A Lawrence alumni group pose for a photo at St. Andrews in Northern Scotland.
Lawrence alumni and friends pay a visit to St. Andrews in Northern Scotland in September 2023. (Photo courtesy of James Walker '74)

Traveling the world is among the avenues Lawrence University provides to help its alumni stay connected—blending camaraderie and educational insights with gorgeous scenery and shared global experiences.

James Walker ’74 embraced it all when he and his wife, Randi, joined 16 other alumni and friends on an eight-day trip to Northern Scotland in September 2023—Geology of Northern Scotland: Sermons in Stone. The geology-focused travel tour hit all the right notes.

“I first got involved in geology at Lawrence, having taken courses from Ron Tank and John Palmquist,” Walker said. “After graduating from Lawrence, I got an MS in geology from the University of Minnesota, so geology is part of me. At the time, plate tectonic theory was still new, and what I learned on this trip about the advances of the theory was unexpected and profound. I will remember this as one of the best trips I’ve ever had with such unique learning experiences and scenery.”

Lawrence’s Office of Alumni and Community Engagement organizes and leads multiple trips each year. Recent adventures have included Spain, South Africa, Paris, and Patagonia.

Aerial photo of Paris.
A trip to Paris is scheduled for September 2024. 

An information session via Zoom for the Sept. 16-27 Paris trip—Parisian Odyssey—is set for 10 a.m. Jan. 18. You can register here.

As is the case with all the trips, it is open to Lawrence alumni, family, and friends. Costs vary per trip.

Eilene Hoft-March, French professor emeritus, and Charlotte King ’09, a French major and co-owner of the Parisian travel agency Bacchus & Clio, will serve as hosts for the Paris trip, along with Matt Baumler, associate vice president of Alumni and Community Engagement. 

“Parisian Odyssey will offer travelers the opportunity to see Paris from a different angle,” Baumler said. “Professor Hoft-March’s passion for French literature and history coupled with Charlotte’s intimate knowledge of French culture and cuisine will take us beyond the Eiffel Tower and Louvre. We’re going to play the classic French game of Pentanque, delve into the French Revolution, learn from the culinary masters at Le Cordon Bleu, and explore Paris’ magnificent structures from sewers to châteaux. And we’ll experience all this through our shared connection to Lawrence. To say I am excited is an understatement.”

Mark Breseman ’78, senior principal gift officer at Lawrence, is currently leading a group on a trip exploring a region covering Australia’s Outback and New Zealand’s South Island. They left in late December, returning in mid-January.

It is the latest in an ongoing series of alumni trips that have been well-received.

A cruise on the Danube River

Budapest is seen at night from the cruise ship on the Danube River. (Photo courtesy of Mark Breseman)
Budapest is seen at night from the cruise ship on the Danube River. (Photo courtesy of Mark Breseman '78)

Breseman and his wife, Jane Hillstrom—they are parents of a 2014 Lawrence graduate—shared insights from an October 2023 trip, a 10-day Danube River cruise that included 17 people in the Lawrence group. The Danube is the second-longest river in Europe, passing through 10 countries.

The cruise ship, the Amadeus Brilliant, visited seven countries—Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Slovakia, and Austria. The ship stopped in ports and the group walked through numerous cities, among them Vienna, Budapest, and Belgrade.

“Classmates reminisced while the ship passed from the Iron Gate in Southern Romania to the Hungarian Gates Gorge,” Hillstrom said. “Conversations flowed about favorite classes and professors while our ship cruised past fishermen, barges, and castles. Stories about campus shenanigans brought laughter over five-course meals served with wines from the respective countries.”

In Romania and Bulgaria, Hillstrom said, the group saw the long-lasting effects on the people and infrastructure in former Communist-led countries.

“Hungary was a sharp contrast with a vibrant downtown, market, and 100,000 students studying at universities,” she said.

"Stories about campus shenanigans brought laughter over five-course meals served with wines from the respective countries.”

Jane Hillstrom P'14

An evening walking tour of Vienna — a cultural, economic, and political center that was home to Beethoven, Mozart, and Freud — concluded the trip.

Our group played cards, read, walked on the upper deck, and made new friends,” Hillstrom said of the cruise. “The chef taught us how to make authentic Vienna apple strudel. We participated in nightly games and trivia contests—which Lawrence groups won twice—and danced. We took bus tours to castles, memorials, and churches. In Kopacki Rit Nature Park, we saw white-tailed eagles. Highlights of the trip included standing in the Black Sea and a night cruise to see the illuminated buildings of Budapest.”

As is also true with the current Australia trip—and, really, all the alumni travel—the accommodations make the trips a joy, Hillstrom said.

“It’s wonderful to travel to new places where everything is taken care of, from transportation to dinner reservations to priority entrance at key sites,” she said. “Travelers can relax and converse with LU alumni, plus make new friends from all over the world.”

Geology lessons in Northern Scotland

Walker, meanwhile, said his group’s visit to Northern Scotland was invigorating. The journey began in Edinburgh and branched out from there, exploring everything from the rock outcrops and topography of Edinburgh to the beauty of Queensferry to the Kinnell Stone Circle, a prehistoric stone circle situated at the west end of Loch Tay near the village of Killin. There were visits to Urquhart Castle, a ruined castle that sits beside Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland, and a boat tour of the Firth of Forth.

Even the hotel that served as the group’s base was wrapped in incredible history.

“The Virgin Atlantic Hotel is a 2022 conversion of the India Buildings on Victoria Street,” Walker said. “The original buildings were completed in 1866 and named to celebrate the end of the East India Company’s monopoly on trading with India. They were designed in the fashionable Scots Baronial style and intended as offices. The conversion to the hotel resulted in a warren of open-air alley-like connections between bars and restaurants on the ground floor, finally leading to the conference room where we had dinners and lectures. The hotel is quirky with a mix of old and new architecture, including ‘The Funny Library,’ and a strangely tiny front desk with a tunnel-like entrance.”

The tour was enjoyable from start to finish, Walker said. He thanked guides Angus Miller and Bill Shefchick for their dedication and expertise and Breseman for his planning and leadership. And he applauded the group’s driver, Danny, for being masterful at negotiating the Highland roads.

“It was a pleasure for Randi and me to take part in this adventure, and it will be hard to top it,” Walker said. “I look forward to other Lawrence alumni trips that might challenge it.”