Small College, Big Hearts
For six weeks, the College bookstore has rallied the campus community to fill its Facebook page with activity to show support for Habitat for Humanity in the “Build a Future” contest that Barnes & Noble sponsored for all its campus stores. And the community responded with wave after wave of postings—creative photos of people (and pets) posing with signs, along with thousands of comments, likes and shares—right up to finish line at midnight on Sunday, September 30.
From the get-go, WC was a strong contender, keeping up with schools such as Louisiana State, Central Connecticut State College, and Penn State. But in the end, it came down to the Goose Nation versus the Nittany Lions.
Bookstore manager Shannon Wyble had continued posting for the store’s Facebook page all weekend despite a case of bronchitis and a fever of 102. She was exhausted but elated Monday at noon when she announced the outcome, just in from Barnes & Noble headquarters: The Washington College flock had indeed triumphed and the campus Habitat chapter would receive a check for $1,000. (The B&N corporation donated $25,000 to Habitat International.)
As Wyble likes to emphasize for anyone who fails to do the math, we beat our closest competitor, Penn State, “straight out” in accumulated points, with no adjustments for the size of the student body. Washington College has some 1,450 students enrolled. Penn State has closer to 44,000, including its graduate students.
So Wyble is pretty pumped, as is the Washington College Habitat for Humanity group, led by student president Billie Ricketts ’13 and staff advisors Maria Hynson and Dave Wharton. Ricketts, who has been involved with Habitat since freshman year, says she never doubted WC would win. “Our Habitat chapter is a really tight, hard-working group. I’m so proud of us,” she said minutes after hearing the good news. “It was wonderful to see so much support from the community—President and Mrs. Reiss, Jerry Roderick in Public Safety, all the professors—it’s been an incredible experience.”
The supportive Facebook posts, likes and comments have come from beyond campus, too. Parents, alums, community members and even strangers were drawn into the effort. “We had people from the churches in Chestertown becoming fans of bookstore,” says Wyble. “And alumni support really ramped up over the final weekend.”
Wyble’s running timelime posts, often in all caps with plenty of exclamation points, were heartfelt and entertaining as she exhorted people to keep posting. On September 21 she started out defiant:
“CALLING ALL MEMBERS OF THE GOOSE NATION!!! … THE LIONS OF PENN STATE HAVE WOKEN UP. THEY ARE ONLY 26 POINTS BEHIND US AND WE WANT TO KEEP THEM OFF OUR TAIL FEATHERS!!!! THEY CAN YELL WE ARE PENN STATE ALL THEY WANT BUT WE ARE THE GOOSE NATION!!!!
WE ARE THE FIRST COLLEGE FOUNDED AFTER THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR AND WE WILL NOT LET SOME UP START YOUNG COLLEGE STOP US FROM WINNING. IT’S A NEW REVOLUTION AND JUST LIKE GEORGE WASHINGTON LED THE WAY TO VICTORY OVER THE MUCH LARGER FOE IN 1776 WASHINGTON COLLEGE WILL LEAD THE WAY TO A HABITAT FOR HUMANITY VICTORY!”
Going into the weekend, the fiercest competition had remained Penn State and Central Connecticut State University. But the CCSU bookstore graciously conceded on Saturday by posting this message: “Kudos to the Washington College Community! We are offering you one extra LIKE for the H4H challenge. Your team came together and blew the doors off all of the college world. H4H might need to start repairing those doors tomorrow. Loud and proud, your CCSU Blue Devils.”
In a Facebook post back in mid-September, Wyble turned downright philosophical in explaining how Washington College could possibly win against bigger campuses across the country.
“This question has rolled through my head for a while and my response is, look to our history. We take our name from a major benefactor who took a smaller, untrained, ill-equipped, and under manned army against the war power of their time and won. Too far back you say? Look to the Lit House walls and see authors like Ginsberg and Morrison who were told time again to stop writing and stood strong. Still too far back? How about President Reiss who helped to broker the Irish peace accords even though a counterpart took a swing at him? Still more recent? Look to our field hockey team that twice this year has come back from defeat to win in overtime or our women’s soccer team that stared down a bus fire! We have a history of not just facing adversity but overcoming it. You ask how we could think we could win? I ask how you think we could lose?”
Fear the flock.