Hundreds of alumni descended on campus June 5-7 to celebrate Reunion Weekend with their classmates. Graduates and their families enjoyed the annual parade, golf cart tours, lectures, class socials, the Alumni Association dinner, and dancing on the Quad. Below are a few stories from the weekend.
Day 1 of #LafReunion
Friday, June 5
9:11 a.m.: Pfenning Alumni Center
Ralph Doederlein ’55 was one of the first to arrive at Reunion headquarters in Pfenning Alumni Center on Friday and quickly affixed his name sticker to the registration board so his classmates would know he had arrived.
“We have about 18 people coming from the Class of 1955,” he said proudly, as office coordinator Ruth Hutnik handed him his registration packet.
Just then Chris Tomik, associate director of alumni relations, walked by.
“More people are coming back for the 60th reunion than I can remember,” said, queuing up avideo of actress Meryl Streep, the 1985 Commencement speaker, welcoming alumni back to campus.
When asked how he got so many of his classmates to attend, Doederlein said he made a lot of phone calls. Having former Lafayette president Arthur Rothkopf ’55 as the class’ dinner speaker was also a draw.
But Doederlein didn’t want to talk logistics. He was more interested in reminiscing and explaining his deep connection to Lafayette. This is not only his 60th class reunion, he said, but his 60th anniversary to his wife Betty, whom he married between semesters his senior year.
Now that’s a funny story, he said. The day before the wedding ceremony, he had an exam in Steel Structural Engineering. The professor, whose name escapes him, didn’t believe in coddling students and the exam was all about aluminum, a topic they hadn’t covered in class. But the professor wasn’t completely heartless. He brought along textbooks on aluminum, although not enough for everyone, for students to consult.
Doederlein missed the rehearsal dinner, but passed the exam.
“What it taught me is if you know where to look you can work it out. It gave me confidence.”
And he still got the bride.
11:25 p.m.: Oechsle Center for Global Education
Over at the new Oechsle Center for Global Education, Teevrat Garg ’10 and Sam Derrick ’10 were outlining goals of Lafayette Initiative for Malagasy Education or LIME, which they helped start under the direction of David Stifel, professor of economics and chair of international affairs. The peer mentoring program helps Malagasy high school students navigate the daunting process of applying to U.S. colleges and universities by sending Lafayette students and faculty mentors to the island nation each year during winter break for three weeks.
Susan Averett, Dana Professor of Economics, accompanied students this year to Madagascar, and Liz McMahon and Gary Gordon, both professors of mathematics, did so in years past.
So far, three Malagasy students are enrolled at Lafayette and another one is headed here in the fall.
“This isn’t about bringing Malagasy students to Lafayette, but having a sustained impact” on Madagascar when graduates return to their native country, said Derrick, who recently received a friend request on Facebook from a Malagasy student he helped mentor five years ago. “There were some lasting connections made.”
1 p.m.: Walkway outside Skillman Library
Stan Applebaum ’65 has contributed to the College every year since he returned home in 1957 from Korea, where he served in the U.S. Army. It’s a practice that has earned him membership in the Fleck Consistent Giving Society and an engraved brick on a walkway near Skillman Library.
“What I learned here is how to enjoy life,” he said, anxious to show his wife of two years, Sylvia, his brick. “I never listened to opera or classical music” before coming to Lafayette.
Once here, he recalled traveling with friends to New York City where they would attend performances in the “standing room” section at the Metropolitan Opera and then head to Lindy’s for cheesecake. A retired lawyer, he still credits outstanding professors for “shaping his life.”
“I give because I loved it here.”
2:16 p.m.: Construction site at Williams Arts Campus
About 20 alumni joined Mary Wilford-Hunt, director of facilities planning and construction, on a hard hat tour of the new Williams Arts Campus where an experimental black box theater, state-of-the-art film theater, costume and scene shop, and sound stage are being built on North Third Street.
There they met Asha Hedrington ’16, an engineering studies and architecture major, who is interning this summer with Whiting and Turner Construction, the firm contracted by the College to build the new facilities.
“It’s only my first week, but I’m learning a lot,” said Hedrington, who appeared at ease amidst the scaffolding and steel beams of the site. “They’re teaching me the trade and how to look at drawings and relate them to the physical space.”
Almost 75 percent of Lafayette students do internships by their senior year, and many of the opportunities are provided through powerful alumni connections, as is the case with Whiting and Turner.
5:30 p.m.: Pardee Hall
You can thank Charlie Kurowsky ’75 for reviving the tradition a few years ago of singing the Alma Mater on the steps of Old Pardee during Reunion.
“I wanted to do it for the newer students, to show them our traditions,” he said, noting it wasn’t practiced anymore when he was an undergrad. “Back in the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, each of the living groups would compete and be given a trophy or loving cup. For whatever reason, it died out in the ’70s.”
About 30 alumni joined him in front of Pardee to sing “O’ Lafayette” as the sun melted over the Quad.
Saturday, June 6
11:45 a.m.: Quad
Hundreds of alumni marched in the Reunion parade, but the Class of 2010 won the award for most participants with about 150 coming back to celebrate their milestone year. Each class was preceded by a Corvette and the Class of 1970 continued the tradition of doffing their caps to the College president when they passed Alison Byerly in front of Farinon.
2:26 p.m.: Lass Gallery, Skillman Library
Call it serendipity or a sign that the spirit of the Marquis de Lafayette has returned, but on the same day a replica of his frigate Hermione landed in Yorktown for a reunion tour, Reunion 2015 was in full swing at his namesake College. And Jeff Ferguson ’70 was in Lass Gallery in Skillman Library admiring a photo exhibit documenting the recreation of the ship and voyage.
“In one of his letters, the Marquis talks about the speed of the boat and crossing the Atlantic in 38 days,” said Ferguson, who lives in Alexandria, Va. “My wife and I are headed to Paris in a few weeks and we fly out at 9 p.m. and arrive before breakfast.”
The Hermione is making appearances at 11 ports of call on the Eastern seaboard, including Alexandria on June 11, and Ferguson plans to be there to greet the crew as part of an alumni event.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said. “It really raises the awareness of Lafayette College.”
3:15 p.m.: Anderson Courtyard
The Lafayette Alumni Choir made its debut during Reunion with two performances Saturday. Director Jennifer Kelly, associate professor of music, said about 25 alumni from Connecticut to D.C. and ranging in class years from ’51 to ’12 are in the choir. “Everybody just wanted to keep singing,” she said.
4:30 p.m.: Front of Pardee Hall
In gratitude for her generous donation to the Quad renovation project, the College dedicated a bench to Stephanie Wesiphal Lucas ’85, but up until Saturday of Reunion she had never sat on it. So it made perfect sense to seek it out and share the inaugural sit-down with two of her closest friends and former roommates, Joanna Ruziska Wachenfeld and Doreen Ventresca Sullivan.
Wachenfeld explained the irony of Lucas’ gift.
“She had a philosophy that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line,” she said. “She didn’t bother with paths.”
“I was an engineering major,” Lucas explained.
What does she think of the new and pedestrian friendly Quad?
“It’s a vast improvement not to have cars,” she said. “And I love my bench.”
7 p.m.: Steps of Farinon College Center
The Belmont Stakes was about to begin, but several members of the Class of 1990 decided to remain and enjoy each other’s company at a cocktail reception on the second floor of Farinon rather than head downstairs to view the horse race on TV.
“We haven’t seen each other in a long time,” Mark Weiss ’90 said of classmates Kim and Rick Streamer, Michelle Bright Ramsted, and Karyn Goudie Belanger.
His wife, Dr. Julie Weiss ’90, said the campus seems smaller. “When we were here it felt like walking from Marquis to Kunkle was a long way,” she said.
Rick Streamer noted a fire pit they built as Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledges is no longer there, but a huge tree now towers outside their former house. “There’s no way that was there before, but then I realized 25 years have passed.”
It goes fast, they all agreed. Just then, American Pharoah clinched the Belmont Stakes and Triple Crown and a huge roar erupted from the crowd below.
10:30 p.m.: Under dance tent on the Quad
The white tent on the Quad was thumping with the band UUU’s take on “Brown-Eyed Girl” and alumni were dancing like they never left. Stars twinkled in the night sky and a few grads were standing around small tables outside the tent talking softly and laughing. Reunion came to a close, but the memories and friendships live on.
“It’s like the past five years never happened,” said Gregory Wells ’10, surrounded by a group of his classmates. “It feels like it’s still May 2010.”