From Past to Present: Grace Stinger’s ’24 Graduation Marks Centennial Legacy at Gordon 

Have you ever imagined what it was like for your great-grandparents when they were in college? For Grace Stinger ’24 her entire college career at Gordon has been a walk through history—one that culminated on Saturday, May 11, at the 2024 Commencement ceremony, when she graduated exactly 100 years after her great-grandmother, Hazel Mellen, Class of 1924. 

Stinger’s great-grandmother isn’t her only relative to have graduated from Gordon: her great-grandfather, three aunts, an uncle and her mother are all proud Gordon alumni. “It’s been great to continue that family legacy of having another generation go to Gordon,” Stinger says. 

Journey to the Past 

Stinger’s great-grandfather, Harry Lewis Smith, listed in the first Hypernikon yearbook.

When she came to Gordon, Stinger had some knowledge of her family’s legacy but few specifics. Not too long after she began her collegiate career, Stinger found herself working in Gordon’s Archives with College Archivist Sarah St. Germain. There, she discovered that her legacy student status began over a century ago when her great-grandfather, Harry Lewis Smith, came to Gordon as a student.  

During his college years he founded the Hypernikon, Gordon’s yearbook, and was involved in Chapel and other activities. Harry graduated in 1923, one year before Stinger’s great-grandmother, whom he met at Gordon and later married. Stinger even found pictures of Harry in Gordon’s first-ever yearbook, which Germain had safely preserved in the Archives. 

Stinger’s great-grandfather listed on the Hypernikon staff in the first yearbook.

Back at home Stinger’s family has had an old photo from her uncle’s graduation hanging on their fridge for years. Stinger re-created the image, standing in front of Jenks, at her own graduation. Her backdrop includes an addition to the library that was built after her uncle’s time. “Seeing the pictures [really brought it to life,” she said. “I always have been interested in my family’s lineage, [and now I know so much more.” 

Diving into the yearbooks was a way for Stinger to get acquainted with the great-grandparents she never met. She also found tales of her other relatives who attended Gordon. Her uncle was apparently quite the popular figure on campus, making pancakes out of Bromley for his fellow students. Her aunts and mother studied similar academic subjects as Stinger, including mathematics, English language and literature, biblical studies and Christian ministries.  

Stinger hadn’t known any of this when she chose to major in communication arts and minor in both biblical studies and English as a second language, but she found the connections inspiring. “It was just kind of funny that we had the same passions in college, and I did the same thing as them,” Stinger said. “It’s really cool that there’s been that thread.” 

Compared to the Present 

Stinger’s great-grandfather was a member of The Gordon Forum according to the first yearbook.

A lot has changed for the world, and for Gordon College, since Stinger’s great-grandmother graduated in 1924. Back then the College, only 35 years old, had started to transition away from a missionary training school toward undergraduate liberal arts studies. It was still on the Boston campus. Eggs were $0.47 a dozen. Now, Gordon has new schools and a variety of academic programs, a gorgeous Wenham campus and eggs are $3.00 a dozen.  

Despite all these changes there are still some similarities between the time of Stinger’s great-grandmother and herself. The Spanish Influenza epidemic shook the world in 1918, only a few years before her great-grandparents graduated. Stinger started college in the fall of 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, she and the rest of her class did not have a “traditional” first-year college experience. They were plunged into a world of Zoom classes and social distancing to stay safe. 

Despite these challenges, Stinger and her great-grandparents persisted. Harry became an itinerant minister and later an army chaplain. He and Hazel started a family in Brockton, Massachusetts, founded on their faith in God. In a postmodern world, the fact that their children’s children and great-grandchildren have continued in their faith, some at Gordon, is a legacy of perseverance.  

Stinger, too, chose to lean into her challenges, pursuing all opportunities, remote or in-person, that she could at Gordon. She’s been on the Student Content Team, worked in the library and archives, served on the Gordon College Student Association, studied abroad in Orvieto and more. “I’ve grown and learned so much about myself these past four years,” she says. “That’s one of the reasons why I really liked Gordon is because it’s very personable in the sense that you grow not only in your studies, but also in your faith.” 

Looking to the Future 

With her Gordon experience now in the rearview mirror, Stinger looks ahead with hope that others will start legacies like her family’s—and that someday her descendants may attend Gordon too, keeping their lineage alive.  

“What I really like about Gordon is that you learn for yourself, and the staff, the professors, they’ll guide you there,” she says. “But they’re not going to tell you what to do because you won’t grow from that. They know you grow from learning, having experiences and persevering through the tough times. That’s what I really appreciate about Gordon.” 

Pictured above: Myles Johnson, Merry Johnson, Heather Johnson, Grace Stinger, Katie Johnson, Lindsey Stinger