The Last Word
By Tom Yarnall ’54
& Jeff Koehler ’79

Tom Yarnall

Building a Sustainable Community


We graduated from Muhlenberg in 1954. We continued our pursuits to become doctors, lawyers and ministers with graduate studies. Muhlenberg provided the foundation we needed to build a good future.

Those of us who were not continuing our studies were faced with the challenge of a military draft. Getting a job was more difficult because of the looming classification of 1A. Those who would hire us were likely to lose us in short order. Muhlenberg provided skills, perspective and insights that helped us land jobs as well as adjust well to our military assignments.

Being drafted at age 22 allowed us to deal with the new lifestyle better than we might have at age 18. Some of us even enlisted to end the waiting. Some liked it and stayed with it.

It was an interesting time back then - possibly more interesting and unique than many other times. The journey since then has been a mixture of good and not so good, but it was in no way foreseeable. The computer was an unknown when we graduated. We have lived through what I feel has been the best of times. Living during these 50 years just strikes me as being the best ever.

Paths have crossed occasionally since graduation for some of us - mostly at the five-year marks for a reunion. Many of us have not seen each other since that joyous day in June 1954.

So why get involved again with Muhlenberg after all these years? Isn’t the journey basically finished? Based on conversations with old classmates, I get the sense that it is not. Those four years (the preparatory years) were years when we had a lot of fun. It seems there is a strong desire to revisit those moments.

Remember Professor So-and-so. What a great team we had. Hey, our fraternity will participate more than any of the others to show we still have that special spirit. Play golf, reminisce, eat, drink, laugh and be thankful. We were fortunate to go to Muhlenberg and to share it with each other. I want to experience that feeling one more time. How about you?

Like Bill Wolohan said to me recently, “I do not expect to make it to the next 50th Year Reunion. I am going to make every effort to get to this one.”

 –Tom Yarnall ’54


Jeff Koehler


Coach Frank Marino often looks at the alumni who support the college and says, “They bleed Cardinal and Grey.” In my case I think it goes deeper than that, down to the DNA. I consider myself very fortunate to have been born into a Muhlenberg “family.” But just like in real families, your role changes over time, and I have seen my role evolve three times since entering this family.

When I was a child - as far back as I can remember - my grandfather, who taught mathematics on campus for 45 years, and my father (’52) always spoke about the issues surrounding “the College.” (As far as I knew, there were no others!) I remember hearing discussions surrounding topics I knew little about back then: tenure, curriculum and the Smothers Brothers appearance at Memorial Hall. Also, little did I realize at the time that the people who I knew as family friends, such as Luther Deck, George Henry Brandes and Bruce Romig, were the cornerstones of the facility and administration. In fact, it was many years later that I realized that Harold Marks, who came to Thanksgiving dinner at my grandparents’ house for so many years, had actually written the Alma Mater!

Being a rebellious teenager, I thought there was no way I was going to go to ’Berg. I had my other schools picked, and they didn’t include going to Allentown. Well, George Gibbs had a very persuasive way about him… so I made the transition to student of “the College.” My grandfather had retired by then, but there were several faculty members who transformed themselves in front of my eyes, from friends of my grandparents’ to my professors. (Just to let you know, they didn’t play favorites!) The lessons I learned while on campus - hard work, persistence, and dedication - are all things that make me who I am today. The friends that I made here are still my friends to this day.

After graduation I began my evolution to the third phase my relationship with “the College.” As an alumnus, I realize that the value I received from Muhlenberg far outweigh the actual costs paid. So I have been involved with various programs that have allowed me to give back to the College, but at the pace that fits my life and time constraints outside of Muhlenberg. I have been an Alumni Ambassador, Regional Alumni Chair and now part of the Alumni Executive Council. I enjoy spending time working with energetic and talented people who want to have fun, stay connected, and keep building the momentum and direction of Muhlenberg. And these people are fellow alums, classmates, and yes, even friends of my family.

There are many things that you can do to connect with the College, starting with grabbing an old classmate and attending a regional alumni event. Or even better, show up on campus for Reunion – you might just run into a couple of long-lost family members!

–Jeff Koehler ’79


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