Monday, May 23, 2011

The Way It Is: Once a Bearcat, Always a Bearcat

Daily Forum column for 5-19-11

I always thought that "Once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat" saying they say was a little cliche and well, corny, but apparently they, whoever "they" are, were really on to something.

With a deep love for my alma mater and proud supporter of those fierce and feisty kitty cats, that saying just sounded like a bit of a no brainer. Of course I'll be a Bearcat forever, what else would I be? A Griffon? I don't think so, but I won't even begin to open that can of worms.

As a fairly recent member of the Northwest alumni, maybe I just hadn't had a chance for that well-known saying to sink in, until a recent luncheon.

As it were, my grandmother came to town, as she so often does to visit her "favorite, oldest granddaughter;" but this time, she brought a friend.

Driving Miss Daisy, and her friend, from here to there around Maryville, we began making small talk as we waited at the South Main stop light — you know that light that takes an eternity to change.

Come to find out, grandma's companion, a frail woman who wore her life's stories along her smile lines, was a fellow Bearcat.

As we drove along, the memories came flooding back to her 70-something memory.

This woman, who claimed that she had not been on campus since the 1950s, could still pinpoint the exact window of her dorm room in Roberta Hall — but it wasn't Roberta back then.

She recalled living in Kansas City at the time of the infamous explosion of the then women's residence hall that killed Roberta Steel in April of 1951, and her moving to town, where she rented a single bedroom of a house on Fourth Street — the house is still standing.

With a newfound sense of pride for the campus I once called home, that I so often take for granted, we continued our journey on the time-machine through campus.

Several things had changed since my fellow alumna's last visit.

As she struggled to recall what it looked like in her day, facing the newly-constructed Hudson and Perrin Halls, she was quick to point out the exact location where her husband had proposed to her more than 60 years ago. Thankfully, it had not been replaced with a concrete structure and though a light pole remained, I highly doubt it was the same light pole he used to steady himself before taking a knee.

Turns out, we Bearcat women both found our significant others as a student and shared many of the same experiences though decades that separated our adventures. Many of her family members also share the Bearcat pride and even hold small marks on the history that is the Northwest.

While the Administration Building "looks just the way it did back then," the bell tower was non-existent in her memory.

We continued around the loop, each sharing memories and reminiscing.

Come to find out, we had a sorority rivalry in the making. I never thought, as a proud member of Northwest's Sigma Sigma Sigma sorority, that I would get into scuffle as to who the better women were with an 77-year-old member of Alpha Sigma Alpha. I'm not sure we decided who won that argument — the football field distracted us.

As I was forced to leave my new friend and head back to the confine that is a reporter’s desk, I couldn't help but think "Once a Bearcat, always a Bearcat," and I let out a whispered "B-E-A-R...."

–Megan Tilk is a reporter and weekly columnist for the Mary ville Daily Forum. She can be reached at or follow her columns at

1 comment:

Jim Sissel said...

That Bearcat has had 5 generations attend Northwest.