Mrs. Boynton was a determined, spiritual, talented lady who had a vision that she never failed in fulfilling. But it is when I start to talk about the paintings that their eyes grow round and the awe-struck look comes to their faces.

I ask them to try to imagine a lady in her early fifties up on a scaffold to paint constellations on the ceiling. I explain that she was doing fresco painting, an art known for centuries. After transferring her design — a full-scale drawing called a cartoon, done to fit the space — she would begin to apply paint. She painted on wet plaster, using casein and sandpaper, applying paint and sanding to achieve the old, shaded look she desired. Mrs. Boynton had to have the confidence that what paint she used would be the color she wanted when the plaster was dry! She had read and studied extensively before planning her designs and even at that there are many images, now preserved in the Lawrence University archives, that she discarded before choosing just what she would use.

The South Transept depicts the Holy Hunt. The living waters of the great lake, along with the soaring mountains connecting heaven and earth, serve as background to a white unicorn, pure and unblemished, facing the Virgin Mary. She also is a symbol of purity and sits among a clump of birches, the symbol of faith. The angel Gabriel, blowing his horn, is there with the three hounds, Truth, Justice, and Mercy. The allegory is completed with the knowledge that, through the purity of the Virgin, Jesus will be born.

When we turn to the North Transept we see the Isaiah scripture describing the Peaceable Kingdom. There the Prince of Peace, surrounded by animals including the Boynton dogs, Jigger and Paddle, is protected by the healing Angel, Raphael. In this panel, Milt Henquinet, the Boyntons' caretaker, is represented by Raphael's hand holding the spear.

The Chapel has become quieter and quieter as the beauty and mystery of these paintings becomes more evident. I explain that, while the building is inspired by the Norwegian Stavkirke, the painting within is not rosemåling but more like Swedish allegorical painting. But it isn't that, either. It is Winifred Boynton's style, one that evolved through painstaking study, research, and meditation.

We look at the four evangelists represented by their allegorical shapes that are in the four corners. I explain that the eight panels sloping away from the ceiling are scenes that we are invited to read and reflect upon. All the worthy virtues are there: Love, Strength, Wisdom, Faith, Charity, Light, Spiritual Food, Trust. Over the rood beam is painted the Panel of Prayer, angels praying the Lord's Prayer. Over the door is the Panel of Praise, angels playing musical instruments.

The visitors see the tall panels of St. Paul holding the Written Word and St. Peter with his Keys to the Kingdom. All are amused to find out that St. Peter's toe is really Mr. Boynton's toe. He was enlisted to pose so Mrs. Boynton could more easily see the shape of the foreshortened foot.

I explain that Mrs. Boynton was adamant in her desire that this be a Chapel of Peace and that all people of all faiths were to be comfortable here. The panel painted with the symbols of the major religions of the world reminds us that unity and world peace will only come through the love of the one God we all worship.

Two medieval song manuscripts in the north and south transepts reveal, in Latin, the messages of "peace on earth, good will towards all men" and "now let thy servant depart in peace." Other panels of scripture show the careful thought Mrs. Boynton employed to help us focus on the message of prayer, oneness with God, and peace.

The apse, housing the altar, is simply painted the faintest blue, somewhat like sponge painting, so the walls would look old. Elaborate painting here would only detract from the Angel of Peace Cross standing on the altar.

As we prepare to leave, I read the passage on the wall next to the door "Ye shall go out with joy and be led forth with peace . . .," and many pairs of shining eyes have seen what determination, self-focus, grace, and talent can do. This, plus the realization that she was willing to share it with us all, fills us with a great sense of awe and thankfulness. Everyone stands, cameras in hand, looking around themselves with new insight.

The visitors walk away in small groups, holding postcards of the Chapel, murmuring to each other as they board the bus.

And I stand in the sunlight, warming myself in the sun, admiring the blue waters of Lake Michigan while I wait for the sound of the next bus and 50 more people with whom to share an incredible story.

Part Six: A Daughter's Memory

By Suzanne Boynton Meyers

I was 12 when my father married Winifred Vail and I started spending my summers at Björklunden rather than at Dad's logging camp in Au Train, Michigan. When my parents first talked of building a chapel, I was either 15 or 16, and I thought they were starting a new hobby! To me, creating one's own personal chapel suggested a serious involvement in religion, which was not typical for the Boynton family. Although "Mom" was an active Christian Scientist, my dad did not attend any church. However, as time went on, and they both became more involved in all the details of the Chapel, it became clear that there was a strong force driving them -- they were working towards a goal. I feel that Dad's interest in the project was as a supportive husband.

Björklunden was a beautiful summer camp, but all the young people and social life were on the "other side" of the peninsula: Fish Creek, Ephraim, and Sister Bay. That's where the boats, swimming, other kids, and Wilson's Ice Cream Parlor were; in those years of the 1940s, Baileys Harbor was a social wasteland for a young person. As a typical, somewhat self-absorbed and fun-loving teenager, I did not opt to become involved in the Chapel project. In the wonderful vision of hindsight, I now see that I could have learned a lot from my parents about painting, woodcarving, the Bible, and even golf if I had wanted to, but I was not interested in those things.

I mostly created my own fun at Björklunden. Dad taught me riflery, and I did lots of target practice down at the shore; Mom taught me to knit, and to this day, I am an excellent knitter, which led to my lifetime interest in the Scandinavian textile arts; and I listened to traditional jazz records and played jazz piano on the upright in the studio. I also read a lot, walked in the woods, and played tennis whenever there was someone to play with.

I remember many afternoons, sunbathing out on the lawn and listening to Mom play Chopin's Preludes or Nocturnes with such emotional expression on the concert grand piano in the big living room in the lodge. Even though she was out of practice and wasn't technically perfect, she'd play for her relaxation and pleasure, and played with beautiful feeling. It moved and enthralled me, even though I loved the energy of jazz.

One of the few jobs I was ever asked to do was the yearly painting of the dragons on the ridgepoles of the roof. I would climb the ladder with little pots of paint to touch up the white and green eyeballs and red tongues so the dragons would continue to ward off the evil spirits. Although I enjoyed the painting, I wouldn't admit to my fear of heights, so I did the chore but secretly hated it.

The Björklunden tennis court was a welcome spot of social life for me. Because the hard-surfaced court was the only one in the area, we regularly attracted tennis players, some of whom were members of the Peninsula Players. I didn't actually play with the adults but enjoyed watching, bringing drinks out, and chasing balls. They were glamorous! Basil Rathbone's son and his beautiful wife were among the players.

A high point in my memories of adolescence at Björklunden was the all-girls' houseparty I held at age 16. I was allowed to invite my seven best friends from the North Shore of Chicago for five days of non-stop giggling, yelling, running, singing, eating, and noise! -- which was so foreign to my parents, but they were good sports to put up with our highjinks. The biggest adventure of that houseparty was when we all piled into one old six-person canoe and paddled out a mile, whereupon we capsized. Two of the girls couldn't swim and panicked, two strong swimmers came in for help, and the rest slowly pushed the overturned canoe to shore through the cold, rough water. It was a scary event for us all, but fun in retrospect.

Also during that houseparty, we girls drove to a roadhouse near Fish Creek to dance. When we left, a car full of boys followed us, so I showed off and sped through several towns, whereupon I got stopped and ticketed. Dad did not sympathize, and I had to handle the ticket at the courthouse in Sturgeon Bay on my own.

Now, as a senior citizen, looking back at my youthful experience at Björklunden while my parents created the Chapel, I am somewhat regretful about the opportunities to learn that I passed up, but I am now aware that, by osmosis, I did absorb quite a lot from them. I like to study new artistic techniques, which are usually Scandinavian, such as rosemåling and rosepath weaving. In my 20s, I seriously took up golf, which I still enjoy immensely, and I'm sure my love of most classical music stems from Winifred's influence. Björklunden is still breathtaking to me, and although I miss the lodge, the Studio, the woods, and the lake still bring back wonderful memories. But I still won't eat lutefisk!

Part Seven: When the Boyntons met Lawrence

By Marwin Wrolstad

The history of Björklunden, at least as far as Lawrence University is concerned, begins with the story of how Winifred and Donald Boynton first focused on the college as a possible beneficiary and steward of their 325-acre estate just south of Baileys Harbor (told in Professor Charles Breunig’s book, A Great and Good Work: A History of Lawrence University 1847-1964, pp. 258-259).

Harry Wells, the financial vice president of Northwestern University and a Lawrence trustee, was responsible for the initiation of conversations between President Douglas Knight and Mr. and Mrs. Boynton to explore how their expectations for the future of the estate, particularly the Chapel, could be satisfied if the property were to be conveyed to Lawrence.

President Knight was particularly well-suited for his role. He was a sensitive listener and could explain persuasively how the Boyntons’ dreams for the estate could mesh with and be supported by the mission of the college. We know that other institutions had been considered by the Boyntons, including Northwestern University and St. Olaf College, among others, but none of them had Douglas Knight.

The final understanding was that the legal title to the land and buildings would be deeded to Lawrence in fee simple (to be done in partial conveyances to maximize the tax benefits for the Boyntons), subject to a life interest on the part of Winifred and Donald. There were no legal restrictions placed on Lawrence regarding future use or sale. There was, however, a very firm commitment made by President Knight that the Chapel and its immediate environs would be preserved and that the Chapel would be used for devotions and religious services on a regular basis.

There are those, including the writer, who believe that there was another dynamic besides President Knight’s persuasiveness that subtly but positively influenced the Boyntons’ receptivity to the thought of Lawrence being the caretaker of their prized and precious property.

The Boyntons had been spending a good part of each year in Door County for nearly three decades. They were active people and very supportive of the arts, including the Peninsula Players and the maritime museum in Sturgeon Bay. They were close friends of Gerhard Miller, the well-known Door County artist, and specifically bequeathed the grand piano in the lodge to the Miller Art Museum.

Through these activities and associations they became friends of a number of Lawrence-related people who were also seasonal residents of Door County, such as David Stevens, John Reeve, Frank Shattuck, Edwin West, and many others — all of them people who wore their Lawrence colors with pride. For the Boyntons, it was easy to think positively of Lawrence because of their respect for these fellow Door County residents.

Knowing that the responsibilities and opportunities associated with ownership of the property would be the college’s in the not-too-distant future, many discussions, formal and informal, were held to make plans. There were members of the college’s governing board who felt that the bulk of the land should be sold and the proceeds added to the endowment. To avoid the potential commercial development of Björklunden’s mile and a quarter of Lake Michigan shoreline, the Nature Conservancy was invited to consider the purchase of the land. Its response was to encourage the college to avoid development if at all possible, but the Conservancy regretted that it already had more commitments in Door County than it could finance.

Donald Boynton died in 1966, and Winifred died in 1974, at which time Lawrence gained full control of the property. Milton Henquinet, the Boyntons’ caretaker for many years, was ready to retire after Winifred’s death, so Norbert Vonck, assistant director of Facility Services at Lawrence, was transferred to Björklunden to maintain and manage the property, which he did for three years. Joseph Hopfensperger ’52, professor emeritus of theatre and drama, was hired as the first resident director in 1977. The Björklunden Summer Seminars were launched in 1980.

Part Eight: President Warch's Björklunden Vision

By Gregory A. Volk

By any measure — from its now firmly rooted place within the mission of the college to the breadth and depth of the impact that it has had, not only on Lawrence students but on an ever-expanding constituency of alumni and friends — Björklunden is a proven success. Looking at Björklunden today, it is hard to imagine that anyone could ever have doubted its future.

It was not always so. In August of 1993, an electrical fire virtually leveled Björklunden’s principal building, the lodge lovingly created by Winifred and Donald Boynton.

Once we overcame the pain of our loss, it became apparent that the college, through its Board of Trustees, would need to make some tough decisions with long-reaching implications. Should the college immediately rebuild, as some thought? If so, what exactly should be built? What were the financial and the budgetary ramifications of operating Björklunden? What obligations, legal, moral, and otherwise does Lawrence have to preserve and perpetuate the Boyntons’ legacy? Could the property be sold? Should Björklunden be sold? At every meeting of the Board of Trustees over a two-year period, Björklunden and its future were on the table. Having witnessed those conversations, which at times seemed akin to treading water in ice-cold Lake Michigan waters — i.e., numbing — it should be said that Lawrence’s board did exactly what a governing board should do when facing this kind of challenge. Every conceivable aspect of Björklunden was weighed and considered.

At a board meeting in January of 1994, Gail Weyerhaeuser, Class of 1971, then a trustee of the college, urged the board not to confine its considerations to the past but to think what we might imagine for learning and for Björklunden 50 years from now.

“If Lawrence were to be creative,” she noted, “it could find a way to tie Björklunden into the central mission of the college.” She was right, of course. What was lacking in the process was the “vision thing,” and there was only one person who could provide that vision. In his address to the board in October 1994, Rik Warch delivered one of the most inspirational pieces of his presidency, “Autodidacts, Cyberspace, Students, and Björklunden,” a version of which was subsequently printed in Lawrence Today.

What he proposed was far from a fine-tuned blueprint for Björklunden’s future. Rather, he asked that the college commit itself to a program that would guarantee every student an opportunity for a Björklunden experience and to find ways to make Björklunden a part of what it means to be a Lawrence student. Rik’s impassioned advocacy of Björklunden, his belief that such a future could be crafted, did the trick. The board voted unanimously to rebuild, without a firm road map, but taking a critical leap of faith through Rik’s vision.

Members of The Boynton Society care deeply about Björklunden. In his last few weeks as president of Lawrence, it seems especially fitting that we collectively acknowledge and thank Rik for guiding Björklunden to its current standing. At the same time, I think that Rik would agree that we are only beginning to discover that Björklunden is not, and never will be, “finished,” as it holds and offers the promise of an even greater future.

May 2004

Part Nine: Björklunden Seminars 1980-2005

Completion of the 2005 summer schedule marked the 25th anniversary of the Björklunden Seminars program. Today, Björklunden’s signature program, which began in 1980 with a modest goal of 14 participants per week, regularly fills the lodge’s 14 sleeping rooms, while welcoming up to 70 commuters for a week-long seminar. For 25 years, Björklunden Seminars have engaged minds and lifted spirits in the idyllic setting that is Lawrence University’s northern campus.

By 1980, Joe Hopfensperger ’52, who served as the first director of the estate, had been on the job three years, bringing buildings up to date with regard to comfort, safety, and building codes. He had studied other, comparable, facilities and considered the realities presented by the estate when, looking back on his own undergraduate education, he decided to incorporate education, the strength of Lawrence, with the unique opportunities presented at Björklunden. Thus began Björklunden Seminars.

Early seminar participants would be pleased and surprised to see the program’s evolution today, just as those who fill every corner of the Great Room to experience a week with opera star Dale Duesing C’67 may be surprised to learn that attendance during the early years was quite limited.

Björklunden Seminars initially targeted Lawrence alumni, with a reasonable goal of one half of one percent of alumni in attendance per week throughout the season, a turnout that would make the program a financial success. Unfortunately, it did not happen. Not only was attendance less than hoped for, non-alumni friends of the estate accounted for over 60 percent of the attendees, a trend that has continued over the years.

Friends of Björklunden, as individuals and through the organization by that name, were quick to embrace the seminar program, finding it attractive to a much broader audience than originally conceived. In fact, the “limitations” posed by a lodge yet to be winterized or technologically connected were a perfect fit for the early seminars. With only the variety of topics and the spectacular estate competing for attention, the seminars provided a setting to which participants were eager to return.

From such modest beginnings, the program has grown steadily, while facing some major challenges along the way. The initial challenge, from an administrative standpoint, was generating enough revenue to break even, as well as coping with the elements in a lodge not designed to satisfy the expectations of the modern age. Björklunden Seminars broke even after ten years, but the estate continued to lose money for another nine years until seminar fees and gifts to The Boynton Society equaled expenses. Throughout this time, however, Lawrence continued to support the budding program, recognizing its promising future and the dedication of its small but growing constituency.

By 1993, a schedule was in place that offered 12 seminars from June through August. However, the seminar season in 1993 was never completed. Far worse than missing out on the chance to study with two of the program’s most popular presenters, Norma Hammerberg and Dan Taylor ’63, was the loss that resulted from the irreparable damage caused by a fire that destroyed the original lodge. In addition to raising questions concerning the future of the Björklunden estate, this event posed a serious threat to the future of the Björklunden Seminars.

Ultimately, the demonstrated success and importance of the Björklunden Seminars was key to the decision to rebuild the lodge. The maturing model of the summer seminars, rooted in intellectual pursuits and spiritual rejuvenation on the shores of Lake Michigan, provided a model for a new program for Lawrence undergraduates. The weekend student program began with the completion of a new lodge in 1996 and now runs throughout the academic year, bringing to the estate each year hundreds of Lawrence students, the vast majority of whom were not yet born when the seminars began 25 years ago. They represent the next generation of Björklunden’s partisans and stewards — individuals who, like the dedicated summer seminar participants, value nature and the exploration of the mind.

The completion of the lodge also marked a change in the Björklunden Seminar program. Having a year-around facility meant that seminars could begin earlier and extend later into the season. It also meant that more space was available, leading to seminar attendance figures today that far exceed those of the early years. In fact, the lodge has proven so accommodating that many seminars share it with other small groups, allowing for intimate discussion and the exploration of nature and ideas. Extending the Björklunden Seminar tradition, increased capacity at the lodge makes it highly unlikely that any two seminar experiences will be the same.

After 25 years, presenters and attendees of Björklunden Seminars attest that each program is unique. In 1985, following his first seminar as presenter, the late Bob Berner told Joe Hopfensperger that he would not come back for another seminar, because the unforgettable week he had experienced could not be replicated. He had experienced what many before and since have learned — a Björklunden Seminar is a living event that is generated by the amazing people who take part in it. Joe’s response, “Hell, Bob, they’re all like that,” rings as true today as it did 20 years ago. Like many talented presenters, Bob returned. He went on to lead 20 seminars and, like others who have returned, came back each time to rekindle old memories and create new ones.

People attend Björklunden Seminars for a vacation, they come to discuss ideas with talented presenters, and they come to renew friendships. They have turned out for 25 years, and their dedication holds the promise of a bright future that will continue to shape the mind and spirit.


More Tales from Björklunden

Read articles below about Björklunden vid Sjön, its history, and its programs, as originally published in the Boynton Society Newsletter.

Meeting the Medical Muses: Alumni doctors and future doctors

Medical careers are the topic when five alumni doctors spend a Björklunden weekend with future medical students

By Sandra J. Drexler '90

Excerpted from an article originally published in the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

This past spring, Björklunden, Lawrence's northern campus in Door County, hosted its second Medical Muses Seminar, a session where students with an interest in medical careers could mix and mingle with alumni physicians. The program was the brainchild of Nicholas C. Maravolo, professor of biology and a veteran member of Lawrence's Health Careers Advisory Committee, and Alan Reynolds '72, an anesthesiologist in Wausau.

Alumni panelists were Jim Bruno '81, an orthopedic surgeon in Oconomowoc; Doug Carlson '81, an OB/GYN specialist practicing in Milwaukee; Bart Isaacson '91, an internist in Wausau; Kathy Krohn-Gill '79, a family practitioner in Merrill; and Amy Cooper Schumacher '91, a pediatrician in Madison.

All of them had taken slightly different paths to Lawrence and through medical school and have chosen different specialties, but the tie that binds them is a continuing relationship with Professor Maravolo. It was at his request that the five physicians spent a weekend talking about their lives and careers with 19 Lawrence students at Björklunden.

Much of the advice the doctors offered had to do with determining a personal philosophy and approach to life. A common theme was the need to purposefully choose what is important to you as a person and to decide what things you are willing to sacrifice for your career. Each of the physicians identified a strong family life as being very important in their lives and a guidepost for making decisions. A belief in a higher power was also mentioned frequently, as physicians are required to make difficult decisions, often alone and in a hurry.

The business aspect of a medical practice, in particular, was one area that Carlson noted as lacking in his medical education. As a partner in an independent practice, he describes himself as being as much a businessman as a physician. Bruno suggested that the students subscribe to the Wall Street Journal and Investment Business Daily, and both doctors said that they would have found this advice very helpful as medical students and suggested it as a way to better prepare the Lawrence students for their futures.

Isaacson stressed the fact that liberal arts graduates are greatly advantaged in medical school by their ability to communicate clearly and effectively in both oral and written forms. Krohn-Gill also mentioned communication and listening skills as being very important to a physician and described how Lawrence helped her to hone those skills. Isaacson urged students to explore opportunities outside the sciences in order to be as well-rounded as possible, and Schumacher echoed this statement, saying that any advantages students with deeper scientific backgrounds might have are erased within the first two weeks of medical school. Carlson reassured the students that Lawrence taught him how to study and gave him the skills necessary to successfully complete medical school.

Schumacher has worked through Indian Health Services and was able to talk about the challenges that come with providing care to people who might not even have electricity or running water. She also is a faculty member at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and was able to address students' questions about careers as medical educators.

Much of the weekend was left unstructured in order to provide informal opportunities for the students to interact with and ask questions of the physicians. They shared meals, took walks, and chatted around a bonfire. Lisa Baumann '01, from Watertown, valued this casual atmosphere and the fact that it allowed her to meet the alumni physicians as individuals.

Students attending the seminar ranged from freshmen just beginning to explore their interest in practicing medicine or doing medical research to seniors who were waiting to hear from the medical schools to which they've applied or choosing among the schools that have offered them admission. Based on conversations over the weekend, at least one student decided that a medical career was not for him. Being able to talk with the doctors openly and at length allowed him to make a decision for his future based on real-life experience.

The weekend also provided Baumann with a unique opportunity to talk at length with two women who are successfully combining medical careers with families and to discuss the challenges that women face in the medical profession. One-on-one sessions with the panelists gave her a view of the profession that she never would have had otherwise, and Björklunden provided the perfect setting for those conversations.

The need for a passion for medicine and people was something that Tom Murphy '03, freshman from Delavan, brought away from the weekend. Murphy found the casual nature of the seminar to be the perfect format for informal conversations with the doctors and was also able to spend time talking with each of them. He especially appreciated the fact that the physicians were alumni, and he enjoyed hearing their stories about Lawrence.

Of the four student seminars on various topics that Professor Maravolo conducted at Björklunden this past academic year, he was particularly delighted with this one: "The fact that five busy professionals took a weekend off to spend it with students they didn't know — and then offered to repeat the experience — speaks to the success of the weekend." Having had their first taste of Björklunden, all of the physicians who attended the weekend offered to come back for a repeat of the seminar.

The weekend was deemed a great success by both students and physicians. Krohn-Gill remarked that it might seem as if Maravolo had brought the group together as much for the benefit of the alumni as for the students, since all the physicians commented that the seminar provided them with an opportunity to reflect on their lives and careers, as well as the roads they'd traveled to get there. This was also a way for them to give something back to Lawrence and to the man they claim as their mentor.

They also mentioned that they wished they had had a similar opportunity as undergraduates, which they felt would have better prepared them for their careers and lessened the disillusionment that each had felt at one time or another.

Rides, Runs, and Rituals: Athletic teams train at Björklunden

Student athletes train and bond at Björklunden

By Cameron D. Kramlich '02

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

During my three years at Lawrence I have visited Björklunden for various academic purposes, but my favorite moments in Door County are definitely the annual preseason trips with the cross-country team.

As a freshman I went to Björklunden eager to spend time with my teammates, yet slightly apprehensive about our ambitious workout schedule. Coach Mike Fox trains our team to win, and I had unfortunately misinterpreted his summer running goals as some bizarre Midwestern freshman hazing ritual. Physically and emotionally drained from a week of hard work in Appleton, I thought the prospect for a change sounded promising.

Heading north in a yellow Bluebird bus, I sat next to Nichole Cook '00, who became my partner for the first workout. The bus stopped about 20 miles outside Baileys Harbor. Unloading our bicycles we began a "partner run" that paired two runners who alternated bicycling and running every few miles. Although our group was not the first to reach our destination near Ephraim, Nichole and I made a valiant attempt. After a short ride to a park outside Baileys Harbor, the team inhaled Subway sandwiches. Enjoying the sand between my toes, I walked into town along the beach, before heading down Chapel Lane.

Although the wooden gateway and hardscrabble dirt road seemed to portend rustic accommodations, the Great Room of the lodge exceeded my expectations in every possible way. After dinner -- the first of Björklunden cook Steve Martin's superlative meals -- the team indulged in our favorite evening activity, board games. According to this year's captain, Julie Liebich '01, "We always broaden our minds by playing Trivial Pursuit from the '70s." I remember hitting the down pillow that night well before the game ended.

Our exercise regimen varies slightly each year, although a few activities stand as defining moments, including the annual, infamous 20-mile run. Starting on a pier jutting out into Devils' Doorway, the passage between the peninsula and Washington Island, it takes several hours to reach Björklunden.

One night, a summer employee somehow managed to convince several of us to attend the final performance of a locally produced play in Ephraim. The next day, our workout involved a 60-mile round-trip bike journey to Peninsula State Park. Fortunately, my body sufficiently cooperated so that, upon arrival, I was able to enjoy a brisk five-mile run.

During one evening of our stay in Door County, Coach Fox encourages the musically non-challenged members of the team to share their talents. Over the years the program has ranged from a virtuosic horn solo to a rendition of some Dave Matthews tunes. This ritual is one of many that mark our stay at Björklunden.

A major event for the cross-country team at Björklunden, and our most important ritual, is the discovery of the Big Wood. First created by runners in the Class of 2001, the Big Wood is a talisman found anew every year by first-year initiates to the team, who then endeavor to create a team mascot. After each cross-country meet, the captains award the Big Wood to both a male and a female runner with exemplary performances. This ritual also serves as an experience of bonding for freshman athletes.

In addition to the cross-country team, some 90 other students on sports teams spent 343 nights at Björklunden last year, including the basketball, golf, swimming, hockey, and volleyball squads. Other student groups that retreat to Door County include the Lawrentian staff, the Lambda Sigma honorary society, and the members of the Judicial Board, not to mention the many weekend seminars that are part of specific courses or academic departments.

Another bonding ritual for student groups is the service portion of a visit. Without an extensive network of supporters, Björklunden would not exist; organized service projects help reinforce the community spirit of the student weekends. New cross-country freshmen learn to clean dishes and do laundry together, while teammates clear tables. Every year, the cross-country team rearranges furniture in anticipation of the new school year. Major projects like helping expand the running trails act to further the mission of Björklunden. The teamwork required to build a campfire -- ranging from wood cut as part of a work project by the cross-country team this summer to the lake water carried to put embers to sleep -- unites teams in anticipation of future work.

The quintessential ritual that highlights every extended stay in Door County is the campfire. Although different groups bond through different means, campfires bring students and teachers together. When athletes return to Appleton, the refreshing experience of a visit to Björklunden provides a foundation for excellence.

How I Spent My Summer: Student research at Björklunden

Cook Grants support student research

By Ben Aughenbaugh '99

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

I spent much of the winter of 1997-98 attempting to arrange some sort of employment for the following summer. I had numerous seasonal job opportunities, including work as a lifeguard, waiter, or lab assistant, but none of them seemed to be the right fit for my experience and my interest in the outdoors. Fortunately, my faculty advisor, Professor of Biology Nick Maravolo, suggested that I apply for Lawrence's new Chester and Joan Cook Fund for Summer Research at Björklunden, a grant program made possible by a gift from Lawrence alumni Chester and Joan Cook, both Class of 1943. Cook Grants are offered to candidates in the fields of biology, geology, and anthropology who submit proposals for research in their respective areas of interest.

Having a particular interest in plant ecology, I crafted my proposal to encompass my interest in assessing the ground flora of Björklunden. Specifically, I sought to uncover the distribution of moss species in relation to local environmental variables. Many visitors to Björklunden might not realize that it offers a unique habitat to study these plants. Nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan, the property undergoes different climatic variances than inland areas at the same latitude. Also, other studies regarding higher vascular plants had been researched in previous years, but no one had documented the nature of the diminutive mosses. This is what prompted my proposal entitled "An Investigation of the Role of Substrate, Moisture, and Light on the Spatial Distribution of Mosses in the Björklunden Forest."

In order to understand the influence of particular environmental factors and their effect on these inconspicuous plants, I spent a great amount of time on my knees counting every tuft and collecting other pertinent date. While this may seem tedious, the forest kept me alert and refreshed, whether it was the desiccation of spring trilliums, the sweet aroma of creeping junipers, or the tart fruit of the thimbleberry.

Not all was academic during my stay. In the late afternoons, Ben Meyer, a fellow Lawrence student and summer lodge employee; Sheddy, chef Steve Martin's dog; and I would take a break from our work and run the wonderful trail system weaving throughout the property. Afterwards, a jump in the lake seemed all too inviting. With the proximity of Ridges Sanctuary, other free time was spent meandering through the old shorelines and swales of the reserve. Lastly, I usually had a good book from the lodge library in progress; the blue lawn chairs and lapping waves provide a perfect setting to immerse yourself in a book.

One of the best aspects of my stay was the genuine interest the guests took in my research. Being the kind of people who attend the Björklunden Seminars, their desire to learn new things was already proven. Talking about my research, I helped provide them with an appreciation for something they may have never known about. In turn, the guests told me a wonderful array of personal stories, both past and present. Progressing late into the evenings, the interaction between guests and myself kept conversation exciting.

While working in the forests of Björklunden, good friends and fun made my experience unforgettable. Now, processing and analyzing the collected data, I will be assembling the material in submission for honors. Although a biology laboratory on campus does not hold any of the splendors of Björklunden, fond memories often surface as I review my data. For me, the Cook Fund for Summer Research has proven to be an incredible blend of work and play, making for a rewarding and educational work experience in a perfect setting for learning.

All in the Family: A three-generation seminar

A three-generation experience at Björklunden

By Nancy Gazzola Hines '76

Nancy Hines, from Oak Park, Illinois, is a two-time Björklunden Summer Seminars veteran who accepted our invitation to write about her family's experience in the 1999 Family Week program.

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

Every spring since we started receiving the brochures about the summer programs at Björklunden, David and I have looked longingly at the course offerings, hoping that someday we could afford to attend a session. Then, when we were able to afford such an experience, there was the issue of what to do with our three children while we were tromping through the woods learning about the vegetation in Door County. Last year, we finally managed to attend a session by sending our two daughters to camp in Michigan and flying family in to stay with our son, while we enjoyed "Woodland Walkabouts" with Professor Nick Maravolo.

When we received the brochure this spring, we were elated to see the Family Week session. We talked with our children, and they were almost as excited as we were. Our daughter, Giulia, immediately called her grandmother in Minnesota to see if she would be interested in attending the "Hands-On Music-Making" session, and Sam, our youngest, asked his grandmother in Texas if she would be up for the "Closer Look at Nature" class. Both grandmothers agreed to come along, though they were a bit skeptical about what to expect from this "camp" in Door County. Having never visited Björklunden, they were expecting the accommodations to be a bit rustic, but they were willing to join us nonetheless.

So the grandmothers flew to Chicago, and we all drove north for what proved to be a fantastic week. The two seminar instructors could not have been better. Both Fred Luft and David Stokes were engaging, enthusiastic, patient teachers who encouraged hands-on learning. After the first evening, when they introduced their plans for the week, Sam was suddenly interested in participating in the music class, and Giulia wanted to partake of some of David's offerings in the nature class. With Björklunden Director Mark Breseman's blessing, Fred and David were more than willing to accommodate this increased interest, and all participants were allowed to experience both classes if they so desired.

The five of us immensely enjoyed the experience -- I was especially thankful for the fact that I did not have to plan one meal nor do one load of laundry for the entire week. Giulia came home with a beautiful dulcimer that she built from a kit with the help of her grandmother, confidently using an assortment of power tools and hand tools for the first time in her life. Sam came home with a plaster cast of his hand made on the beach and a leaf/dead-fish-print t-shirt. We all came home with a much greater appreciation of and respect for nature, music, and each other.

We will definitely do our best to return next year, and our entourage will likely include both a father and a grandfather because they were very envious of the stories we came home with. Thank you to Mark and the Lawrence students who enabled us to thoroughly relax and enjoy ourselves in the sanctuary that is Björklunden.

It's Wanting to Know: A theatre/math/classics student weekend

Math and theatre intersect at Björklunden

By Kathy Privatt
Associate professor of theatre and drama

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

The quote above is from Hannah in Tom Stoppard's Arcadia, a play that depicts a contemporary generation searching for information about ancestors from a previous century (who also appear in the play). Arcadia was the basis for a seminar at Björklunden in April 2001 that brought together students from the mathematics, theatre and drama, and classics departments, as well as math professor Eugénie Hunsicker; classics professor Randall McNeill; Keith Howard, a guest mathematician from Kenyon College; and myself.

The idea for this weekend germinated as Eugénie and I each began our first year of teaching at Lawrence in the fall of 1999. In Eugénie, I discovered a mathematician who was as passionate and enthusiastic about her field as I am about theatre.

Although neither of us remembers exactly how, our conversations began to include Arcadia -- a play that contains references to chaos theory, entropy, and fractals and mirrors these math theories in its structure. Math-poor as I am, I knew of the connections because I played Hannah while obtaining my doctorate at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Understanding the math is crucial to understanding that role. We realized that this play offered a perfect basis for combining two departments that rarely work together.

We developed a weekend at Björklunden titled "Et in Arcadia ego: The Intersection of Math and Drama." Nineteen students voluntarily attended the weekend, and even the sign-up process offered promise of intermixing. A math major signed up in my acting class; a theatre major signed up in Eugénie's calculus class. As one would hope at a liberal arts institution, the groups never segregated themselves but truly embraced the opportunity to make new connections with fellow scholars and peers.

We began with presentations on math history to explain allusions in the script, followed by an examination of classical influences on estate gardening through the 19th century (an integral conflict in the story). We staged a scene in which the two generations appear together in a very "entropic" conclusion to the play. Keith Howard's presentation on fractals encapsulated the weekend, as he combined math formulas with aesthetic choices to create a landscape that changed according to the seasons. We hiked around Björklunden, noting examples of fractals in nature and evidence of formal gardening techniques. By the time I offered my analysis of the script's structure, noting the parallels with math theory, several students had already begun to discern those same conclusions for themselves -- and that, to me, spells success.

This splendid weekend was possible because Björklunden exists. We used its quiet and solitude to allow us to focus together. Eugénie, Randall, Keith, and I watched all weekend as theatre and math students continued topical discussions past the presentations and exercises, because they were engaged by the ideas and by each other's contributions. Björklunden became our Arcadia — a place set apart from the usual demands. Where else would I have the privilege of sharing a math student's breakthrough on a homework challenge? Where else would theatre students see math students choose to fill their free time with collaborative efforts at descriptive equations? Where else would math students share the stage with theatre students for an impromptu scene?

In Arcadia, Hannah contends: "It's wanting to know that makes us matter. Otherwise we're going out the way we came in." At the risk of straining the conclusion with a lack of concrete data, I believe that none of us came out of the weekend quite the same; I know I didn't. With all my compatriots at Björklunden, I discovered that, at the intersection of math and drama, our fields definitely have something in common: we're both trying to describe phenomena so we can better understand our world and ourselves. Dramatists use plays; mathematicians use equations — but we both focus on the process, not just on an answer. Björklunden gave us the time, place, and mental space to ask the questions and indulge in that oh-so-liberal-arts desire: wanting to know.

A Week at Björklunden: More than woods and wine

More than woods and wine

By John McCarthy '78

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

My daughter asked, "Do they have cable?" As she thinks I am Satan incarnate for not having cable at our house, every opportunity to lock onto "the beam," as Kerouac so appropriately dubbed it, is exploited vigorously. When I explained that they didn't even have television, she really began to wonder what this "Björklunden" place was. Would she take me on my word that there aren't any sharks in Lake Michigan?

We had fallen victim to the Mark Breseman Marketing Machine — and thankfully so. Björklunden had been on my list for some time, but how to work-in such a luxury? Take a week for myself, just to relax — away from everything — dabbling in education, not for professional gains but simply for fun? How decadent/extravagant could that be? Wait a second. What if my daughter could take a theatre class? What if she were in a safe place with the offspring of like-minded people, in the woods of Door County, with the hard work of Lawrence students to care for us?

The formula was right. We were off to Lawrence-by-the-lake: me for Woods in the Morning, Wine in the Afternoon and she for The Magic of Theatre.

The theatre class turned out great. Liz Thomas, director of the Open Door Children's Theatre and a gifted instructor who actively pursues the strengths of each child, had approximately ten children, evenly distributed in age. They met every morning from nine to noon and concluded with a play on Friday, just before lunch. The class chose the play's topic, wrote the script, improvised costumes, and put on a play that was great fun for the parents and kids.

Nick "Doc" Maravolo, professor of biology at Lawrence, drawing from his undergraduate course repertoire, gave his all for our eclectic group of woods and wine enthusiasts. His anecdotes about rescuing students from the middle of swamps (not to be confused with meadows, bogs, or marshes) were positively hilarious. He also offered the history of the various properties visited on daily field trips. In all, Doc, demonstrating his passion for knowledge, provides a great hiatus from the dog-eat-dog world.

I was pleased to run into my rugby partner, David Hines '76, and my photography pal, Nancy Gazzola Hines '76, with their three children. It was also fun to go buy some kitchen utensils from Julie Skinner Frater '77, a successful shop merchant just across the peninsula in Fish Creek. The bond that Lawrence provides should not be taken for granted. Catching up with old friends and forging new ones couldn't take place under better circumstances.

Believe it or not, there is a vintner right near Björklunden, making premium wines with Sonoma grapes. When I first heard this, I thought he must be crazy. However, on a field trip, I saw the vacationers streaming through the tasting room. Having well-heeled Chicagoans walking out with cases of his product keeps the winery very busy. It is safe to call their "Reserves," produced right up the county road from Björklunden, "fine wine." With the help of Doc's class, I now have a vocabulary for what I saw and tasted and can offer a discerning opinion. I can even speak extemporaneously on the wines of France after having to do a "report" for the class. If a "report" sounds too stressful, please understand two things: It did not involve PowerPoint, and it was rewarded with a tasting.

The "woods" portion of my class involved exploring the northern boreal forest, the central Wisconsin Tension Zone Forest, Lake Michigan beach forests, and the transitions between them all. The daily field trip format is quite pleasant. For the officebound (as in bondage), spending the bulk of the day out-of-doors is a treat. I loved Door County years ago, and I love it still.

I can say that Doc's objective was met. We were supposed to come away with an understanding of what and why the habitat is where it is, but also why it is there now. As with most of what I learned at Lawrence, I was given a perspective that facilitates an inquiring mind. Veritas est Sylvania!

I've come to expect Lawrence to do things right. Björklunden does not disappoint. Having college students wait on you daily for a week was easy to adjust to. My daughter quickly learned all she had to do was ask for something. However, more to the point, the lodge and grounds, right down to the mountain bikes for all to use, were simply fantastic. I felt as if I really had gotten away from it all, if just for a week. As for my daughter, it was nice to see that the issue of cable, let alone television, didn't come up once. She was too busy having fun. Perhaps the best indicator of success was her request to schedule again next year.

Weekend Student Seminars: Taking time out, to look within

By Andrew Law

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

The other day a student poked her head in my door to ask if we could set up an appointment to discuss off-campus study options. As I pulled up the scheduling program on my computer, the student reached into her backpack and pulled out her Palm Pilot. We conferred for a few minutes, testing out many possibilities, only to discover in each case a conflict with one or another of her regularly scheduled activities: three classes, an internship, intramural and intercollegiate sports, and so on. I ultimately met with her before normal business hours so that she wouldn't need to wait two weeks for an appointment.

While it might seem unusual for a 19 to 21-year-old college student to be so highly scheduled, I have to report that it is all too often the case, although admittedly not always to the degree of this particular anecdote. It is partly a cultural shift, a result of the hyper-scheduled, plugged-in lifestyle that now seems a normal part of growing up in middle-class America. It is also simply a result of the great number and variety of activities Lawrence offers its students. Whatever the cause, however, it seems that time for reflection is getting short shrift on students' schedules.

Happily, that is precisely what a retreat to Björklunden vid Sjön provides.

Walking in the door at Björklunden on a Friday evening transports students to a place that is not business-as-usual. There is the quiet of the woods that envelope the lodge, the sheer beauty of the lodge and its Great Room, and, on moonlit nights, the shimmering water of the lake. There is also the snack laid out on the dining room counter, with its implicit invitation to sit down, stay awhile, and chat a bit. But if this were the extent of things, then any student who had ever been to a lakeside resort with his or her parents would feel at home.

It is really the infamous red table and Björklunden staff member Ben Meyer's welcoming speech that serve to introduce students to the full "Björklunden Experience." Ben shares a brief history of the Boynton family and the estate, highlighting the spiritual solace the family found in this place. Then, pointing out the red table, he informs the students that, possibly unbeknownst to them, they have joined a weekend-long experiment in communal living. The red table holds the sheets to sign up for meal preparation and clean-up, as well as for Sunday lodge clean-up responsibilities. Just as the Boyntons invested time and work in building their lovely refuge, so the students have to work with their minds and hands to create their retreat weekend.

The moral of the story is, of course, that finding the time for reflection in our lives requires conscious effort. The "Björklunden Experience" transforms students not only through its serenity of place but also through the example of the Boyntons' loving work to create that place. Our hope is that the hands-on spirit of Björklunden will inspire them to continue investing the time and energy to explore new possibilities for their personal and intellectual lives.

Or perhaps, on a somewhat less spiritual plane, the weekend at Björklunden might teach them only that some time away, with a balance of thinking, manual labor, and free time, is a worthwhile thing. My hunch is that many of our students will soon find themselves drawn back to Björklunden to explore that idea a bit further. In the end, that choice is the critical first step on the lifelong reflective journey in which a liberal arts education engages us, even if it must be scheduled on a Palm Pilot two months in advance.

A Björklunden Tradition Named Bob: A seminar leader since 1985

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

Portions of this article originally appeared in the March 2002 edition of The Door Voice and have been excerpted with the permission of the author, Jean Eiss Casey '50.

When Bob Berner and his wife, Connie, arrived at Björklunden to spend the cold rainy week before Labor Day in 1985, it did not look promising. During an interview with Joe Hopfensperger '52, Bob had agreed to lead a seminar in American Indian literature. (In those days, Joe managed everything from selecting seminar leaders to cutting firewood, purchasing groceries, and grading roads on the estate.) Always looking for new talent, Joe had taken the advice of his friend, Gretchen Wilterding Maring '52, who had admired Bob's lectures at Winchester Academy, an adult-education program in the Fox Valley. On this slender thread of acquaintanceships, Bob began his career of annual Björklunden seminars, now unbroken in 17 years.

It was not a good time in his life, both for personal reasons and because he was not certain he was really reaching the students in his literature classes at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh.

"Too many times," he says, "I had the experience of getting really wound up on my subject, practically taking my heart out of my chest and laying it on their desks, and coming to the end of it and saying, 'Do you have any questions?' -- and someone would say, 'Will this be on the exam?' That meant that, while I was talking about the subject, the student was only thinking about his grade, paying no attention to the subject, and learning nothing."

That was never the case at Björklunden -- although Bob's apparent angst as he introduced the course the first evening led George Larsen '49, one of the participants, to think, "That's the teacher? What's the matter with him?"

By the coffee break on the first day, Bob realized that this adult audience was different. They were interested in nothing but the subject, and their enthusiasm fed his own.

"They just lifted me up. I had never had an experience like that," he says. And he has been lifting them up ever since, on subjects from American and Irish writers through Shakespeare to "America's War, 1941-1945" and "The Columbian Encounter."

George and Barbara Donahue Larsen '49 and Gretchen Maring and a number of other Door County residents and retirees have almost unblemished records of attendance in Bob's seminars, willing to follow his enthusiasms wherever his varied scholarship and restless mind take him.

Bob O'Boyle '37, who has attended at least 13 of Professor Berner's 17 seminars, calls him "one of the best teachers I've ever known. He can take any subject and make it understandable and interesting. He's offered seminars on the widest variety of topics, and I'm always impressed by his capacity to analyze things and present them clearly.

"Whatever subject he's teaching," O'Boyle adds, "that's the one I'm going to sign up for, because I know I'll learn a lot."

After his retirement in 1990, his only teaching, except for an occasional public lecture, was his annual seminar at Björklunden. In the summers of 1994 and 1995, in keeping with his work ethic and his loyalty to Björklunden, he taught seminars in borrowed Door County venues arranged by his friends, helping to keep the Björklunden idea alive in the aftermath of the fire that destroyed the original lodge in 1993, until construction of a new lodge was completed in 1996.

Bob Berner died in November 2004. The Robert L. Berner Memorial Endowment for Björklunden, established by his wife, Constance, in April 2005, supports one or more annual summer seminars.

Bob and Connie Berner's grandchildren, Martonius Mohammadian '94 and Monita Mohammadian '92 are Lawrence University graduates.

Teaching at Björklunden: A restorative session of intellect and nature

By G. Jonathan Greenwald
Stephen Edward Scarff Memorial Visiting Professor, 1998-99

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

"Let's do a poll on what we think about Iraq," said one of my students, and so the 29 participants in the seminar on "Conflict Prevention and Global Terrorism" that I offered at Björklunden late [in the summer of 2002] debated and then proceeded to vote on whether, with the information made available to that point by the Bush Administration, they supported or opposed military action against Saddam Hussein.

That was just one of the spontaneous moments that highlighted a week's consideration of the applicability of diplomacy to a series of world crisis spots -- from the follow-up to September 11 events, to Middle East tensions, the Kashmir issue, Indonesia, and Somalia. I was doing a busman's holiday from my work at the Brussels-based non-governmental organization, the International Crisis Group, which develops political analysis and policy recommendations intended to help governments prevent, contain, and, hopefully, eventually resolve deadly conflicts.

I knew what I was getting into, however, with my class of enthusiastic alumni, friends of Lawrence, and residents of beautiful Door County. After completing 30 years with the U.S. Foreign Service, I was fortunate to spend the 1998-99 academic year as the Stephen Edward Scarff Memorial Visiting Professor of Diplomacy and Foreign Policy teaching on Lawrence's main campus in Appleton. In the course of that year, I had made several visits to the "northern campus," as the Björklunden estate on the shores of Lake Michigan is called.

I had participated on a rainy spring weekend, when a student from Leipzig, with whom I shared reminiscences about the old East Germany, proved to be the only language link between the German and Chinese Clubs, whose student members were not allowed to communicate in English during those two days.

I had seen Björklunden in its autumnal elegance, as well, with a group from Lawrence who traveled by bus from Appleton to attend a recital of classical music put on by Lawrence students -- and walk the shore between steel gray lake and multi-colored forest.

And I had taught my first continuing education seminar in the summer after the Bill Bradley for President campaign ran out of steam and before returning to Europe. That course -- on "The Origins of War," in which we looked closely at what Thucydides wrote about the struggle between Athens and Sparta and at the events that led to the First World War -- was based on one of the courses I had taught to Lawrence undergraduates.

So I knew when I came back across the ocean for another week in Wisconsin what I was letting myself in for: a restorative session of intellect and nature in the unique educational facility that Lawrence has made of the Boyntons' magnificent gift.

Björklunden is a state of mind, a constant reminder that learning is not a chore but a privileged responsibility of the committed citizen. Students love to go there, whether they are undergraduates or retirees, and so do those fortunate enough to be thought able to teach them something, whether from their scholarship or, as in my case, from career experiences.

I have learned from each of my experiences. I came back from my first summer with a student's question going around in my head. "I think I understand why all those countries went to war in August 1914 thinking they could win quickly," she asked me, "but why didn't they seriously try to make peace three months later when anyone could already see it was all going horribly wrong?"

A good question to which I didn't know the answer, and I still mean to research and write the book that may help explain the mystery.

This past summer I went fearing that I had been too ambitious in setting my class an extensive reading list of books, articles, and International Crisis Group reports. I returned to Brussels after a week with a stronger appreciation of how vigorously and responsibly Americans were seeking information with which to understand and cope with a world in which they felt newly vulnerable after the attacks on New York and Washington. The class had indeed done its reading and come prepared. We used all 15 hours of class time -- as well as many more hours over informal meals taken together in the lodge's dining room.

And that is why I will come back again, whenever I can -- to renew old friendships but, above all, to exchange ideas and learn in a special place of beauty and camaraderie. That and perhaps to try again to catch on Lake Michigan my own contribution to the traditional fish boil and to marvel evenings at a sky filled with a Milky Way the like of which is never seen in Washington or Brussels.

Back at the Beginning: Summer job in Shangri-la

By Mark Breseman '78
Director of Björklunden

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

I had a decision to make: either return to suburban Chicago to spend my summer cleaning offices or apply to work at an as yet unseen, purportedly idyllic Door County estate newly acquired by Lawrence University. The year was 1975, and I was nearing the end of my first year at Lawrence when I noticed an innocuous looking position description on the Job Board in Brokaw Hall. Even though I had never been to Door County and certainly had never seen this new place, I was anxious to head lakeside for the summer.

My first opportunity to see my summer residence came on May 17, 1975, the day Lawrence dedicated the property to the memory of Donald and Winifred Boynton. I talked my way onto the catering crew for the event and, as the truck entered the arched entryway of the estate, I knew I had made the right decision. The birch and cedar forests and the beautiful buildings, set against the backdrop of Lake Michigan, were a city kid's Shangri-la. I don't recall any of the Dedication Day programming, but I do know that I couldn't wait for my summer job to begin.

I slogged through my final exams and returned to Björklunden in my dad's beloved '68 Mercury. Even though I unloaded the car in a steady rain, my enthusiasm was not dampened. I moved into the servant's quarters of the main lodge and felt immediately at home.

After stowing my gear, I wandered. The lodge and studio were wonderfully rustic, fully furnished as if the Boyntons were going to show up any time for their annual summer stay. As I was opening doors and poking my head in cupboards, I discovered boxes of Winifred's drawings, sketches, and illustrations. I stretched out on the wicker couch on the screened-in porch and listened to the rain drum on the roof and the waves lap against the shore.

I grabbed the large, ornate chapel key off its hook and dodged raindrops to the chapel entryway. After turning the key and slowly creaking the door open, I stared in awe of all Winifred had accomplished. It was the first of many magical moments spent in that chapel soaking up the quiet aura that she had so artfully created.

Over the course of the first week, I also had the opportunity to explore the 325 acres and mile-plus of shoreline that makes up Björklunden. One memorable evening, clad only in T-shirt and shorts, without flashlight, I found myself off-trail at the south end of the estate about a mile from home, with darkness settling in. I got to know every downed tree and head-high branch on the property as I groped my way back.

Under more manageable conditions, I often strolled along the trail that passes through dense cedar forest dotted with an occasional majestic birch tree and also traverses the beech-maple forest that covers much of Björklunden. All the while, it hugs the shoreline, so one can have the waves as constant companions.

Even if it seems I spent my time wandering and discovering the fascinating past at Björklunden, some actual work was accomplished that first summer. Under the direction of Norb Vonck, recently retired from the Lawrence University Facility Services department and now Björklunden's resident caretaker, I painted, cleaned, mowed, groomed, trimmed, chopped, and cut as we tried to restore the buildings and grounds after nearly ten years of neglect.

I also gave chapel tours. For the first time since Donald Boynton died in 1966 and Winifred stopped coming to Björklunden, the chapel was open to the public, and they certainly took advantage. I recall finishing a tour for a packed house and stepping outside the chapel to find the waiting line stretching back to the driveway.

Obviously, I have no regrets about the decision I made nearly 30 years ago to spend a summer at Björklunden. This magnificent place certainly had a hand in shaping an impressionable college freshman, something it continues to do to this very day.

Generation by Generation: Door County summers

By Genevieve Williams '03

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

When my grandmother graduated from Lawrence in 1937, Björklunden as we currently know it was not in existence. Lawrence did not yet own the property; it was still the summer residence of Winfred and Donald Boynton, and the Chapel was only in its beginning conceptual stages.

Still, my grandmother, Hester White Maury ’36, had her own version of a Door County experience: childhood summers spent on Coral Hill Road in Ephraim, swimming in the lake, playing on the rocky coastline, and eating ice cream at Wilson’s. She was married in the yard of a house on Coral Hill Road overlooking Lake Michigan, and when she had children, they made the trek from Connecticut during several summers in the 1950s and 1960s to spend weeks at a time in Ephraim.

In June 2002, I somewhat unwittingly continued the family tradition of Door County summers by becoming a staff member at Björklunden.

Each year, eight students are hired as Björklunden staff, responsible for the daily workings of the lodge. We quickly discover the importance of the dishwasher and acquire adept chopping skills in the kitchen. We learn how to orchestrate the traditional Door Country fish boil and how to execute the kerosene-induced boil-over. Every week we perform a staff talent show, at which the guests are shown that the performance talents of the staff range far past clearing tables and sweeping floors.

In return for our work during the summer, we get to live on one of the most beautiful stretches of coastline in Wisconsin, meet interesting seminar participants, and eat as much of Chef Steve Martin’s cooking as we can handle. It is quite the good deal.

Student workers get to know the guests and inevitably learn from the seminar topics for each week. Each new seminar brings a new group of participants and instructors, changing the dinner table conversation greatly from week to week. One of the interesting parts of the summer staff job is that, while you serve the guests, you are also encouraged to interact with them.

Usually, the guests are just as excited as the staff to be in Door County in the summer, so we exchange stories of trips and new discoveries in the area. Indeed, we take trips all over Door County: to beaches, state parks, and theatre performances. Throughout the summer, the words of Shakespeare flow from the Björklunden Garden, as Door Shakespeare practices and performs its annual plays.

Also, as per tradition, we eat ice cream at Wilson’s and watch the sunset, as did my grandmother in the 1930s and my mother in the 1950s. The spirit of Door County still thrives in my family, with an assist from Björklunden.

Memories and Mountain Bikes: Riding the trails at Björklunden

By Timothy X. Troy ’85

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

Tim Troy is associate professor of theatre arts and J. Thomas and Julie Esch Hurvis Professor of Theatre and Drama. A Lawrence alumnus, he has been a member of the college’s faculty since 1997.

Professor [of Biology Nicholas] Maravolo introduced me to the old lodge at Björklunden in my freshman year, the autumn of 1981. The chill air, the gentle lap of the waves, and the camaraderie of that weekend remain with me still. For me, the wonder of Björklunden remains some 20 years and a score of visits later.

Now, as a Lawrence faculty member, I relish the opportunity to bring my theatre students — many for their first visit — to the new lodge each October. Since 1998, we have forged a tradition in our department of taking a weekend away from the main campus to work (and play!) on our Fall Term production. For two nights and three days the Great Room is our rehearsal hall, and we begin the process of breathing life into musicals by Steven Sondheim and Frank Loesser and the plays of Brian Friel and William Shakespeare. We end each day with a campfire and start each day with a walk in the woods. The students enjoy the opportunity to focus on the play, and I enjoy the concentrated hours of uninterrupted exploration the lodge affords us.

However, one visit each year isn’t nearly enough, so I’ve eagerly embraced the opportunity to teach in the summer seminar program, as well.

In my most recent Björklunden seminar, we explored one of my ancillary interests — old-time radio drama. The first day I met with my adult students, many of them were baffled that someone my age had such a deep interest and affection for those “old-fashioned radio shows.” I soon allayed their fears, as we began our survey of the range and depth of many broadcast greats. I especially enjoyed the moments when a show I presented triggered someone’s childhood memories.

My students returned my offering of the best and most compelling radio productions with poignant recollections of their childhoods and, at the end of the week, assured me they “got a lot” out of my course. I can assure you that the stories they shared were truly a special enrichment in my life.

During that same seminar, one of the student workers at Björklunden encouraged me to try a new activity. Brad Behrmann’04, who has been in several Lawrence theatrical productions, encouraged me to hop on one of the bicycles available at the lodge and find the prairie path, so I did.

To say that my first little bike ride was fun is an understatement. It felt as if I found religion! I kept asking myself, “Why did it take 39 years to discover just how much fun riding a bike on a trail can be?”

By the end of that week I had ridden trails at Newport and Peninsula State Parks. Within days of arriving back home, I traded my Schwinn cruiser and bought my first mountain bike. You can be sure I took my bike on our annual theatre retreat last October.

I look forward to seeing old friends and meeting new ones each time I am invited to present a summer seminar. Though the air in July isn’t quite as chilly as on my first visit with “Doc” Maravolo, the lapping waves still accompany our seminar discussions, our afternoon chats on the deck — and, yes, even a bike ride along the lake.

Working at Björklunden: Stories of the summer staff

By Christine Ziemer ’04 and Allison Dietsche ’04

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

Imagine living in a little wood-heated cabin right on the shores of Lake Michigan. Imagine waking up in the morning to watch the sun rise over the lake, casting red and pink beams across the calm water, or sitting out on the grass on a sunny afternoon watching the waves gently rolling in to the shore. Imagine having over 400 acres full of trails to wander anytime you like. Imagine having a walk-in refrigerator full of the most delicious left-overs to eat anytime. Imagine bonfires by the lake under a sky full of so many stars you can hardly pick out constellations. Imagine sharing this experience for an entire summer with friends — and being paid for it.

Working at Björklunden for the summer is a truly unforgettable experience. The land, the people, the guests, the atmosphere — everything is just incredible. This is a place where you can relax, notice nature, feel healthy, and enjoy life.

We came here for our first night of work just hours after our graduation ceremony at Lawrence. Although we knew some of our fellow staff members fairly well, others were merely acquaintances. We didn’t even really know each other, regardless of the fact that we were in the same graduating class. However, the staff bonded quickly — there’s no way around it when you’re working every day with the same eight people. As a staff, we’d engage in fun excursions outside of Björklunden, such as mini-golfing at the Red Putter, drive-in movies, and ice cream at Wilson’s. We also had a lot of fun on the property: going for runs together on the many trails, playing lawn Olympics (which consisted this summer of bocce ball, horseshoes, and wiffle ball), and watching movies or playing games in the cabin.

Of course, working at Björklunden isn’t all fun and games. We served meals, cooked, cleaned rooms, chopped wood, gave chapel tours, cleaned some more, mowed the lawn, and washed dishes. And, of course, there were the weekly staff talent shows. It was fun, as staff members, to get together with different people and come up with new, creative acts to perform for our guests. We did everything: skits, musical instrument performances, singing, juggling, telling bad jokes. We even put together a kitchen drum band that not only made a few talent show appearances but also became an attraction in the Fourth of July parade in Baileys Harbor.

Although the experience of working at Björklunden is an incredibly enriching one, among the most fulfilling things we took away from the summer were the relationships we formed with the people we met there. Guests at the Björklunden seminars and Elderhostels, Lawrence alumni, and Door County residents were all extremely friendly and interesting to talk to. We all have countless memories of Björklunden guests and the impact they had on our summer. Furthermore, the friendships that began in the summer, both among the staff and between staff members and others through the Björklunden connection, are sure to last far beyond our time together in Door County.

Imagine that.

Immersed at Björklunden: The French and Francophone Studies department's student weekend

By Eilene Hoft-March, Professor of French

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

For my departmental colleagues and me, the French-language immersion program at Björklunden has been so much a part of our winter rhythm that I forget what it was like in the dark ages before the new lodge.

A little history lesson tracing how far we have come is in order. Back in 1990 our department became enthusiastic about the idea of creating a day-long immersion experience in French for our students. According to the experts, we were to spirit students away to a remote location, set up ground rules for using French only (including written materials, music lyrics, and films in French), and plan a variety of opportunities for communication in the language and about French-speaking cultures.

Armed with these ideas, we set to creating a “journée à la campagne,” that is, a day in the country. My wonderful friend and colleague, Judy Sarnecki, offered her home as our “French” site for the day. We planned and shopped. Judy cleaned. Gervais Reed baked beautiful baguettes. I ran a shuttle service between campus and Neenah. We organized parlor word games, discussions on French films, and singing. We ran simultaneous cooking lessons on coq au vin, vinaigrette, and mousse au chocolat. And students loved it. By its third anniversary our “journée à la campagne” had grown in popularity. We also noticed a new phenomenon: students unable to spend the whole day began to “drop in” for a meal or an hour of conversation, sometimes bringing along non-French speakers who craved cuisine a little more “haute” than they might get on campus. It became clear to us that we were getting far more immersed than our students.

Thus, when Lawrence’s trustees made their wise decision to rebuild the Björklunden lodge in a grander version, our department knew exactly how we might take advantage of the facility. Our “journée” expanded into a full-fledged “week-end.” We now had space to stage all manner of activities. Björklunden’s fabulous chef, Steve Martin, cooked up at our request quiches and couscous, soupe à l’oignon, and roti de porc, and that fact alone liberated the faculty from hours of behind-the-scenes labor. We were now free to concentrate on the business and the pleasure of teaching language and culture to clusters large and small of our willingly captive audience.

In our ten or so versions of the “week-end à la campagne,” we have watched French and francophone newscasts, observing the interesting shifts of perspective on events common to the whole world. We have learned the latest dances from West Africa, usually courtesy of our Senegalese language assistant or our own colleague from Cameroon, Lifongo Vetinde. Students have showcased their talents in musical performances or dramatic readings or improvisational skits (all in French, bien sur!). We have taken hikes in the woods, sometimes in knee-deep snow, which offers the opportunity to present specialized vocabulary for weather, nature, and survival. And we’ve treated ourselves to private film showings of the latest in French-language cinema. (The latest, not always the greatest. Who was it that selected that dreadful film, “Le Pacte des loups,” with its inane blend of history, science fiction, and downright creepy horror story? Oh well, it certainly fueled discussion!) And then there are the many conversations that take place around a meal or a cup of cocoa, or in front of the fireplace.

When we publicize this special opportunity to students and even to a broader audience, we often call it our “laboratory,” our mini field experience that simulates something of the real field experience — in our case, living abroad in another culture.

During our Björklunden immersion weekend, we have the time and space to offer authentic language experience over an extended period of time, so extended, in fact, that students often feel strange returning to English. But, to describe the weekend only in terms of an intense encounter with foreign language and culture would miss the fact that it is, crucially, at Björklunden. That exquisite little patch of planet becomes a sanctuary for us all, a respite from the ceaseless din of busyness that accompanies most undertakings in our American culture. Yet, even as Björklunden gets us away from the hubbub on campus, it also gets us back to a setting where learning can take place freely and naturally. Perhaps most importantly, it is, for our students and for us, the place where we experience living as a small community, and that in and of itself is good preparation for world citizenship.

What more can I say than “vive Björklunden”

My First Seminar: A graduate's seminar experience

By James Hahn ’06

Reprinted from the Boynton Society Newsletter, a publication for supporters of Björklunden vid Sjön.

When Professor of Biology Nick Maravolo suggested that I apply for the Hopfensperger Scholarship to spend a week taking a seminar at Björklunden, my initial thought was “I just finished four years of school. Why would I want to spend a week taking a class during the summer?”

Since he has come to know me well, I simply trusted his judgment that it would be an enjoyable experience, and I decided to apply. If nothing else, I thought, it would be a week in which I wouldn’t need to cook for myself.

When I flipped through the seminar guide, I realized that I would not be disappointed. As a biology major, I have spent much of the past four years studying the natural sciences; I was pleased to see that the Hopfensperger Scholarship would give me the opportunity to learn outside of my comfort zone of studies. With that, I chose to broaden my horizons by attending the Politics in Washington: The War at Home and Abroad seminar, taught by Time magazine correspondent Doug Waller. (Pictured, above: Doug Waller, left, and James Hahn.)

Upon arriving at the lodge, I quickly noticed a difference between myself and every other face that I met. I was the youngest seminar attendee by at least four decades, I thought to myself. That rough estimate would prove to not be terribly off. This difference in age soon proved to be little more than a number, as my fellow students made me feel quite at ease.

While our morning classes were clearly learning experiences, so too were the meals and afternoon and evening free time. During those periods, I was able to know my fellow participants better and hear the incredible life stories that each was more than willing to recount. As eager as I was to hear their stories, I found them to be equally eager to hear of my plans for the future. It was as if I served as the adopted grandson for the week.

Another marked difference between my visits to Björklunden as a student and this one was the staff. For the first time, fellow Lawrence students were serving my meals and cleaning after me and making my bed. As uncomfortable as I was to have friends waiting on me, I learned to adjust.

The seminar class sessions, led by the personable and knowledgeable Doug Waller, were, in typical Björklunden fashion, a series of casual discussions rather than lectures. It was great to hear the political issues that most affected the older seminar participants, which as a recent college graduate had not crossed my mind. I can confidently say that I will never again need to ask about a doughnut hole. Most intriguing, however, were the candid “war stories” that Doug told the group. For example, I’m willing to assume that most Americans don’t know which politicians have what tattooed where, but after a week talking with Doug, I do.

Much of the learning that week occurred not in the classroom but at mealtime and free time by the lake, talking with Doug and with the other participants. While I went to Björklunden with the intent to learn a little bit about politics — and I did — I also left with an expanded knowledge of life.

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