Six Degrees of Denison

issue 02 | spring 2023
People connected

This whole project started with Kevin Bacon. Well, really the idea of Kevin Bacon, the ostensible center of the cinematic universe, an actor so prolific and connected that — the theory goes — anyone in the Hollywood film industry can be linked to Bacon within six acquaintances.

We thought maybe we could find the alum who links our network of nearly 30,000 living alumni.

As we all know, Denison is a place of great relationships. Those who call The Hill home are connected by a red thread that transcends time and space, and these connections lead to marriages and lifelong friendships and job recommendations and fabulous careers. That link is why you feel something swell in your chest when a Denison sweatshirt passes you in an airport, or why you greet a stranger in a Big Red ball cap with the familiarity of a long-lost relative.

You are connected to something bigger. And so Denison Magazine set out to map these extraordinary connections.

You might have received an email from us, and possibly it read like a chain letter. In a way, it was. We started with six alums and asked them to share what their Denison connections meant, and then we asked for the names of their closest Denison connections. These names launched more emails. The networks ballooned.

But we quickly realized a few things: One, this project was massive: It will never fit in these pages, nor will we complete it in mere months. Two, the experiment is highly imperfect: Do we have your current email address? Did we get caught in your spam filter? Did life get in the way of completing your new Denison homework?

All of this said, we did stumble onto some impressive connections and inspiring anecdotes.

A network that began with Kristy Clear ’10 quickly spawned a spreadsheet of more than 100 names, and more continue to pour in every day. The connections for Jeff Forbes ’87 led us almost immediately to Mattie Stauss ’22, a network unto herself — the fifth member of her family to graduate from Denison — who said this: “I have grown up witnessing firsthand the lifelong connections that are made up on The Hill through my dad … Many of his best friends from Denison watched me grow up and were overjoyed and supportive when my brother, my sister, and I decided to attend Denison as well.”

We haven’t found Kevin Bacon yet, though we have some strong contenders. One respondent theorized that we’ll hit on the actual Kevin Bacon, and you know, that doesn’t feel too far-fetched.

We’re still going.

So enjoy the start of our Six Degrees of Denison experiment, and keep an eye out for an email from us in your inbox. It’s not spam. It’s your best friends calling.

Published June 2023
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