Coast to Coast: Across Route 50

by Stephanie (Coartney) Dulaney ’10

McK From Coast to Coast Art Decoration
Time magazine called it “The Backbone of America,” one of the longest and oldest travel routes to traverse the country. Running from Ocean City, Md., to Sacramento, Calif., it winds 3,073 miles across 12 states and through innumerable towns. It crosses two major mountain ranges, passes Lake Tahoe and Great Basin National Park in Nevada, meanders over hundreds of miles of desert and farmland, and cuts straight through the heart of the nation’s capital on its way to the ocean.

With its historic past, U.S. Highway 50 connects small towns and big cities all across the country and passes through Lebanon, Ill., the home of McKendree University. in the early days, Methodist episcopal circuit riders used the road to follow settlers west, starting churches in every settlement that had a few buildings. Once a year, they traveled from as far away as the Northwest Territory to gather for the great Methodist conference. There they learned the latest news of McKendree—then called Lebanon Seminary—and carried information about the college back to their congregations. Many McKendree graduates were ministers who played a pivotal role in spreading Methodism further west as they traveled the pioneer route that later became Route 50. “Methodism knew no bounds,” said Linda Isbell ’02, retired volunteer archivist for the Illinois Great Rivers Conference in Holman Library. “Circuit riders never let the lack of roads stop them when it came to seeking out settlers to establish churches.”

The original Highway 50 ran straight through Lebanon, Ill., on St. Louis Street, but was later rerouted to skirt the eastern edge of town due to railroads and the usage of street cars. As a former stagecoach route, it brought travelers to Lebanon, most notable among those renowned English author Charles Dickens, who wrote about the town in his book “American Notes.” Visitors and newcomers arrived via Highway 50, some just passing through and others putting down roots. Today, not only does it span the distance between americans living states apart, but it also connects McKendree students and alumni whose hometowns are scattered along it mile after mile. Whether you drove it with a carload full of all your belongings for your first dorm room, went road tripping on it with friends during spring break, or embarked on it for your first job after graduation, odds are that some memorable college experience took place while traveling along Highway 50. For some alums, no matter how far away their lives or careers take them, their nearness to the road reminds them that the journey back to their college home begins right at their feet.

Much as it was when founded in 1828, McKendree is still known for the intimacy and friendliness of its small campus, tucked away among the rural communities and larger metropolises that dot this stretch of Highway 50. Yet the open road also serves as a thread connecting past and present McKendreans across America and demonstrating that the McKendree community truly extends from coast to coast.

Route 50 Map Artwork



Alexandria Glaude '19


Alexandria Glaude ’19: West Sacramento, CA

Born and raised in the suburbs of West Sacramento, Calif., sophomore Alexandria Glaude never expected to spend her college years nearly 2,000 miles from the sunny streets of her hometown. Now in her sophomore year at McKendree, she could not imagine spending it anywhere else.

Alexandria first learned about the University while competing in the California state wrestling tournament her junior year of high school. She met McKendree’s head women’s wrestling coach Sam Schmitz, who described the excitement and energy of the newly created Lady Bearcats wrestling team. Alexandria knew she just had to be a part of it.

After traveling more than halfway across the country to reach Lebanon, Ill., she found that her college journey was just beginning. “I have made so many memories here in two short years,” she said. “This year’s national wrestling tournament takes the cake by far!” Alexandria earned the title of All-american, as well as a fifth place finish, but it was her teammates’ encouragement of one another that made it even more memorable.

Through it all, she says the University’s supportive campus environment has influenced who she is today. “McKendree really strives to push students out of their comfort zone and open our eyes to experiences beyond us. I think I will leave a more well-rounded person than when I arrived. I will always keep my eyes open and push myself to be a better me.”

Alexandria takes pride in knowing that being part of the McKendree community is not something that goes away, no matter how far she travels. “It is honestly so comforting to know that no matter where I go, I have support at McKendree. I know that if I am lost, there is a community ready to guide me. With the family I have made here, there’s no way I will not find success after graduating.”



Charles Rann ’63
Charles Rann ’63: Cañon City, CO

What was once their favorite vacation spot along Highway 50 is now home for Charles Rann ’63 and his wife, Joanna. After 40 years of performing and teaching music in the St. Louis area, he decided to retire in one of the most scenic areas in the country, Cañon City, Colo.

Charles grew up in Carrier Mills, Ill., before coming to McKendree to hone his skills as a vocalist and musician. His love for music helped shape his college years and make up some of his fondest memories of McKendree. Performing in junior and senior recitals, singing in the McKendree Quartet, and singing opera roles while touring with the campus choir are some of his most unforgettable college experiences.

After graduation, Charles went on to become a music instructor, teaching singers and musicians of all ages in Lebanon and Mascoutah, Ill., as well as students at Greenville College and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. “I also enjoyed directing McKendree’s choir from 1984-88 during a time of rebuilding before Dr. Nancy Ypma came in 1989,” he said. Upon retiring to Cañon City in 2005, Charles worked for a year as an applied voice teacher at Colorado State University Pueblo and continues to perform and collaborate with local musicians in town.

He still cherishes the ties that connect him to his alma mater. “I performed at the Hett with some other alums for a benefit for the Methodist Church three years ago, and I returned to celebrate my 50th graduation anniversary in 2013,” said Charles. “Keeping in touch is very important to me. I have degrees and postgraduate hours from other schools, but my heart has always been with McKendree.”



 Alissa Zeitelhack '20

Alissa Zeitelhack ’20: Overland Park, KS

As a first-year student at McKendree this fall, Alissa Zeitelhack left her hometown of Overland Park, Kan., to start her own journey at a place that stole her heart from the very first visit. The 300-mile trip to campus might have convinced her she wasn’t in Kansas anymore, but the welcoming atmosphere of McKendree made her feel right at home.

Alissa first heard about the University and its close-knit community when Assistant Women’s Volleyball Coach Ben Duckworth sought her out to join the Bearcats women’s volleyball team. “Everyone I met was so friendly,” she said. “I chose to come to McKendree because it was the best fit for me academically, athletically and in my heart.” A talented athlete on the court, Alissa was named the 2015 Eastern Kansas League Libero of the Year and has played competitively on school teams, club teams and at USA Volleyball High Performance camps for the last eight years. She hopes to continue to grow her skills and bring great success to the volleyball team during the next four years.

In the classroom, Alissa plans to major in exercise science and sports performance with a minor in Spanish. Her dream after earning her bachelor’s is to pursue a master’s degree in biomechanics so that she can conduct professional research in the field and help other athletes compete to their fullest. At McKendree, she knows that she’ll have every opportunity to reach her goals and make lasting memories thanks to the meaningful relationships she is forming with her professors, coaches and fellow students.



Joseph Blasdel '00 & Amy (Gildersleeve) Blasdel '00 

Lebanon, IL Connection: Joseph Blasdel ’00 and Amy (Gildersleeve) Blasdel ’00

For Joe Blasdel ’00 and Amy (Gildersleeve) Blasdel ’00, it just felt natural to come back to the place they called home as McKendree students to live, work, and raise a family.

A Du Quoin, Ill., native, Joe was attracted to McKendree’s speech and debate team, and when he was not competing with the team, he was working on completing four majors in political science, mathematics, speech and philosophy. Amy came to the University from Chicago, Ill., to study psychology. Working together in the campus print shop, the two soon discovered they had more in common than just delivering documents. their many walks together across campus are now some of their favorite memories.

After graduation, Joe enrolled in the political science graduate program at Syracuse University, and Amy accepted a job as a case manager at the Southwestern Illinois Visiting Nurse Association in Swansea, Ill. after only three years away from their alma mater, both moved back to Lebanon, and Joe returned to McKendree as a political science faculty member and speech and debate coach. The next year, they were married.

“Coming back to coach the speech and debate team has been a very rewarding experience,” said Joe. “It’s even more fulfilling to see how speech and debate has helped students in their professional careers.”

Now Amy is also back on campus as the bookstore manager, and the two are looking forward to having lunch together as coworkers. “McKendree still has the same small school feel where students are able to have a strong relationship with faculty, staff and administrators,” said Amy. “That experience is also what led to us becoming employees.”

While the University is what drew them both to Lebanon, Joe and Amy fell in love with the small town atmosphere that has remained a constant throughout the years. now they are sharing life with their eight year-old daughter, Hillary, and making memories as a family in what has become their new hometown.



Reverend Philip Richardson ’57

Reverend Philip Richardson ’57: Vincennes, IN

Mascoutah, Ill., native Rev. Philip Richardson ’57 and his wife Mary still remember their time as students at McKendree more than 60 years ago. Back then, there were fewer buildings on campus, and the number of students was smaller, but McKendree still had that unmistakable sense of community and ability to connect people as it does today.

As a philosophy major, Philip graduated McKendree with the goal of becoming a United Methodist minister. He earned his divinity degree from Garrett Evangelical Seminary in Evanston, Ill., and served in the Northern Illinois Conference at Chemung/Garden Prairie. Later, Philip’s work took him all over the state as he led churches in the Central Illinois Conference at Viola and Dunlap, Ill., as well as Centenary United Methodist Church in Jacksonville, Ill. He spent 18 years as the pastor of the First United Methodist Church in Lawrenceville, Ill., before retiring and moving to Vincennes, Ind.

Philip remembers honing his speaking skills as a McKendree student, something that would be vitally important in his role as a  minister. “I was privileged to preach the senior sermon in Chapel, and I was the only student in speech class to receive an A+ because I made so much improvement,” he recalls. While he was often on the road traveling from church to church during his career, Philip still knows the way home to his alma mater. He and Mary Ann celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary by returning to McKendree, where it all began.



Paul Wesselmann ’89 

Paul Wesselmann ’89: Cincinnati, OH

Growing up in Carbondale, Ill., Paul Wesselmann ’89 first came to McKendree while visiting a friend and fell in love with its close-knit family atmosphere. As a student, he majored in psychology and without knowing it, began building the skills he would later use in his career as a motivational speaker. Paul led New Student Orientation and served as a resident assistant (RA) in the dorms. For his senior project, he designed and delivered education workshops for his fellow RAs, which inspired him to earn a master’s degree in higher education.

Now, Paul is known as “The Ripples Guy,” a leadership and keynote speaker traveling the country motivating people to unlock their potential. He returns often to visit his alma mater and even kicked off New Student Orientation with an empowering message in 2002. Paul remembers his own time at McKendree fondly and is amazed by how frequently he finds himself traveling the same highway that leads there. He recalls many weekends with his best friend and fellow RA driving Highway 50 to visit family in Noble, Ill., and one spring break, they drove it all the way to Washington, D.C.

Years later, Paul was again on Highway 50 While vacationing in the Colorado Rockies and traveling to speaking engagements in Kansas and Indiana. In 2012, he moved to Cincinnati, Ohio. “I had been there a few weeks when I realized I was again making myself at home just off U.S. 50,” he said. “I had no idea how much being a McKendree student would shape my career and life, and that Highway 50 would be such a significant part of my adventures!”



 Tony Mitchell ’09

Tony Mitchell ’09: Washington, DC

Each summer for four years, Tony Mitchell ’09 lived the dream of every political science student. He traveled the long eastward stretch of Highway 50 all the way to Washington, D.C., for a series of exciting government internships, learning firsthand what it was like to work with federal policymakers and Congressional entities. After graduating from McKendree and earning his law degree, Tony decided to put down roots in the nation’s capital, where he could combine his background in healthcare law with his desire to help others, to create a truly meaningful career. He serves as the senior government relations manager at District Policy Group in Washington, D.C.

A native of Columbus, Ga., Tony first came to McKendree to play for the Bearcats football team. He found his passion, however, in the fields of political science and communications. “I really liked my instructors,” he said. “Drs. Gordon, Frederking and Collins were all huge influences to me and they helped me get where I am today.”

During his junior year, Tony landed an internship with the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, where he worked as a Capitol Hill intern for his senator from Georgia. It also happened to be the 2008 presidential election year, and he sent photos back to McKendree of the excitement that permeated the city. “I fell in love with the electorate environment there,” said Tony, who returned for additional internships the next three summers.

He may live in a city where history is made every day, but Tony knows that his own unique story began when he first set foot on the McKendree campus.



 Patrick Wesley ’01

Patrick Wesley ’01: Bowie, MD

As head athletic trainer for the Bowie Baysox minor league baseball team, Patrick Wesley ’01 is used to traveling america’s highways and byways on the way to a game. However, his Midwestern roots always bring him home to visit family and check on his alma mater.

Patrick was born and raised in Centralia, Ill., and transferred to McKendree from Millikin University his freshman year. It was 1996, and Coach Carl Poelker had just left Millikin to start the new football program at McKendree. “I really liked Coach Poelker, so I followed him to McKendree,” said Patrick. “My claim to fame is that I was one of the first football players on campus. I also helped recruit players and show them around.” He remembers watching the football program grow from the ground up and seeing the whole campus undergo impressive changes under the leadership of President James Dennis.

Patrick’s career soon took shape when he accepted an internship with the Baltimore Orioles during their spring training session. The Orioles hired him full-time, and he moved to Maryland, where he later took over athletic training for the club’s Double AA affiliate, the Bowie Baysox.

He spends his summers traveling with the team, but manages to make it back to Lebanon every so often to take his wife and kids through campus. Along the way, Patrick has never forgotten the coaches and faculty who guided him to success. “Many of the professors who founded the athletic training program, like Dawn Hankins and Lance Ringhausen, are still there,” he said. “They helped make me into the athletic trainer I am today.”