Upon first climbing the Hill that would later become Kenyon College, legend has it that Philander Chase uttered a phrase that, to this day, figures a major role in the College’s origin story: “This will do.” When Alma Urbano-Torres ’18 began her research into the history of Latinx (the gender-neutral alternative for Latino or Latina) students at the College, she repeatedly stumbled on a different phrase: “This will not do.”
“There will always be more we can do to improve as a community,” Urbano-Torres said Saturday in a presentation of her research during Adelante’s 30th anniversary celebration. Adelante is the College’s oldest and largest Latinx student organization.
The anniversary celebration — which began with events on Thursday evening and concluded Sunday morning — was colored with sentiments of the College’s past and current growth, as well as its shortcomings in terms of racial diversity.
“Many of the alumni I interviewed talked about the reaction of their roomate, their peers, when they found out they were Latinx,” Urbano said. “‘Oh, you only got in because you’re … ?’ Then, a group of brave students formed Adelante, and things began to change.”
The original proposal for Adelante, which Urbano-Torres unearthed from the College’s archives, listed the organization’s purpose as “helping Hispanic students adjust to Kenyon culture.” In 1989, seven Hispanic students were enrolled at the College.
Two of Adelante’s three founding members — Evelyn King ’92 and Rebecca Vazquez-Skillings ’93 — attended this weekend’s celebration and spoke at Saturday’s dinner and award ceremony. They were joined by 12 other Adelante alumni.
“We sit here to memorialize the beginning,” King said, “but it’s really the destiny of Adelante that matters — what Adelante has yet to do.”
Associate Professor of Philosophy Juan DePascuale, Adelante’s founding advisor, said King was critical in giving Adelante its political power on campus in the beginning. In an editorial published in 1990 in the Collegian, King asked of the Kenyon minority experience, “Are minority students that different, that the social norms will not allow them to exist without being labelled ‘other?’”
But for all their politicizing, King and Vazquez-Skillings say it was DePascuale who gave them the inspiration they needed.
“Juan was, in 1989, our only Hispanic employee,” Vazquez-Skillings said. “A huge part of student retention is being able to see yourself in the faculty.” Vazquez-Skillings and King co-presented the award recognizing DePascuale for his contributions to increasing diversity among faculty and staff on this campus, as well as being the driving faculty member behind the creation of Adelante on Saturday night.
“This is an award for not only starting us, but keeping us going,” King said.
After the award presentation, DePascuale spoke about his experience at the College, including his role in creating Adelante.
“Rompiendo barreras!” DePascuale exclaimed at one point, holding aloft the organization’s first shirt from 1986, which depicts a ram breaking through a brick wall. “Adelante is sturdy — it calls for its members to move forward, to advance.”
Immediately after DePascuale spoke, Adelante co-presidents Edgar Martin ’17 and Sebastian Chavez Erazo ’18 presented three surprise recognitions for valuable contributions to the College’s Latinx community to Professor of Spanish Clara Román-Odio, Associate Provost Ivonne García and Carmen King, the College’s fine arts and humanities librarian.
After the dinner and award ceremony, a Latinx culture-themed night at Peirce Pub began; the following morning, a farewell brunch saw visiting alumni and former faculty off.
“[The anniversary] was a huge success and benefit to current Kenyon Latinx students, as well as alumni,” Chavez Erazo said. “The connections that were made are invaluable to Adelante members’ success at Ke