Manchester University
Oak Leaves

September 20, 2019

Camp Mack 3

Professor Judd Case and Professor Greg Clark prepare to go canoeing.

Photo provided by Department of Communication Studies Facebook

Manchester Revitalizes Camp Mack Day

Erica Mohr


Students were awakened to knocking on doors, banging of pots and pans, and the words “It’s Camp Mack Day!” on Sept. 4. Camp Mack Day was a surprise date, and an email was sent out at 5 a.m. to alert students that classes were cancelled, and the first shuttle bus was leaving at 8:30 a.m. Some 624 students, faculty and staff got out of bed, saw this email, and climbed onto the busses to be driven the 47 minutes to Milford, Ind, so they could attend Camp Mack Day. Camp Mack is a Christian camp owned by the Church of the Brethren that is located on Lake Waubee for activities such as swimming, kayaking, row boating, hiking and climbing a rock wall.

Some of the inspiration for Camp Mack Day came from one of Manchester University’s sister schools in Pennsylvania—Juniata College. Juniata has an annual surprise day called Mountain Day, where classes are cancelled and the students and faculty who attend the school go and hike a mountain. This event goes beyond those who are still on campus; alumni still get excited and show school spirit. Rebekah Houff, the campus pastor and leader of Camp Mack Day, is from Pennsylvania and she remembers seeing how excited everyone got for Mountain day and wanted to bring the same energy to Camp Mack Day.

Houff was aware that not everyone loved the idea of a surprise date; she spoke about how she knew people like plans and structure, and that she oftentimes falls under the category of someone who enjoys having a sense of control over a situation. “It was hard because I knew that some people were upset that it was a surprise and I identified with that,” she said, "but I knew people would come because suddenly their schedules were cleared and the energy that it created.”

This statement rang especially true with Reed Brace, a resident assistant in Garver Hall. “The surprise was the best part,” Brace said. “The mystery was the best part by far because nobody would have come if they knew what day it was ahead of time; they would have just said they didn’t have any time for it.” Indeed, Camp Mack would influence Brace’s time as a Manchester alumnus. “I would be excited to keep up with it on social media when I see that they are there,” he said with a smile as he spoke fondly. “I know what a great experience I had so I’ll know how much fun they’re having.”

John Gallatin, a sophomore, shared a unique experience of Camp Mack Day. “I was kayaking and saw a professor tip his kayak,” he said. “I quickly paddled over to see if he needed help and helped him get back to shore. This was a strange experience, because it was a professor I had never met. But it was cool for him to just be a person, not a professor."

Mackenzie Faine, a first year, did not really know what Camp Mack was, and, with a laugh, said she expected it to be a lot of cornhole, but instead she spent the day playing connect four, going on the flying squirrel, and hiking. “I really liked it,” she said. “I would definitely go back, and look forward to going next year. I really felt like it helped to bring people together and make new friends.” The word “magical” was brought up multiple times, proving Houff’s passion about the project was well well-placed. “Nothing is perfect,” she said. “I know that it wasn’t easy for everybody but to me the day was a feeling. I could see people’s joy. I saw professors and students playing four-square together outside of their normal element. It was a feeling of joy. It was a feeling of community.”