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Mitt Romney’s Wisconsin campaign swing takes him to ‘Harvard of the Midwest’

Dear Governor Romney:

We've traveled many miles together over the course of two presidential campaigns, though less this cycle than last.

Nonetheless, there's one trip that would have been fun to make with you: your stop today at Lawrence University in Appleton, Wis.

It's my alma mater, and we Lawrentians don't get many chances to showcase our small-but-overachieving school to the rest of the country.

Not that it doesn't deserve it.

As a former governor of Massachusetts, you would appreciate a bit of its history. It was chartered in 1847 on land purchased by Amos Adams Lawrence, the son of philanthropist Amos Adams and the nephew of Abbot Lawrence, who founded Lawrence, Mass.


As a Harvard Law and Business school graduate, you may also be interested in knowing that one of Lawrence's presidents went on to lead Harvard University.

Nathan M. Pusey headed then-Lawrence College from 1944-1953, before moving to Harvard, where he served as president until 1971, just as you arrived on campus following your graduation from Brigham Young University.

That connection and its rigorous academic reputation have earned Lawrence the nickname the "Harvard of the Midwest," a distinction challenged by Politico's Editor-in-Chief John Harris, a graduate of and trustee at rival Carleton College in Northfield, Minn.

Lawrence has a special program, Freshman Studies, in which all incoming students read the same classics at the same time and discuss them with teachers drawn from all departments.

As an English major yourself, you may also be interested in knowing that virtually every class has a heavy writing component, eschewing multiple-choice tests in favor of essay exams and term papers.

As a political figure, you should also know of its Government department.

Four professors from my era stand out: Minoo Adenwalla, my college mentor, semester-abroad instructor, and an expert in constitutional law; Chong-do Ha, known for his penetrating questions of students; Mojmir Povolny, who not only served as a teacher but also president of the Council of Free Czechoslovakia; and the late Lawrence Longley.


In your current pursuit, his specialty may be most intriguing: Longley was a nationally known expert in the Electoral College system.

The leader while I was on campus, Richard Warch, for whom the new student center is named, also sets an example for presidential longevity. He headed the campus for 25 years.

One of the things that makes Lawrence most special, though, is its conservatory. It brings a level of music and artistic expression not normally found on a college campus, let alone one with fewer than 1,300 students.

One of the people you used to see regularly on television, WCVB-TV's Liz Brunner, is a singer who graduated from the conservatory. She may be able to offer tips on belting out "America the Beautiful."

Other prominent living Lawrence graduates include "Nightline" co-anchor Terry Moran, David Mulford, who used to invest the Saudis' billions and then served as US ambassador to India for President George W. Bush, and Campbell Scott, an actor who is the son of Colleen Dewhurst and George C. Scott.

More broadly, you are in Appleton because of its conservative Republican streak. John Kerry also visited Lawrence during the 2004 presidential campaign, but the voting demographics remain less favorable for a Democrat.

The city's famous residents have included escape artist Harry Houdini, four-time Super Bowl champion Rocky Bleier, Hall of Fame baseball player and announcer Tony Kubek, and banker Walter B. Wriston, whose father also was a past Lawrence president.


Senator Joseph R. McCarthy is also buried in Appleton.

If you have time, you can also take a trip from the Stansbury Theater across the Fox River to the Alexander Gymnasium.

Inside, in the trophy case, you will see the Hall of Fame plaque and a familiar name: mine.

By happenstance, I arrived at Lawrence in 1981 just as the football team achieved great heights, reaching the Division III semi-finals in Dayton, Ohio.

I had nothing to do with that distinction, a freshman sidelined with torn ankle ligaments. But credit should be paid to teammates including Ken Urbanski, Pat Schwanke, Graham Satherlie, Sam Levin, the Zlevor brothers, the late, great Jeff Soderberg, and Scott Reppert.

Reppert was a standout running back who went on to play briefly for the Chicago Bears, the same team where your namesake, Milton "Mitt" Romney, played quarterback in the 1920s.

During my football glory years, I remember a Sports Illustrated reporter coming to campus to write a story about the typically overachieving Reppert, who stood just 5-foot-8. Despite that, he had a career that earned him a vote for the Heisman trophy. He also was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in a class that included Dan Marino, Ronnie Lott, and Reggie White.

The resultant 1982 story was headlined, "Appleton's Apple Pie Guy."

He is that kind of person, and the city and school you're visiting today are those kinds of places.


Enjoy. Just don't let anyone talk you, your staff, or traveling press corps into doing "an Avenue."

Glen Johnson can be reached at johnson@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.