Anne Aaker

Pleasant anticipation mounted in Riverview Lounge Tuesday evening when Rik Warch sat down to repeat an old annual tradition from his time as president of Lawrence.
Students flocked to hear Lawrence’s beloved former president read bedtime stories, or they stopped by for the cookies and milk and were drawn into the story hour.
The audience was full of freshmen and sophomores who had never met Warch before, as well as those juniors and seniors who had enjoyed his presence as Lawrence’s president.
Senior class president Lou Perella introduced Warch, saying he’d be reading some of his own favorite stories. The same ones, Warch informed his audience, as the ones he used to read to the students.
The story hour began with “Winnie-the-Pooh” and what Warch introduced as “a fix he gets himself into,” as he opened the book and began reading.
He hummed dutifully when Pooh hummed, and did a lovely job varying his speech to match the characters’ moods, like the energetic personality of Winnie-the-Pooh and the gloomy sarcasm of Eeyore — Warch’s favorite Pooh character, he said.
Everyone laughed in all the right places. It was the picture of a warm, cozy evening, with the added spice of echoes of rock music floating up from the coffeehouse.
About halfway through the story hour, people started to cozy up in their chairs. The calm atmosphere in Riverview was a welcome change from the harried college life every Lawrence student lives, and there was a sleepy peace that permeated the air in the room.
After four Pooh stories, Warch took up a book of poetry and regaled the audience with a medley of funny little poems about Buckingham Palace, James Morrison’s mother, and another James “who was only a snail.”
The story hour was topped off with the classic bedtime story “Goodnight Moon.” Warch let the audience fill in a few blanks — which they did, almost shyly.
After the hour was over, everyone stumbled sleepily to his or her dorms to sleep a peaceful sleep. Or, perhaps more realistically, study a long, hard study and then sleep a peaceful sleep.
Of the students who had never met Warch, Hannah Jastram summed up the feelings of several. “His reputation precedes him,” the freshman said. “He’s like everyone’s grandfather.” This personal touch evident at the story hour was perhaps a testament to how many students who passed through Lawrence felt about him.
Perella said he was “ecstatic that so many students showed up for the reading,” especially since there was a good mix of those who had had Warch for a president and those who had never seen his face before.
“He was part of my college experience,” Perella said, “and it was great to have him back one more time.” Thanks to Perella and Warch himself, several students were able to understand the sentiment surrounding the former president, and the experience will likely not be forgotten.