Messenger - Vol. 1, No. 2, Page 4
Winter 1992
Mothers, now daughters share joy in Smyth Hall
     It's a crisp autumn Saturday, a few hours before a home football
game, and the sounds of laughter are spilling out of Room 233, Smyth
Hall. Inside, it's hard to tell who is giggling and talking more-the
two roommates, Susan Alexander and Donna Rodger, or their mothers,
Carolyn Welch Alexander and Sharon Douglass Rodger, themselves
roommates in Smyth from l963-1965.
     The two women, who have remained friends since college, are
delighted that their daughters chose to room together in the same
residence hall where they spent their days at Delaware. The girls, who
have known each other all their lives and think of each other as
cousins, say they're happy with the arrangement, too.
     But, let's begin this story where it begins... back in the '60s.
     At the end of the first semester of their freshman year, both
Sharon and Carolyn were looking for new roommates. Although they
didn't know each other, mutual friends suggested they would be a good
match and Carolyn moved into Sharon's room in Harrington Hall. They
roomed there through their sophomore year and then moved to Smyth for
their last two years on campus when Carolyn was appointed a resident
adviser there.
     They remember house mothers, not being able to wear slacks on
campus, dressing up for dinner, a l0 p.m. curfew on weekdays, signing
in and out of Smyth in the evenings and a strictly enforced rule that
men visitors remain in the lobby (with both feet on the floor) at all
     They remember pay phones in the hall (no private lines in
individual rooms) and having to yell "Man on the floor!" when their
fathers came to pick them up. Their walls were bare, not plastered
with posters like their daughters' room.
     "I think you could say the decor has gone from Amish to worldly,"
Sharon says.
     The '60s these women remember seems to have a been a much simpler
and happier time.
     "I only remember good things, my friends and enjoying dorm life,"
Sharon says. "We were all just so proud to be there. We even liked the
food in the dining halls!"
     In their skirts with matching knee socks, the two enjoyed their
classes and their friends and worked hard to get good grades.
     Carolyn majored in elementary education, Sharon in home
     Sharon was in love with Donald L. Rodger, whom she had started
dating when they were classmates at Middle Township High School in
Cape May Courthouse, N.J. Because Don was at Rider College majoring in
business administration, they saw each other about three times during
the school year.
     Carolyn had known William J. Alexander most of her life, as their
families had summer homes near each other in Ocean City, N.J. Bill
graduated from Drexel University in 1962 with a degree in engineering
and then went into the service. The two began dating during Carolyn's
senior year when he was stationed at Ft. Mead. He often stopped by on
Fridays to drive her home to New Jersey for the weekend.
     Carolyn and Sharon remember the recreation room in the basement
of Smyth that was used frequently during the spring semester of their
senior year for bridal showers.
     "We all went from finals to the altar," says Sharon, who married
Don one week after graduation. Carolyn was her maid of honor.
     Sharon and Don took a two-week honeymoon and then Carolyn and
Bill were married with Sharon serving as Carolyn's matron of honor.
     Sharon and Don, a financial consultant for Merrill Lynch, bought
a 30-acre farm in York, Pa., in January of l966. From there, they have
reared three daughters and raised many animals.
     Carolyn and Bill have lived in Cherry Hill, N.J., since l967 and
also are the parents of Robert W., Delaware '89, and James B., who
will graduate this spring. Robert's wife, Becky Wagner Alexander,
graduated from Delaware in 1990.
     When someone suggests that Donna Rodger marry James Alexander so
the families will have yet another tie to each other and the
University, she makes a face, holds her stomach and groans.
     "She knows my brother too well," Susan quips.
     Obviously the Rodgers and the Alexanders have stayed in touch
over the years-visiting back and forth a few times each year.
     Donna and Susan remember each other from the time they were
young. Donna remembers playing together on the farm, having frog
races. Susan recalls being thrown in the pond (by a brother, of
course) and the time Donna stole her coloring books. (Donna sheepishly
remembers that, too.)
     Donna, who is a sophomore, is majoring in Spanish. She is in the
Delaware Marching Band, playing that same saxophone her mother played
here years ago.
     "We had very strict rules when I was in the band," her mother
said. "We marched everywhere...even down to the stadium. Today they
just sort of saunter onto the field, but when they start to play they
really seem like professional showmen. I wonder how good we could have
been compared to what you hear today."
     When her previous roommate decided to move into the towers, Donna
thought about calling Susan to see if they could room together.
     "I hesitated because I really didn't think she would want to,"
Donna says. "Most freshmen like the idea of meeting a new roommate.
So, I was surprised when she said okay."
     Susan says she was happy to move into Smyth even though she is
about the only freshman in the hall. She doesn't mind she says,
"Especially, since I don't have to wear a freshman beanie like they
did when our moms were here. Can you imagine how I'd feel then?
     "Actually," she continues, " I think our being roommates is
probably more fun for me than for Donna. I never had an older sister
and that's sort of how I feel about her.
     "It's really funny how the Rodger family and their farm have had
an influence on my life. I'm in the College of Agricultural Sciences,
and Donna doesn't want to be near it. I can't wait to take
horsemanship in the spring, and she says she's done horsemanship all
her life and can't imagine being excited about it. My brother, too,
can't wait to have a small farm, but I think Donna's seen the hard
part of farm life and might want to get away. It's kind of ironic."
     Susan is now majoring in food science but is considering a switch
to nutrition.
     Upon hearing that, Donna lets out a shriek.
     "Nutrition! Oh no, you'll be worse than ever! You're always
telling me now that I can't eat snacks and telling me how much fat is
in everything!"
     Today in Smyth Hall, the pay phone booths sit as empty testaments
to days gone by. If you want to call Donna or Susan, you dial their
number and chances are you'll get their answering machine. Everyone
wears slacks; no one dresses up for dinner; and the coeds can eat in
the dining hall of their choice.
     The memories that the two sets of roommates share will be
different. But a common thread is the frequent peals of laughter
coming out of Room 233, Smyth Hall.
     -Beth Thomas