OUR 40TH REUNION...A REMINISCENCE
Five years ago, my reminiscence made much of the high-tech qualities of every aspect of reunion. That technology was a rather new thing then-and I, technology-challenged, was awed by how efficiently everything could be done, from registration to gift-giving. The College was streamlining the monumental effort required to offer two reunion weekends every year and we alums certainly benefited from that. Five years later, it is barely worth a footnote: of COURSE we are high-tech! We fly pictures and text around cyberspace with great abandon and hardly remember how much we once depended on land-line phones and snail mail.
Such is the context of our 40th reunion-31 May to 1 June 2008. As we '68ers march bravely into our sixth decade, I sense that every reunion has increasing urgency attached to it. The world is changing around us with lightning speed. Forty years ago, our futures were endless. Now? Not so much. We are ever more aware of the need to affirm and re-affirm relationships that matter to us, both personal and institutional. And that may help to explain why this reunion was so wonderfully well-attended: ninety-one of us returned to College for at least part of the weekend, and that accomplishment won us recognition twice-over by the Alumnae Association-the Margaret Caskey Cup for highest attendance (raw numbers) and the Alumnae Association Cup for highest percentage attending, more than 22%. Cheers and bravos to one and all!!
The amazing thing about Mount Holyoke is that for all the changes that present every time I visit (at least every five years), enough of the "old familiar" remains that I have no trouble gaining my bearings. New buildings rise but don't intrude. Every room in every building is internet-accessible, but that doesn't change the beauty of ivy-covered walls. The College is just the same as we remember, but with 21st-century amenities.
The rest of this narrative is filled with specific thanks to specific people for specific contributions. Let me say at the outset that our reunion was a smashing success because of the dedicated labors of many, many of our classmates, and if I have inadvertently omitted any, I apologize profusely. Please let me know of my error and I will be certain to make it right via our website as well as our class notes.
We stayed in Buckland Hall again, as in 2003, and the welcoming committee (Nancy Ball Fay and Jacqueline (Jacquie) Gaudion McClelland) made sure the front door and foyer were all festooned with balloons, welcome signs and our class banner, as well as memorabilia (including Jacquie's Blue Key blazer!). Tables were laden with refreshments for weary travelers. Registration occurred in Mary E. Woolley Hall, right across the way, and was handled with record efficiency. As before, we had cards to swipe to get into the dorm, but rooms still have old-fashioned keys.
Another table held our parade costume (many thanks to Donna Machcinski Petersen, Sally Davis Yeatman and Gwyn (Dinnie) Ogilvie Sewall for their creativity): nifty little two-tone blue tote bags neatly printed with "MHC '68" plus multi-stranded shiny blue beads. I lugged boxes of reunion books to the same table for classmates to pick up (see note at the end of this opus about how to get a book if you weren't at reunion).
Reunion started unofficially on Thursday, 30 May, with a meeting of class presidents and reunion chairs (for us, that was Suzanne Lenz Janney, president, and Karen Wilbur and Susan Yeshilian Manaras, reunion co-chairs). There was also a cooking demonstration, wine tasting and Mediterranean buffet at Willits-Hallowell Center for those who pre-registered. The evening's activities for our early-arriving classmates also included the assembly of our nametags (yearbook photo pasted on beside our name-quite fetching!).
I arrived mid-afternoon on Friday and found many '68ers were already there...lots of hugs and exclamations and even some tears provided the atmosphere for Buckland's front plaza and foyer. A quick scan of the attendance list confirmed that some of our classmates were coming to their first reunion in a long, long time--and the utility of nametags was borne out emphatically when I absolutely could not put a name to a face.
Friday offerings included several "Back-to-Class" sessions, including those by Nancie L. Fimbel ("Among Women: South Africa," recounting a 2-week visit in 2007 by 25 Seven Sisters alumnae with South African 'strong women' who are remaking their country); Leslie Luxemburg Rosenthal ("Tips and Techniques to Improve Your Singing," a workshope offering simple and effective techniques to make voices 'work' better); and Olivia (Livvy) Mellan and Sherry Christie ("Money Shy to Money Sure," debunking common myths that keep us from taking charge of our money life). Other events included a horticultural walking tour of campus; career consulting for alums; a golf-swing clinic/mini-lesson; a tour of the new residence hall; and a Japanese tea ceremony. [Note: Many golfers, reuners as well as companions, also participated in 18-hole play at MHC's Orchards Golf Course, an activity coordinated by our own Penelope (Penny) Schneider Calf.] The afternoon closed with a reception for alums and faculty (current and emeriti) at Kendade, the new (in 2003) science building, after which we repaired to Buckland for a buffet supper in the living room, replete with an ample supply of wine--also arranged by Nancy Fay and Jacquie McClelland. Cheers!
I suspect most everyone lingered in the living room after dinner. A few of us headed over to President Creighton's home for a reception for Cornerstone Program donors. [Scribe's note: This is my first, and quite likely my last, opportunity to qualify for this particular reception.] As the evening wore on, most of us ended up in little chat groups, just catching up on our lives, until weariness drove us upstairs to bed. We all prayed for a sunny Saturday...
Saturday did not dawn bright and sunny, so a few of us did a bit of extra praying, that the raindrops would hold off at least until after the parade. We all gathered, as our waking times allowed, in Buckland dining room for a first-rate breakfast with several very attentive staff making us feel very welcome and well-fed. We stayed in that room for our class meeting (the minutes of which are a separate document), and then moved to the living room for a quiet remembrance of our departed classmates, led by the Rev. Holly Vincent Bean.
It was then time to head to Skinner Green, to line up for the parade. We were sharing this reunion with the classes of 1943, 1948, 1953, 1963, 1973 and 1978, and as always, it was a treat to see their costumes. It never ceases to amaze me how every class manages to devise clever, significant accouterment for the parade-and the fact that much of it is useful for years afterward is just a bonus (I still have two '68 umbrellas, now two tote bags and a great blue hat from 2003). We also had a collection of terrific signs, created by Susan ("Arin") Edwards, highlighting our graduation year:
- 1968-What A Year!
- We studied for comps through the Tet Offensive, MLK Assassination, Riots in 100 US Cities
- New TV shows: Mister Rogers, The Mod Squad, 60 Minutes Movies: The Graduate, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Yellow Submarine, The Lion in Winter
- RFK was assassinated a week after we graduated
- August 1968: police riot at Chicago Democratic Convention; Soviet tanks filled Prague
- December 1968: Apollo 8 orbited the moon and brought 'Earthrise' picture home
- We survived '68. 40 years later, we're GREAT!
Whew! Do you remember all those events???
We looked just wonderful in our pristine whites (I just cannot avoid thinking "virginal") with the blue accessories as we marched around Skinner Green and headed to the Alumnae Association ("AA") meeting in Mary E. Woolley Hall. As always, the younger classes led the parade so that when we got to the driveway outside Woolley, we could line both sides to welcome with applause and cheers the older classes (one of which we are becoming...). The AA meeting was lively and filled with recognitions of all kinds. Three classmates were singled out for particular awards: our retiring class president Suzanne Lenz Janney received an Alumnae Medal of Honor for her great service to the College both in her home club and in our class; and Carol Wenk Bellisio and your humble scribe each received the Loyalty Award (a new award being phased in; this was the first eligible '68 reunion) for outstanding service to the class (Carol for years of class agenting as well as admissions work-she recruited at least a dozen students in New Jersey-and Eloise for 30 years and counting as secretary/scribe).
It is at the parade that the class attendance is taken, and that's when we were credited with the 91 reuners that won us the two attendance cups at the AA meeting. Congratulations to us!
The meeting closed with an anthem sung by the alumnae choir (which was customarily part of the Sunday morning service in Abbey Chapel but is now integrated into the AA meeting). Quite a few '68ers participated in the performance of "How Can I Keep From Singing." After the meeting, it was time to return to Buckland for a wonderful buffet lunch. The dining room just rang with happy conversation at every table. What joy to be reunited with old friends and to connect with classmates we hardly knew...
Saturday afternoon was again filled with optional activities, mostly repeats of Friday's offerings, with two additions: a continuation of an informal discussion group, begun by Eileen Sypher and Jody Hall Cale five years ago, on transitions and changes; and a talk on aging parents by Susan (Arin) Edwards. I joined Eileen and Jody's group in Buckland's living room; about twenty of us gathered to "check in," as it were. At least two things are clear: none of us is living a static life and many of us still have elder-care issues
All class pictures had to be relocated from Skinner Hall steps to the Pratt Hall (music building) auditorium because the skies threatened to open up at any moment after lunch. Our picture is now on the class website-check it out (http://www.alumnae.mtholyoke.edu/~classof1968)!
After our photo session, Carol Wenk Bellisio led a group of '68ers and family/friends on a climb up Mt. Holyoke-shades of Outing Club!!
From 4 to 5:30 p.m., our class joined with the Class of 1963 to present "From East and from West Now We Gather: Educating Women in a Global World," a panel of alums and students discussing globalism and the effects of education on the lives of women worldwide. The session was led by Eva Paus, professor of economics and director of the McCulloch Center for Global Initiatives and was held in Gamble Auditorium in the Art Museum. All who attended found it truly inspirational.
The rain finally came in late afternoon-a total deluge-when many of us were out and about, so there were lots of soggy '68ers flying in the front door to get ready for our pre-dinner cocktail hour in the living room. All of our remaining class honoraries--Mrs. DeLonga, Mr. And Mrs. Yamashita and Mr. Farnham-were able to join us. Blessings were offered by the Rev. Mary (Mobby) Brown Larson and Mr. Yamashita (whose grace was in Japanese). Our dinner was superb-College food is not what it used to be!-and the service likewise (students staying after the year ended to earn extra money). The high point for Carol Wenk Bellisio and your humble scribe was the arrival of two representatives from the Alumnae Office to make official presentations of our Loyalty Awards (including reading, in full, the citations). These were written with very specific reference to our respective activities, so there was no question about the thought and care that went into the creation of the document. Our class president emerita, Suzanne Lenz Janney, had heard her Alumnae Medal of Honor citation read before the entire AA meeting on Saturday morning. Carol and I were mentioned by name only at that occasion. I can assure you that this recognition has only reinforced our loyalty to the College and to our class, which is, I expect, just what the College hopes!
After dinner, it was time for our traditional "gather round the piano" with Karen Kelly Taggart at the keyboard, for the singing of all those songs we moved and grooved to during our MHC days. A handout including ALL the words was available, fortunately (thanks to Olivia [Livvy] Mellan for that compilation!). Who could remember all the verses to any of these classics?? We did our level best, but I think our ambitions exceeded our stamina-and it was time to drift off to bed before we'd gotten through the entire repertoire. What a great evening of reliving days long gone but not entirely forgotten...
Eileen Sypher left for home on Saturday afternoon, accompanied by her dear friend Jody Hall Cale, to prepare for her ordination on Sunday as a minister in the United Church of Christ/Congregational Church. Eileen was graduated from Yale Divinity School last year; she began her studies there the fall after I was graduated, so we never overlapped.
Sunday morning was a time for a leisurely breakfast, a last opportunity to engage classmates, the final few hours of a splendid weekend. Your humble scribe took a walk around Upper Lake, always a place of peace and solitude, with a side visit to the Greenhouse and its traditional plant sale (where I encountered several '68ers loading pots large and small into cars). I took possession of three lavender plants-my favorite sachet fragrance. I look forward to cutting some flowers from them next year. This could be a metaphor for the Daughters of Mary Lyon: we were sent into the world to be planted and to grow and to do good for others.
We took our leave of each other with hugs and tears and promises to keep in touch (class notes, everyone-and class website, too!). This will sustain us until our next reunion, in 2013.
I hope this narrative is a happy reminder for all who were able to attend and a happy inspiration to all who were not. While our feelings about Mount Holyoke may vary, her feelings about us do not. We are special because we are alums, and reunions are wonderful occasions to affirm those feelings. See you in five years!
Your humble scribe/correspondent,
Eloise Prescott Killeffer
For a copy of the reunion book, send a check for $15, payable to "MHC Class of 1968," to
ELOISE H.P. KILLEFFER
141 OAK STREET
NEW CANAAN CT 06840-5840
Include your postal mailing address as well as your e-mail address.