It is hard to believe I am starting my junior year at Lafayette College. I am amazed at how much I have grown academically and socially. Before I set foot on the Lafayette campus as a full time student, my earliest memories of Lafayette College are embedded in my grandfather’s Lafayette memorabilia. I can still remember the exact location of the sewn Marquis de Lafayette emblem in his house. My grandfather, Lewis Alden Winkler, graduated in 1944. He left Lafayette halfway through his college career and joined the Navy. Although he finished his chemical engineering degree at Worcester Polytechnical Institute, Lafayette still held a special place in his heart. He taught chemistry at Lafayette for a year as well. In 2005, my grandfather lost his battle with lung cancer. My mother and her sisters found many old Lafayette artifacts from the attic in his house. Some of the memorabilia include Lafayette banners and an old chemistry textbook.
During my spring semester of my sophomore year, my history professor, Dr. Weiner, recommended a summer internship at the Lafayette Archives. Before I left the house on my first day of work, my mother asked if I could find any photos of my grandfather at Lafayette. I told her that I would ask, but I was not sure if anything would be found. On my first day at work, Elaine Stomber oriented me with the Archive materials and the project I would be working on. I told Elaine my grandfather’s name and we went through a bunch of files with old photos. Nothing was found, so I went back to organizing boxes of photos into file folders. A few minutes later, Elaine came over with my grandfather’s college application and yearbook photo. I was shocked to find that all of the contents of the application were in the folder. There was a letter from my great grandfather in the folder as well.
My mother was ecstatic to open her email and find my grandfather’s college application and yearbook photo. For me, it was a key to a late loved one’s past. I have a better idea of what my grandfather looked like at my age and what his strongest subjects were. As a child, I knew my grandfather as an elderly, retired individual who fought in WWII. Although it sounds silly, the application made me see him as a man of experience who had great memories of being a college student. Now, I can picture him as a young man as well as my grandfather. Being at Lafayette as a student has strengthened my connections to my grandfather’s past; seeing written proof of my grandfather’s determination to continue his education reminded me of my own desire to succeed as a Lafayette student as well.
Lewis Alden Winkler (3rd row, last photo) is pictured with the Lafayette men in service from the 1944 Melange yearbook: