A Bennington Road Trip

A recent Bennington alumnus sees the country staying only with Bennington alumni by Briee Della Rocca 

On an August day someone with a Bennington College bumper sticker parked at a rest area in Asheville, North Carolina near Smoky Mountain National Park. When they returned they would have found a note on their windshield, “Bennington rules! –Brian”. It was a note Brian Morrice ’10 waited 40 minutes to write. “Creepy, right?” he laughs. “I really wanted to meet them or just see who came out, but after 40 minutes I thought, ‘This has gone too far’, and that’s when I left the note.”

Brian is not exactly the type you would peg as school spirited, although he is. He is not the type you would peg as overtly patriotic, although he is. So when this former Kilpatrick House Chair—who worked twice on the Obama for America campaign, then at The White House—finished his work for the administration, he was already thinking about what he calls his “fantasy trip.” The fantasy: to see the country and its national parks staying exclusively with Bennington alumni— some of whom he knew really well, some of whom were Facebook friends, and some he hadn’t seen in almost five years.

It was almost perfect that the trip started under the commencement tent, with Brian returning as a graduate to hear his friend Bryan Conover’s ’12 senior speech and the commencement address from Peter Dinklage ’91 —which lauded Bennington connections and had Dinklage imploring graduates to seize the moment, or as he put it (better): “Don’t search for defining moments. The moments that have defined you have already happened, and they will keep happening.” It was advice that must have felt confirming because, as Brian explains, the trip was inspired by a few of his own defining moments. He was a year and a half out of college. “I already missed being able to walk—at most—three minutes to see my best friends,” he says. “And my mother passed away in the fall. She had always encouraged me to go out and see the country. It was something she wanted to do and didn’t have the chance to.” So when his short-term work contract in Boston was completed, he packed his bags and headed out to see the country and a “vast Bennington network.”

Brian visited 16 national parks, covered more than 11,000 miles, and got to spend a lot of time—quality time—with more than 40 Bennington students and alumni. And while Bennington is small, Brian points out that doesn’t always mean that you’ve spent a lot of one-on-one time with your friends. There was a part of him that wondered: “Are some of these stops going to be awkward?,” a concern he put to bed as soon as he visited Maren Patrick ’10 in Seattle. “We were friends in college but we never hung out one-on-one. We ended up having a blast together. We talked, played out ridiculous mall montage scenes, got goofy on top of the space needle. It was a lot of fun. After that, I knew I’d be totally comfortable throughout the trip.” He visited old House Chairs he hadn’t seen in five years. He spent the longest leg of the trip with Conover, and he got to see the country from a local’s point of view. “That is a different experience,” he says. “People take you around and show you what they’re proud of, what they love about where they are, and it is a way of seeing cities in a whole new light—or a least in a different way than you would if you were going to the tourist stops.” And he spread his mother’s ashes in the Badlands, where she had always wanted to visit. “It was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen.”

Brian is now settled in Chicago, for the moment, rooming with Greg Obis ’12, Alex Doyle ’11, and Peter Reale ’12. Even after visiting some of the best of what this country has to offer, he misses the Northeast. “I’m sure that I’ll end up surrounded by mountains and changing seasons again someday.”