Stepping lively, on they go -- the men of 1948
For the better part of four days Colgate celebrated its loving ones and their
commingled histories and futures.|
Reunion is a rite of passages, of times past and passing time with all that changes and that which remains indelible; the quarried stone of West Hall and the sands of memory.
Managed somehow is a glimpse of other eras; in the classrooms and the conversations. We were all 20 here but we come back at every age, into our 90s, with spouses, children, grandchildren. We come back for 1,800 different reasons with nearly as many agendas, but having a good time is close to the top of everyone's list.
Since a good time is defined in a variety of ways, the reunion schedule is chockablock with entries: exploring the Internet, golf, films, Jane Austen's novels, concerts, volunteerism, Ally McBeal, wine tasting. There is also, of course, hang time -- time to catch up with old friends and make new friends.
At Watson House, where receptions are hosted by President and Mrs. Grabois for the Classes of 1948 and 1973, one alum says he wishes he had known more of his classmates 25 years earlier. "One of the real highlights for me is the number of people I've met this weekend."
Reunions are entirely about people, in relationship to one another, to peers and professors, and to place. What startles even the most recent reuning class, '93, is how much this place has changed. New buildings stand in their memory's sightlines.
In welcoming the 50th anniversary class, President Grabois urges the men of '48, and in a sense everyone at reunion, to "get a sense of those things that have been preserved and those that are new."
Reunion College underscores the best of Colgate's preservation -- dedication to teaching. While more than a dozen sessions are given over to technology and computers, there are timeless classes, too -- "What would Plato say about contemporary American society?," "World War II: Despite the utter devastation, did it create a second Renaissance?," "The Hamlets of Madison County: Sustainable economic development and classroom entrepreneurs."
Associate professor of English Deborah Knuth compared film clips from recent film adaptations of Jane Austen's novels with textual passages and led her students in a discussion of what is lost in the translation and other questions.
Professor of astronomy and anthropology Anthony Aveni treated "both magic and science as belief systems about how the real world works" and investigated "the tangled territory between these two oft-retreating, sometimes converging, oppositely charged accounts of reality."
Associate professor of economics Jill Tiefenthaler discussed dramatic changes
in the American family since 1950, touching on the growth of the female labor
force, increase in divorce, out-of-wedlock births and an aging population.|
Not all the classes are held by faculty. Alumni take the podium and offer an equally eclectic sampling. Filmmaker Joe Berlinger '83 screened his Paradise Lost, a gripping and award-winning documentary about Arkansas's most notorious murder case ever.
Dr. Bernie Siegel '53, author of Love, Medicine & Miracles, and wife Bobbie dealt with issues of life and mortality and the healing power of laughter.
Following a faculty panel on the wide-ranging effects of World War II, former congressman Peter Peyser '43 lent a legislative point of view and Ozzie Wales '43, who led a platoon for 100 days on Okinawa, shared his perspective.
Mel Damski '68, Hollywood veteran and director of Fox TV's Ally McBeal, talked about breaking new television ground and creating art in 45 minutes of air time.
Still, the schedule bulges. After opening dinners for '48 and '73, reunion picks up steam on Friday. Seven Oaks is at its lush best and there seem to be an endless supply of tee times. Before a thunderstorm hit, university chaplain Nan DeVries welcomed the Class of 1948 to a memorial service for classmates and friends. "It's a pleasure to see you again on this hill and in the Chenango Valley."
With the rain still just a threat, the generations gathered among the tents for an all-class barbecue, then it is up the hill (with the threat realized) to present citations and awards and hear the Swinging 'Gates and Thirteen.
The oldest honoree is George Werntz '33, whose list of accomplishments includes years of service in admissions, the successful leadership of the Seeing Eye Foundation, a Scene editorship, sage counsel to the DKE House and a record throw in the javelin, a mark that stood for decades. His accolades concluded with, "George Werntz believes there is no finer college in the nation than Colgate and we believe there is no finer alumnus. For service, leadership and those mighty shoulders, we award this Distinguished Alumni Award to George Werntz."
Stu Coven '48 and Carl Langbert '63 were also honored with the Alumni Corporation's highest award.
Friday's planned events wound down with a torchlight procession that gave alumni an opportunity to relive a commencement tradition and allowed families to experience one of Colgate's most beautiful moments.
Saturday was perfect; blue and warm and loaded with possibilities. The Presidents' Club breakfast rung in the day and before it ended John Wilson '52 stood where his father had stood for so many years and made a pledge that the legacy of William W. Wilson '20 -- support of Colgate -- would continue. It is a pledge shared by all in the Hall of Presidents that morning.
Hunt Terrell '46 told those who had come to witness him wrestle with the possibility of international morality it would be the last class he would teach at Colgate.
Careers conclude but campus affairs continue, and yet another facet of Reunion College is demonstrated. Discussions of admission, financial aid, sophomore rush, religious life and drinking trends provided a look at Colgate today. A state of the college summary was also presented by the president and senior administrators. The present is very good built upon an equally strong past.
Again the generations gathered, then stepped out smartly, from Oak Drive to Reid Athletic Center. Perennials, the men of '28, strollers from more recent classes. Banners heralded the passing years and in the place of honor strode the Class of 1948. In blue blazers and under white hats, the men marched to the all-class banquet.
The money lunch is highlighted by reports of alumni loyalty translated into financial support. Recognition is given to alumni who traveled the greatest distance, who came back in the greatest numbers and for the oldest in attendance.
Afternoon activities ranged from tenting and leisurely campus strolls to receptions and games. Anything is possible, nearly everything available.
Days of wine and emu. John Cushman '63 hosted a wine tasting that featured the rewards of his Zaca Mesa Winery, while classmate Mike Batza supplied the class cocktail party with hors d'oeuvres from the big bird.
Class banquets bridged the day's crowded slate with an evening's revelry. The tents glowed under a quarter moon, and a Colgate tradition -- the good time -- is kept.
After Sunday's Fun Run reunion becomes a series of goodbyes and getaways -- "yearly rove our loving ones" -- but the memory does linger and the bond is strong.
Three days earlier, in greeting the Class of '48, though it might have been the Class of '93, for that matter, President Grabois said, "You ended a conversation 50 years ago you can now begin again." Hold that thought, reunion '99 is only 300 days and change away.