Sander’s Stop Honors Alum

Saffron Turner

If you’ve caught the bus by the Robert Crown Center lately, you’ve noticed the bus stop received an upgrade: a brand new shelter with a bench named “Sander’s Stop.” So, who is Sander? Why does he have a bus stop named after him?

Sander Thoenes 87F, an international student from the Netherlands, studied English literature and modern Russian history during his time at Hampshire College. He embarked on journalistic internships at the Centre for Investigative Reporting in San Francisco and US News and World Report in Moscow during his Division II and III research. Following completion of his Division III thesis, “Between Glasnost and a Free Press, Soviet Journalism in the Gorbachev years,” he won a MacArthur Fellowship Genius Grant in recognition of his work in journalism. Sander used this grant to further support his Russian studies, culminating in a stint working for the Moscow Times in Russia. He went on to work for and publish in Financial Times, US News and World Report, Christian Science Monitor, Vrij Netherland in the Netherlands, and Radio Deutsche Welle in Germany. After being a Central Asia correspondent for the Financial Times in Kasakhstan, Sander decided to turn his attention to Indonesia in 1997, finding himself in the middle of the East Timorese struggle for sovereignty from Indonesia. Sander traveled to Dili, East Timor on September 21, 1999. After falling off a motorbike while being chased, Sander was executed by a member of the Indonesian Army Battalion 745, a casualty of the losing Indonesian government’s scorched-earth policy during withdrawal from the territory. His death hit the Hampshire community hard; having graduated less than ten years prior, many staff and faculty remembered Sander.

[hopefully a quote from the forward]

The Sander’s Stop project began in fundraising for the R.W. Kern Center. Donors were granted the opportunity of naming certain parts of the building in thanks for their contribution; this is seen in areas of the Kern such as the McCarthy Financial Aid Suite. In spring 2015, Chief Advancement Officer Clay Ballentine, in charge of this fundraising, was approached by a classmate of Sander who wished to contribute in his memory. At first, Ballentine suggested contributing to the existing Sander R. Thoenes Memorial Scholarship Fund for Division III students pursuing research in Sander’s areas of interest: journalism; documentary photography, film, or video; international relations; globalization; peace-building; civil society; and human rights. But the classmate wanted something more tangible, a physical manifestation. The idea for the bus stop came up: a representation of Sander’s love for travel.

“[Sander was] described as someone who was always traveling and going,” said Ballentine. “The bus stop […] symbolized who he was as a traveler and a journeyman and someone who was always seeking.”

The bus stop was completed over the summer, and bears an explanatory plaque for the dedication. Sander used the bus system often and early in his Hampshire career to access a multitude of journalism-related courses within the Five Colleges. He was a dedicated member of the campus newspaper at the time, “The Permanent Press,” according to alum Glenn Peters’ message on sandersstop.com.

“I still remember his enthusiasm and keen interest in his assignments,” Peters said, “For him, it wasn’t just the school newspaper, it was a chance to practice journalism, and do it well.”

For more information on Sander’s life and accomplishments, visit memorialforsander.org and sandersstop.com.

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