When I was in high school and looking at colleges, I got a ton of mail from Wittenberg University. "Wittenberg?" I thought. "Where's that? Where's Springfield?" But I visited the campus nonetheless and was quite amazed by the beauty of the grounds and the friendliness of, well, everyone. So, in the end, I accepted Wittenberg's offer and began facing the same questions I myself had asked.
Apparently, very few people in the state of Ohio know about Wittenberg. And those who do only know about it because they know someone who went there, a friend-of-a-friend, or a niece or nephew, or some other distant acquaintance. Even my guidance counselor only knew about it because one of his prized basketball players decided to go there.
But then I came to Germany, where ties to Wittenberg are found in the most unusual places. EVERYONE knows about Wittenberg University and everyone knows someone who went there or even went there themselves! For example: the son of a man on the ELCA trip in January is a Witt alum. The son of one of the ELCA volunteers attended Wittenberg. The professor from UWEC? Yeah, an alum.
Even in 2002, we ran into connections with Witt. A group of us were eating lunch outside at a cafe and one girl happened to be wearing her Witt t-shirt. A group of tourists came up, "Excuse us, but is that the Wittenberg in Ohio?"
"Um, yeah, actually it is."
"Oh my goodness! That is amazing! My grandson goes to Wittenberg!" (Turn out that we all know of her grandson -- and he's totally not the type who looks like he has a grandma! Perhaps he has a hidden sensitive side, hehe) "Can we take a picture together?" We nod our assent and proceed to be bombarded with about 20 different flashes. Then, two other members of the same group come over and tell us that they went to Wittenberg back in the day! It was a surreal experience then, and continues to be surreal whenever it happens today.
Of course, being in the city of the same name probably affects things a bit, but it's still pretty cool :)