Sweat equity

Maryville College alum, friends roll up sleeves for Kin Takahashi Week

When the KTers hit town, a wave of activity follows. When they leave, in their wake is a Maryville College campus shining with improvements and accomplishments that instill pride in the students, the KT-workers and the community.

KTers are Maryville College alumni and friends who come to campus for five days as part of Kin Takahashi Week.

During the course of five days, June 15-19, 106 volunteers worked a total of 2,600 hours and completed 33 projects. This calculates to approximately $61,200 of added value to the college, said Bill Seymour, vice president for administrative services.

In a Maryville College release, Seymour said, “As a result of the hard work of KTers, the campus is well-maintained and really looks great. This directly effects how well we function as a college, impacts student recruitment, significantly affects the quality of teaching and learning, and communicates a positive image to donors and foundations that support us financially.”

Seymour said the range of projects completed during KT Week included constructing a new softball press box, extending and staining soccer field steps, campus-wide landscaping, multiple painting projects, treating of the Hemlocks and the trimming of English Ivy in the college woods, replacing all towel dispensers, numerous pressure washing and painting projects, laying of stones in the islands of Fayerweather parking lot, identifying and recording of campus trees and ongoing work in the college archives.

Seymour said board member Dan Greaser started the program 13 years ago. “We’ve had a great combination of people who come back every year and look forward to meeting old friends and serving the college,” he said.

Seymour said there is always a good mix of new people and young alumni involved in the projects. “It’s something we plan all year long and look for projects we think are good opportunities for KT volunteers, and we budget for it,” he said. “We buy supplies and plan work and assign work based on skills we know volunteers have.”

Seymour said the week of activities has become an amazing program for the college “The best part is they get a lot done and the beneficiaries are our students,” he said. “They come back in the fall and see lots of changes and additions.”

The volunteers come from across the United States and include alumni, their spouses, children, grandchildren, parents of current students, students, faculty, staff, friends and members of the board of directors. “While the list of projects and the added value to campus is very extraordinary, KT Week is also a time of fellowship, camaraderie and fun,” Seymour said.

The volunteers stayed at the newest dorm, Gibson Hall, and enjoyed nightly get-togethers, a mid-week cookout at the McArthur Pavilion, an evening of music at the annual Kaufman Acoustic Camp and a lively wrap-up dinner on Friday night, he said.

Kin Takahashi came to Maryville College in 1888 after having spent two years in a Hopkins Academy in Massachusetts. At the end of his second year in the U.S., Kin, whose parents were Shintoist and Buddhist, converted to Christianity.

At hearing of his conversion, Kin’s parents cut off all financial support. Through another Hopkins student, Takahashi learned of Maryville College and the school’s commitment to aid financially-strapped young students who wanted a college education. In Kin Takahashi’s short time as an undergraduate, he started the first football team, organized self-help projects for financially strapped students and, most notably, spearheaded the building of Bartlett Hall.

According to By Faith Endowed, a history of Maryville College written by professors emeriti Dr. Arda Walker and Dr. Carolyn Blair, Takahashi wanted to show his appreciation for Maryville College before he graduated. Combining two of his passions - athletics and religion - Takahashi decided the campus needed a YMCA and gymnasium building.

He not only convinced the college administrators of this, he convinced the student body, Maryville town residents and potential donors in the North, as well.

During the summer of 1895, local farmers donated wood to heat the kilns, and student workers pressed more than 300,000 bricks for the building. Takahashi spent four months in the north, asking potential donors for financial support of the project. After raising $8,500 of the approximately $13,000 needed for the project, he returned home. In 1896, he laid the cornerstone of Bartlett Hall, which today still reads “Christ is our Cornerstone.”

Five months before the building’s dedication, Takahashi had to return to Japan. There, he worked as a Christian social worker and even held a position Japan’s YMCA organization. He died in 1902 at the age of 36.

Thanks to the Class of 2000, Kin Takahashi now has a room named in his honor in the renovated Bartlett Hall.

In 1998, the national alumni board of the Maryville College Alumni Association named a new young alumni award in memory of Kin Takahashi. Officially called the “Kin Takahashi Award for Young Alumni of Maryville College,” the recognition is for “any alumnus/alumna who has, within 15 year of his/her graduation of Maryville College, lived a life characteristic of College legend Kin Takahashi, who, in his 36 years of living, worked tirelessly for the betterment of his alma mater, his church and his society.”

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