Love for alma mater swells

by John D. Hubbard

Whitnall field with tentsReunion foreshortens time so that the years -- five, 50 or more -- seem insignificant. Age takes a holiday around the striped tents and everyone is 21, if only fleetingly.

     The weekend has changed, grown -- topping two thousand participants for the first time -- but more than numbers, it is larger in offering and spirit. Reunions have long reflected the good times associated with Colgate, but in recent years, with the addition of Reunion College, the essence of the undergraduate experience takes its rightful place with rekindled friendships and fond recollections.

     It was possible, without much effort, to learn how the World Wide Web works, explore speculative fiction and accompany Jane Austen to the movies.

     Harry Emerson Fosdick Professor of Philosophy and Religion Jerry Balmuth posed questions about the good person and good society to a class of students who were only too eager to be so challenged at 8:30 in the morning. Jill Tiefenthaler, associate professor of economics, lectured and led a discussion on the American family, the focus of her research. Associate Professor of Physics and Astronomy Tom Balonek helped observatory visitors explore the sky above Colgate through the 16-inch telescope.

     Classes weren't taught exclusively by faculty, either. Alumni returned to offer classes as diverse as fiber arts and football on TV.

     Mary Kay Leonard '74 led a panel discussion of the "time bind" women face, whether they stay home or try to balance careers, childcare and a personal life.

     Jim Lloyd '53, professor of physics emeritus, and Tom Brown '79 both mounted photography exhibitions. Lloyd displayed his campus and golf course landscapes in the library, while Brown showed panoramics and Chenango County portraits in the Barge Canal Coffee Company downtown.

     Mandy Wojick '95, who will teach here in the fall, had a show of her sculpture, Recent Works, in the Art & Art History Gallery in Dana.

     Bob Seaberg '69 and Read McNamara '69 moderated a group discussion they dubbed "The Big Thaw," about the sit-in of 1968.

     "Vocational suicide was really the big issue," opined Alan Dodds Frank '69, "but there was a wave across campus where everyone said, `Screw it. Let's go.'"

     Film producer Marty Ransohoff '49 showed his The Americanization of Emily and talked about the craft of filmmaking. "The producer is the guy who starts the whole project," he said during a question-and-answer period following a screening of the film starring Julie Andrews and James Garner.

     "Luck is always better than talent or ego," he told his audience with a chuckle.

     Barnet Kellman '69, who has been integral to the success of such television classics as Murphy Brown and Mad About You, talked about the art and business of Hollywood and the state of comedy on the small screen.

     In response to a query about the amount of sex on television, Kellman said political correctness had eliminated differences as comedic fodder and sex was all that was left to make fun of safely.

     Mike Barrett '69, professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, lectured on speculative fiction, a genre that combines science fiction, fantasy and magic realism. "Speculative fiction is about people who are very, very different from us," he said during an animated hour.

     Bob Ellsworth '49 screened his documentary 33 Fathoms Plus, about the 1967 world-record free dive, 21 stories down into the Atlantic. Ellsworth, an Emmy winner, is well known not only for his films but as a narrator.

     Nate Dickerson '74 spoke on the design, development and delivery of training programs, along with the details of lending, investing and business management involved. Dickerson is president of Dickerson Knight Group, Inc., a managerial and financial consulting firm that spans the globe with advice on credit policies and procedures, business planning, banking relations and ways of raising debt and equity.

     Reunion, of course, is still a time to remember, rekindle and rejoice. The tents are still at the heart of the weekend and it is there, on Whitnall Field, the classes gather to socialize, organize and swap lies.

     The classes of '49 and '74 got the royal treatment, having reached the 50- and 25-year milestones. They were feted at Watson House and kicked off celebrations with Thursday banquets. The classes took places of honor in the Saturday parade as well, with the men of '49 marching into Reid Athletic Center in their smart blue blazers through a cheering gathering of alumni of all ages.

     In the end, Colgate's biggest reunion ever might just have been the best, too. The weather was delightful, the tents glowed late with good cheer, Reunion College put faculty at the forefront of the weekend and there was evidence everywhere that while Colgate is different than it was years ago, it is strong and healthy and home still.

Images of Reunion '99
(click each for a larger version)
Maroon Citation recipients The Big Thaw
The Scientific Americans Nate Dickerson '74
A mega check Awards for Distinguished Service
Mike Barrett '69 Still swinging
Tips for watching football Toby Wollin '74