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What makes the Culver experience so memorable?

Jan Garrison

It's the people


June 8, 2022

“It’s a Culver thing.”

Everyone is familiar with the expression. But what does it mean?

For the two student Baccalaureate speakers at Culver Academies Sunday, the “Culver thing” boils down to people making memories.

Maya Jyothinagaram ’22 (Forsyth, Illinois) and Andrew Perun ’22 (Bensenville, Illinois) talked about their experiences – with friends and classmates – and the lifelong bonds they have created over the past four years. Even despite their run coming during the middle of the COVID pandemic.

As Jyothinagaram (above) said, relatives may wonder what’s so great about ‘the people’ that makes you travel hundreds or even thousands of miles from home for a high school diploma? It isn’t walking through Logansport Gate during Matriculation or hearing the cannon blast over Lake Maxinkuckee that changes  you, she said.

Rather, as Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “’The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.’ Essentially, the places we love are marked not by the Chapel’s signature bells or the fallen Eppley ceiling. Rather they’re marked by the people.”

“Culver isn’t simply a place. It’s defined by the people who inhabit it,” she said. It is the person who covers you up after you have fallen asleep on their bed, then sleeps on the floor. It is the dinners with friends and making paninis “as tall as my hand” that may have ruined one of the grills. And it is when a friend smuggles a pizza into the health center, then sits outside your window so you can eat together after you have been sick for a week.

Everything changes. Everyone changes. Lake Maxinkuckee will change, “but our version of it will not.” Those core memories speak to the transitory nature of their time at Culver, she said. And the Culver qualities still belong to each of them. Those qualities will not disappear once everyone crosses the Gate or Arch.

“For better or for worse, we will have them,” Jyothinagaram explained. “They will evolve with our experiences, change, and grow.”

And Culver “would be nothing without you,” she told her classmates, even though they were only here for a short time.


Andrew Perun speaking at Baccalaureate.


A spectacular show

For Perun, this year at Culver reminds him of being called up on the Eppley Auditorium stage and being hypnotized. “I had no recollection of anything that happened between the time I fell asleep and the time I woke up,” he said. But his friends had plenty of evidence of what had occurred.

And, while the Class of 2022 has had its experiences packed together with those of the Classes of 2019, 2020, and 2021, “our chance” to perform came swiftly. And what he did learn from his hypnosis experience is that “our memories are hardest to recollect when we the ones living them.”

Some of his highlights included:

  • The pep rally. “Which we won.”
  • Meeting the cast of “Up,” the Jedi and Stith of “Star Wars,” and Queen Elizabeth herself at the Beason Halloween Party.
  • How Casey Collins (Carmel, Indiana) handled the technical difficulties during the Condoleezza Rice all-school session.
  • The CMA-CGA all-school trivia competitions, “where no one really knows the answer after four years of attending Culver.”
  • Max Gifford (St. Louis, Missouri) and Campbell Overfelt (Culver) performing at their Honors in Music recital, offering some of the best trumpet and harp music “our class has to offer.”
  • The Powderpuff Game. “Which we won.”

Along with other tricks and pranks.

“Regardless of what you or I remember,” he said, “the show we’ve put this year, as a class, has been nothing short of spectacular.”

Having gone through a year of quarantine, another of COVID protocols, and “finally being able to enjoy our final stretch of Culver uninterrupted was a true blessing.” While other classes have faced these obstacles during their Senior Springs and graduations, “we have watched from the audience.”

And, as their time at Culver runs down, Perun was reminded of Muhammad Ali’s words: “Don’t count the days, make the days count.”

So, “don’t get hypnotized,” he said. “Falling into a daze where memories are made but not remembered, where your days pass by without reflecting upon them, where your friends are gone without cherishing them, is simply too dangerous.”

“Wake up every once in a while. Look around. Be grateful. We have put on quite the show this year, but it not over yet. So, my classmates, friends, and family, thank you for everything – I’ll be sure to see you all on the stage in the years to come.”

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