Arthur Clevenger wants to make sure that students now and in the future are able to see the world.
In January of 1969, Arthur Clevenger, a junior at Illinois College, a private liberal arts school in Jacksonville, IL, traveled to Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Wroxton College, in Oxfordshire, England, on the advice of his college’s dean of students, to spend the spring semester immersed in all things British. Although the young man had travelled extensively with his parents throughout the United States, he had never been abroad and, alone on his first international flight, he was both excited and, he recalls, “scared to death.” Arriving at Heathrow, Clevenger had the good luck to hail a taxi driven by a friendly driver, who took pity on the intimidated young man and gave him a tour of London’s sight, free of charge, ending, finally at Paddington Station, where the Clevenger boarded a train to Banbury.
Clevenger remembers the cab he took from the station to the campus driving up the long driveway, the grounds covered in snow, and catching his first glimpse of Wroxton Abbey. “It was love at first sight,” he says.
Clevenger was one of 46 students enrolled at Wroxton that spring. The group quickly began participating in field trips, attending plays, and studying English, history, theatre, education, and economics, becoming, along the way, fast friends.
“We were on our own,” Clevenger recalls. “We learned to work together while building self-confidence and independence and created life-long friendships. We safely hitchhiked around the countryside – it was a different world and different time then. Wroxton exposed me to another culture and a whole world full of new experiences and people. It truly was a life-changing experience for me. I’ve traveled paths I never would have considered had I not gone to Wroxton.”
After college, Clevenger worked for the Marsh Company, a manufacturer headquartered in Belleville, IL, with facilities located in four other states, that his grandparents, Eugene and Darley Marsh, owned. He worked in product marking, packing products and the production of shipping supplies, making his way up through the ranks to general manager.
In the 1980s, Clevenger shifted his professional focus to industrial-use barcoding applications. He worked for several companies in data collection, label production, and barcode-based factory automation systems and retired from National Cash Register in 2000. But he found that he missed the sense of purpose that employment provided and eventually found a new passion in the tourism industry, giving city trolley tours in Asheville, NC, and, more recently, in Mobile, AL, for the past 12 years.
But, Clevenger says, his time at Wroxton has always loomed large. “It’s just in my blood,” he says. “I feel at home in the Abbey and in the village of Wroxton, whose character always remains stoically in place. I decided to donate my home in my estate plan as a legacy gift for Wroxton, so others can enjoy the same wonderful experience that has been so much a part of my life these many years. Wroxton was the key that unlocked my quest for travel and enrichment and immersion in worldwide cultures. I hope my legacy gift allows aspiring students to achieve scholastic success and find a pathway to their dreams through their own Wroxton experience.”
Although Clevenger has travelled extensively throughout the world — he notes that he has been to 49 states, 10 Canadian provinces, and 75 countries — he returns to Wroxton over and over. “In 1995, I organized the first reunion of our Class of 1969 with 10 of our classmates at Wroxton. In 1999, I took my 79-year-old mother to Wroxton and she loved the campus. In 2001, we held a reunion in New York City with 18 classmates and a Wroxton faculty member. We returned to Wroxton in 2004, and again in 2019 with a few classmates. Ever since 2003, I have returned to Wroxton almost every year. To me, Wroxton is a state of mind complete with its gracious civility, hospitality, and historic significance,” Clevenger says.
Arthur is the Class of 1969 representative and is planning its next reunion at Wroxton as he and his classmates approach their upcoming diamond birthday jubilee next year. He is encouraging his classmates to join him for the 2023 Wroxton Alumni Getaway Trip, scheduled from July 20 to 27, 2023, with the hope of celebrating their shared 75th birthday year together at Wroxton.
Clevenger says that first taste of international travel ignited a passion that remains to this day. “Learning both in and out of the classroom was essential for the Clevenger family,” he says.