Those present at Eastern Mennonite College’s 60th anniversary celebration in 1977 may have forgotten the hymns, the interview event in the chapel, or the special bulletin issue.
But they wouldn’t have forgotten the cake.
The sheet cake was a to-scale replica of campus, about four feet by six feet in size and made with fifty pounds of flour, 98 pounds of sugar, 29 pounds of shortening, 560 egg whites, 5 pounds of coconut, 16 cups of evaporated milk and three gallons of milk.
Jim Bishop ’67, then director of media relations at EMC, chaired the planning committee.
“I don’t know why we decided to make a big hooplah out of the 60th anniversary, but we did,” Bishop said.
As Bishop explained in a recent interview, the cake was almost an afterthought yet it was just as much of a feat as other activities.
The biggest undertaking was a 10-year history update provided by English professor Omar Eby, which picked up where Professor Hubert Pellman’s 50-year history of the college left off.
The entire Fall 1977 Bulletin (the precursor to today’s alumni magazine, Crossroads) was dedicated to Eby’s historic account.
“That Omar, he’s something else. He’s always a little bit edgy, but his cynicism was always right on. He called them as he saw them. He could get away with saying and writing things that most people couldn’t,” Bishop said. However, a few things that Eby “saw and called” were left out of the final draft.
To go along with the 10-year history, Bishop and the planning committee organized an interview by Eby in the chapel for all students, faculty and staff to enjoy with President Myron Augsburger; George R. Brunk III, the seminary’s dean; and J. David Yoder, principal of Eastern Mennonite High School.
The interview occurred on Founder’s Day, Oct. 17.
“Omar, in his own style, did a wonderful job interviewing, probing the three men, reflecting on the college, the seminary and the high school,” Bishop said. The same three men later participated in an hour-long interview with the Harrisonburg radio station, WSVA.
However, Bishop wasn’t satisfied with all of that for the commemoration of the college’s 60th birthday. The occasion called for gravity, of course, but also “something else.”
“I felt like it needed to be more of a celebration…something a little bit lighter, just a fun thing,” Bishop said. “It was my idea to make a birthday cake in the shape of the campus.”
Director of Food Services Glenn R. Braswell and his staff made it happen. Despite initial reservations, extensive cost and labor, the food services team managed to pull off the baking, frosting and decorating of a huge cake.
The Weather Vane announced its creation the week prior, describing it as “an immense topographical anniversary cake the size of a pingpong table and available for consumption Oct. 19.”
The cake looms large in Bishop’s memory of the anniversary: “I can still see it. They put a copy of everything that went into it, the ingredients, the quantities on the wall. It was an impressive list.”
Following the chapel service interview, the audience went into the cafeteria.
“We might’ve sung the alma mater, I don’t recall. There were some words from the president,” Bishop said. The cake was cut by professor emeritus of history Harry Brunk, and everyone present enjoyed a piece.