North Central College - Naperville, IL

A Family Tree of Cardinals

Editor’s note: Jessica Lagodney ’10, a fourth-generation graduate of North Central and English: print journalism major, wrote a longer version of this essay for her Magazine Writing class.

As of June 12, 2010, I’ll represent the fourth generation of my family to graduate from North Central College. In 1910, my great-grandmother Agnes Gamertsfelder, Class of 1914, came from southeastern Ohio to what was then known as North-Western College. Her uncle, Soloman Gamertsfelder, was president of the seminary affiliated with the College. Agnes’ parents felt she would be safe at a college where her uncle worked. At that time, North-Western did not have dorms and my great-grandmother boarded in a home at the corner of Columbia Street and North Avenue. She eventually met H.C. Bruns, Class of 1914, and in 1918 they married. Their daughter Betty was born in 1925.

In 1944, my grandmother Betty Bruns ’48 Rowles decided to attend North Central College. During her three years on campus, she made the most of her experiences while majoring in history. She recalls, “I remember being in Pfeiffer Hall on the stage for a performance; it was really something!”

In 1947, my great uncle, H. Carl Bruns ’47, graduated and went on to become a Life Trustee of the College.

In 1948, my grandmother met my grandfather John Rowles. By 1950 they had a daughter Julie Rowles ’72 Lagodney, my mother. While raised in Iowa, there was never any question of where she would attend college: North Central. In 1968, my mother traveled from Des Moines, Iowa, to Naperville.

My father John Lagodney ’72 was born and raised in Wisconsin. After one of his high school teachers recommended North Central, he enrolled in 1968.

My mother and father met during their sophomore year. This class was so large that freshmen were divided into two different areas on campus. Most were housed at Kroehler North, South or Kroehler House. A small number of freshmen were housed at Geiger, including my mother.

Naperville was a small town so activities were limited. Sometimes my mother would borrow a car with a friend and they would begin the long journey east—to find the nearest mall two towns away in Lombard, IL. My mother recalls, “It was practically like driving to Michigan, you felt like you were never going to find it because the roads were so rural.”

While my parents were students, several important changes took place; the mandatory Tuesday religious convocation became optional by their sophomore year. This allowed for more social time, maybe more troublemaking, like “chairing Old Main.” Students would stack chairs and desks in the stairwells. Without stairs to get to class and empty classrooms, school would be cancelled. As my dad said, “The poor maintenance staff, it would take them a couple of days to get that straightened out.”

After graduation in 1972, my mother and father were married. As teachers, they spent eight years working, traveling and enjoying life. It only made sense to settle down in the town where they met—Naperville—and their first home was a few blocks away from North Central. In 1980, they had a son, John. In 1985, they had a daughter, me. Our family moved again, but just down the street from the College.

After high school, I spent time working and earning my associate’s degree. I was tempted to go out of state to finish college, as my brother did, but it didn’t feel right. Naperville had been my home for 23 years and I knew then that North Central would feel like home for me as well. My parents, of course, were beyond thrilled that I would continue our long family tradition. “I brought two suitcases and a box of books,” my dad reminded me as I prepared for my first semester. Although I planned to commute, my dad’s words really meant that the college experience should not be clouded by extra, meaningless items.

As my own graduation approaches, I can only hope for the same sense of fulfillment that my parents experienced. I feel proud to continue such a deeply rooted family tradition, which has added to the pride I have for North Central College.

North Central NOW Spring 2010