Caitlin "Cait" Neuman Schlorff recalls the moment when a simple request by her grandmother suddenly unearthed a treasure trove of her ancestors' deep connections to North Central College.
Schlorff, a 2011 graduate, was at the family's cabin near Eagle River, Wis., when her grandmother, Bonnie Erffmeyer McLaughlin, herself a 1954 grad, asked Schlorff to retrieve something from a closet. That's where she discovered a scrapbook created by her maternal great-grandfather.
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"My grandma had me looking for a hummingbird feeder and this scrapbook was on the top shelf," she recalls.
McLaughlin, now 80 and living in Lisle, is the daughter of Harold Erffmeyer, who graduated from North Central in 1927. The scrapbook revealed that he was editor of North Central's Spectrum yearbook, and as class president his sophomore year, he anchored a tug-of-war between sophomores and freshmen across the DuPage River.
Schlorff, who works as an athletic trainer at Naperville Central High School, was delighted to learn her great-grandfather played baseball and basketball at the college, and that his basketball team won a state collegiate championship.
"Finding out he was so involved in sports is interesting because I was an athletic training major," she says. "He had weak ankles apparently."
After earning his degree, Erffmeyer worked for Illinois Bell Telephone Company for many years and was the company's assistant secretary and assistant treasurer. He served the college in many capacities, including as president of both the alumni association and the 50-Year Club. As a college trustee, he chaired a building committee at a time when the Kroehler Science Center was built, and he directed construction of the student union building, now the Harold and Eva White Activities Center. Erffmeyer contributed toward the renovation of Carnegie Hall in 1987, and a plaque in the building acknowledges his generosity.
"I think it's cool to learn how involved he was with the college," Schlorff says of her great-grandfather. "I didn't know all the things he had done."
Upon finding the scrapbook Schlorff also was surprised to discover her great-great-grandfather, Charles Erffmeyer, also attended North-Western College, which became North Central, for two years beginning in 1875. The scrapbook revealed he was enrolled in the college's German course.
Charles' other son, Clarence Erffmeyer -- Harold's older brother who graduated in 1918 -- was an important figure in the college's history. Clarence served as professor of education and dean at North Central College for 41 years. He established the Office of Teacher Placement on campus in 1926, and students dedicated the 1930 edition of the Spectrum in his honor. He was appointed dean of the college in 1944 and served in that capacity until retirement in 1963. He was awarded the college's Outstanding Alumnus Award in 1961, and in 1979 he was awarded an honorary doctor of education degree.
While taking classes in Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium, Cait met her future husband, Tony Schlorff, who earned a master's degree in 2011. Tony was taking courses toward a master's degree in education, curriculum and instruction. Tony, who is instructional technology coordinator at Community Consolidated School District 93 in Bloomingdale/Carol Stream, returned to the college to teach a graduate course in education and this fall begins working toward his second master's degree, in leadership and administration.
"The fact that the two of us went here, and then to discover all of her family's history, it feels like we're continuing the legacy," Tony said.
Tony notes how Cait's great-great-grandfather Harold wrote in a memoir about finishing college with a burdensome student loan debt of $500. That's also the cost of building the family cabin in 1941 where Cait discovered the scrapbook.
Adjacent to the cabin Harold built is another his brother Clarence built at the same time. That cabin is now owned by Clarence's son, Jack Erffmeyer, a 1946 graduate and chemistry major who is retired president of the Galesburg Medical Arts Clinic.
"I feel more connected to the college now," Cait says.