Love for Wesleyan: Denise Rogers Callais
By Denise Rogers Callais '85
The most valuable things I took away from Tennessee Wesleyan were my friendships made. It's been almost 40 years now and hardly a week has ever gone by that I haven't talked to one or more of my college friends. I've been to many of their weddings, their parents' funerals, special events of their children, their inductions into the TWU Athletic Hall of Fame and mourned the deaths of a few of my friends. I've had the great pleasure of being able to visit Wesleyan friends in Ohio, California, New York City, Florida, Hilton Head Island and Japan!
One year at homecoming, I was asked to write down a fond memory from my days at TWC. That was easy for me. My mother died unexpectedly a few weeks before school began my senior year. Soccer training camp was already in progress and Brad Smith was the new coach. He didn’t know me at all, but the day of my mom’s funeral, those players told Coach Smith they would NOT be at practice that afternoon. These rowdy guys plus others who had become part of my new family over the prior three years, put on nice clothes and came to Cleveland to attend my mom’s funeral. I will never forget it.
I have many amazing, hilarious memories of my baseball trips (which, on occasion, included driving the TWC van onto Daytona Beach), cheer camps, soccer and baseball games played at "the dump", Sigma Kappa sorority retreats, service projects and All-Sing, theater production rehearsals, my annual formal birthday party, the Mistletoe Gala at the Marvel in Sweetwater, Hal Williams' dog prank and trying to convince my mom that "Sparkle" was the name of our campus bookstore and that I had to write them lots of checks.
I smile when I remember the kids who came to Wesleyan from big cities who couldn’t get over how “boring” Athens was. The Athens Disco, Tolah’s and the Oh Happy Belly Deli were the high points of nightlife. Once those students stuck it out for a semester and figured out that our relationships were forming and fun being found over a card game or around a piano or at “the bridge” or in the campus Soda Shop and not in a night club, they usually discovered the allure of TWC and stayed until they had a diploma in their hands.
My 80's friends have developed a tradition of renting a house near Athens, usually around Watts Bar, where we can all stay together for a long weekend. We try to do that twice a year, once in the fall for TWU Homecoming and again in the spring for the alumni soccer game. My lifelong partner in all this is Ezell Scruggs. We had almost every class together for all four years at Wesleyan and share the same passion for keeping all our friendships tight. A few years ago, he told me that he'd never had a birthday party in his whole life. Since his birthday is in the fall, we had the opportunity to throw him a surprise party when we were all together for TWU Homecoming. We even had sparklers and a pinata filled with candy and exploding Snap-n-Pops. (I don't recommend that.) It is SO fun to cook, laugh, dance, reconnect and reminisce with my people. I urge all of you to reach out to your college buddies and come back to Athens as much as you possibly can.