When Jed Fels ’92 died in July 2014, so many fellow Marlboro alumni posted their feelings of shock and sadness on Facebook that it wasn’t long before someone decided to dedicate a page to him. The Jedediah Adam Leland Fels (JALF) Facebook page has since taken on a life of its own, not only as a place for alumni to share their stories about Jed, but as a place to raise a memorial fund in his name and to reconnect over their love for Marlboro.
“Because of Jed’s death, I personally connected with several people I hadn’t spoken with for over a decade, or more, and got to know folks I hadn’t known well when I attended Marlboro,” said Cate Marvin ’93, who administers the JALF Facebook page. “I thought it would be a really powerful way to channel our collective response to Jed’s passing by creating something positive, such as a scholarship. However it’s the members’ posts that make the page what it is.”
In their posts, members most often remembered Jed's sense of humor, which was legendary, and his physical presence, which made an impression even for those who didn’t know him. Everyone seemed to know how much he loved the Chicago Cubs—Jed even wore a Cubs baseball cap while giving the senior speech at his commencement. Many wonderful Jed stories revolved around theater.
“Jed was sometimes surprisingly sweet and kind, and went out of his way to help people,” said Kathy Waters, alumni director. “These things he did quietly, unlike virtually every other aspect of his personality. It was clear that Jed was very intelligent, like so many of his Marlboro peers.”
The JALF page has 330 members, and their posts range from funny Marlboro stories to difficult Marlboro stories, Plan confessions, alumni weddings, and a thread with 145 comments describing how people ended up at Marlboro. Mini reunions have taken place from coast to coast, including one in New York’s Central Park spearheaded by Cate’s co-conspirator Christian Moerk ’91. At least one new romance has been sparked.
“Clearly, as evidenced by the activity in this group, there was an underlying desire to connect,” said one post. “How marvelous that is happening because a Complicated Fellow is being remembered.”
Nostalgic alumni have made the pilgrimage to Potash Hill, most often with a check in hand. At press, more than $10,000 has been received, with another $2000 expected in pledges over the next several months and years. This landmark ensures that the fund will be a permanent part of the Marlboro College endowment and profice a stream of support for students in perpetuity.
“I can see now that the meaning and purpose of the group has transcended its original remit and become a ‘core,’ giving us the opportunity to reconnect with ourselves at that time of our lives,” said one post. “There are so many similarities in all of us here,” said another. “We didn't just end up at Marlboro—we were all drawn there for a reason.”
“The most exciting aspect about creating this kind of forum on Facebook is that everyone is welcome to take an active part,” said Cate. “It truly is a democracy, and the community’s growth is surprising, creative, shared, and organic. One thing that became immediately apparent to everyone involved is that Marlboro had either drawn us in because we were invested in contributing to the welfare of others, or it had helped us to take a more socially responsible view toward the world.”