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A Walk to Remember: Alumna Jane King leads campus-wide tour

King speaks to a captivated audience. (Tara Nelson)

With her silvery-white hair, grandmotherly sweater and playful grin, Jane King is not the typical Mills College tour guide. Yet for well over 30 years, King has attracted a captive audience of prospective students, parents and fellow alumnae to her campus tour during convocation, and her tour this year on Oct. 1 was no different.

Her tour, nicknamed Jane’s Stroll, takes spectators on a historical walk through  the College campus. As a Mills alumna of 1942, King provides a jaunty combination of historical commentary and personal anecdotes about various Mills landmarks as she putts around in her golf cart.

“I think that, for a person who has been here for so long, she has a remarkable sense of knowledge about how it used to be,” said Joan Rice Holmes, class of 1960.

King showed off her knowledge with unique facts about some of the Mills buildings, like the Reinhardt Alumnae House, which was built and dedicated in ‘49.

“[The architect] Bill Brown literally designed it on the back of an envelope,” King said and continued to devulge other little-known details of Reinhardt’s construction, like the plan to build an apartment behind it.

The arch at the Art Building. (Tara Nelson)

However, King does not have a sentimental story for all of the campus’ construction.

“There’s absolutely no point or purpose to it,” King said of an archway near the Aron Art Center.

Many tourists enjoyed King’s comparisons of how Mills was at one time and how Mills is now. From simple changes, like Post Road once being called Bula and the Student Union, to large changes, like the additions of buildings, King had something to say.

“It was called The Pot Shop,” King said of the Ceramics Studio. King attributes the name change to the fact that “it didn’t seem appropriate to have a pot shop on campus,” a remark that elicited a few laughs.

According to King, the Vera M. Long Building has gone through many changes, including years as a children’s school, the Public Policy building and, now, the Social Sciences building. When King was a student, the building was a health center.

“I remember my freshman year, having a terrible case of the measles,” King said, who had one of 4 cases that year. The cases were so serious that each student had to have her own private nurse.

King did not fail to point out all of the things Mills used to have but now does not. According to King, the original plans for California Highway 580 went through the College. Although the freeway stayed off-campus, the old horse stables were removed.

“The horse stables had to go anyway, because students stopped brining their horses with them to school,” King said.

A small thing Mills now lacks consistently across the board: a support of alcohol. According to King, the Commuter Lounge in Rothwell Center used to house a resturant called Mills Grill, the first place on campus to serve alcohol. The Faculty Lounge, too, supported Mills women and their alcohol.

“At one time the Faculty Lounge had lockers so they could lock up their liquor,” King said.

But most suprising to fellow alumna were all of the new buildings.

“It used to be wilder, rougher, less buildings. It still has the same kind of flavor though,” said Nancy Marwick DeMuth, class of 1970.

Holmes agreed.

“A lot of this wasn’t here in the class of ‘60,” Holmes said. “By being here, you can ask questions and see what life’s like on the campus.”

The new Moore Natural Science Building sparked particular interest.

“I’m going to be quite honest with you. I think it looks like a Footlocker. But it wasn’t much to look at before,” King said.

Ultimately, many participants enjoyed the tour, for both its historical content and King’s wit.

“It’s charming,” Demuth said of King’s historical tour.

— Contributed by Heather McDaniel and Stephanie Scerra