The Colgate Scene ON-LINE


by John D. Hubbard

Love for alma mater swells. To a campus in late but full bloom returned 2,000 alumni, family members and friends to reminisce and reconnect.

Perhaps nowhere was that feeling of reconnection stronger than among the men of the Class of 1947 who celebrated their golden anniversary. Fractured by World War II, the class came and went from Colgate on varying schedules, some in civvies, some in uniform and without the possibility of building collegiate unity. “The changing of the guard was constant,” says Walt Steinmann, the class's program chair.

  Pictures from Reunion '97

This year marked the first time Colgate's smallest class had had its own reunion too, without being clustered with the larger groups that proceed and follow, so there was some sense of surprise among the members of '47 when they were honored during Friday night's award ceremony in the Chapel and again at the conclusion of Saturday's parade to the all-class luncheon.

“The real gift is we're all here having fun together,” Fred Rohn, gift chair, told his classmates, many who were meeting for the first time. But in addition to the reconnection and fun, the men of '47 had something else in mind. The class established a scholarship in honor of President Emeritus Everett Needham Case — “The right man at the right time,” in the words of John Scovill '47 and in universal sentiments.

“This does please me,” President Case told the small contingent that delivered the scholarship to him at his home in Van Hornesville, “in more ways than I can tell you.” Everett Case, who had done so much to hold Colgate together, had also helped bring together a scattered class.

“I hope Colgate bears an appropriate family resemblance,” Neil Grabois said by way of welcome to the Class of '47, but he could have been greeting any of the classes returning as May ended. Even the men and women of the Class of 1992 came back to a campus vastly changed since their graduation.

Yet what doesn't change became all the more apparent. “This is a congenial place,” says Grabois. It was not difficult to find that congeniality. It was everywhere: in reunion college classrooms, at youth reunion games, throughout the countless conversations at the tents and along campus strolls past trees whose flowering had been delayed by a chill spring until just the right moment.

At its best, reunion is all right moments.

During the Thirteen's 55th anniversary concert a clip from the group's 1956 appearance on The Jackie Gleason Show was shown. In brilliant black and white the Thirteen sang, “these precious days I'll spend with you.” Precious days to be sure.

And it was during these days the men of '47 were serenaded by Helen Persson and Helen Geyer.

Another musical message was delivered by the “Swinging Mates” to the Class of 1952. “We wives have known through all the years/through good times, bad times, even tears/That Colgate men are tried and true/And the best class ever was '52.”

Okay, but Harry McKane made a good case for the Class of 1927. Not only did he deliver a check for $368,108 to the college on behalf of his classmates and gift chair Gene Long, but he embraced Anne Milmoe, who had graduated two weeks earlier and represented the Class of '97.

Chairman of the Presidents' Club Jim Elrod '76 presided over the traditional breakfast for the university's most generous donors and turned to Psalms for an image of Colgate. He termed it “a broad and broadening place.”

As Friday's award ceremony ended, Russell B. Colgate Professor of Astronomy and Anthropology Tony Aveni, who had been presented the Alumni Award for Distinguished Teaching, announced Stairways to the Stars, his new book, was dedicated to Walt Fullam '32. For 25 years Fullam has been supporting students.

Sam Hoagland '57 had to get classmate and best friend John Hasper to help him with the tale of the 160-pound tarpon, a fish story too big for one man to tell.

The Class of 1987 set a new record of participation and its generosity was recognized by the delivery of 400 wings and 'taters to the tent Saturday night.

Sarah Rakov '93 shared the exhilaration of returning. “As soon as I hit 12B, I rolled down the windows and had the music blaring. Yeah! I'm back.”

Reunion College, the work-hard portion of a mostly play-hard weekend, provided another way to travel back to what it meant to be a student.

Professor of art and art history Eric Van Schaak on the architecture of Hamilton. Professor of geology Bruce Selleck on the setting and building stones of campus. University librarian Judy Noyes on the information society. Systems/network administrator Jubel Caudill and professor of biology emeritus Bill Oostenink on the Internet. Associate professor of philosophy Jonathan Jacobs on character. Associate professor of English Deborah Knuth on Jane Austen's novels. Retired director of Counseling and Psychological Services Dr. Linden Summers on stress reduction.

And more. Films by Jon Alpert '70 and Joe Berlinger '83 ran repeatedly. Discussions on Greek life, admissions, financial aid and high-tech career searches were held. Assistant professor of writing/rhetoric Margaret Darby moderated an open forum on the balancing act faced by women.

Outside of class, there was time and opportunity for golf, tours, antiquing, golf, reprised field days, golf and Ted Cushmore '62 on life as the owner of a minor league baseball team.

Jim Sprague '32 led Saturday's parade down Broad Street in his 1932 Ford Model B Roadster and behind him followed the generations, stepping lively, walking proud.

Saturday evening, rain finally made good on the threat that hung in the heavy air all weekend; but the tents remained open and spirits ran high.

On Sunday, a gathering formed at the cemetary for the internment of William W. Wilson '20. His was an 82-year long love affair with Colgate and it was never more passionate than on reunion weekends. Bill Wilson was a perennial, returning every year, and it seemed odd at first not to see him in his top hat, making the rounds, providing an indispensable perspective on the proceedings, from the DKE House to the Hall of Presidents where he danced the nights away more than once.

What is it about this college on a hill? What beckons across the decades? What is the definition of the spirit that is Colgate? A beginning to the answers lies in understanding Bill Wilson was among us — as were so many others. Our stay here lengthens into lifetimes and we become part of the heritage, part of what was, and more remarkably, part of what will be.

At reunion it appears so clearly. We are Colgate and Colgate we will remain. Ever bless thy days.