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President's Desk
March 8, 2016

City House

Long ago I had a student at the American Academy in Larnaca, Cyprus, who won a Fulbright grant to spend a year with an American family, going to school here. After three months, she came back to Larnaca. She couldn’t stand it, she told me. Her American family lived in a house so far away from other houses that you couldn’t even hear the neighbors, let alone know them. In Larnaca noise from the neighbors never stopped, and you knew everyone on your street despite the protective walls around your house and its garden inside.

Geneva College sits inside the boundaries of Beaver Falls, but most people in the College, and most people in Beaver Falls, neither see nor hear the other. The exception to that rule are the ten students and their RD who live in City House, smack in the middle of Beaver Falls, a six-minute drive from campus.

Their old three-story house, owned by several Geneva professors, sits in the middle of a bona fide Beaver Falls neighborhood. A former Geneva librarian, Marilyn Van Dyke, lives at the other end of a short block. Marilyn has lived there for decades, as have others on the street. The students in City House cooperate with ten neighbors in planting, watering, and harvesting vegetable plots across the street. At the start of each fall semester, the students sponsor a Block Party; they help with snow removal; and in the past when the block had school-aged children, they helped neighborhood kids with homework. People on the block often watch out for the students, some of whom have never actually lived in a neighborhood before.

City House Residents

To be part of City House, students must be sophomores or older and apply for the privilege. They then share shopping, cleaning, and cooking throughout the year, all for a cost somewhat less than Geneva’s usual room and board. They mostly live there for only one year because by then they have taken the two sociology courses that are part of the deal of living there.

What is the point? Simply to live as young adults with neighbors of many ages, many experiences, many virtues, many faults, and many needs, all of which City House residents discover that they share to one degree or another. The English Catholic writer G.K Chesterton wrote—I substitute “neighborhood” for “family” from a book which I still adore, discovering it quite by accident when I was the age of City House residents—“When we step into a neighborhood, by the act of living there, we do step into a world which is incalculable, into a world which has its own strange laws, into a world that could do without us, into a world which we have not made. In other words, when we step into a neighborhood, we step into a fairy tale (Heretics, p. 126).” If you are afraid of adventures, do not apply.

Dr. William Edgar, Interim President

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