From the Archives: A Reunion Story

by Leigh Winter Martin '99

Thanks to a rip in the space-time continuum, the classes of centuries past have all descended upon Williamstown for an epic reunion weekend. It promises to be one for the ages; or at least one from the archives.

“When we’re reunited we can’t fool each other. Then the atmosphere of thirty years ago is recreated, complete with ozone. The shell of our day-to-day image is temporarily sublimated, and we are released into a time when hope was our most serious emotion and the future was beauty to be courted. This is the real satisfaction in a reunion, the recreation of the lighter moments of the past. But you can’t write about it. It has to happen. And fortunately it always does.”
—Colin Jameson, Class of 1930, July 1960 Alumni Review

Save the Date!

The Reunion Chairs have been busy getting everything ready for your arrival.

1923 is heading up the marketing.

Clipping from 1933 Alumni Review
June 1933 Alumni Review

1936 has Instagram covered.

Summer 1996 Alumni Review, reunion cartoon by Jinny Sherman, wife of Richard Sherman ‘36
Summer 1996 Alumni Review, reunion cartoon by Jinny Sherman, wife of Richard Sherman ‘36

1964’s taking care of Facebook.

Winter 1985 Alumni Review, reunion cartoon by Sam Brown ‘64
Winter 1985 Alumni Review, reunion cartoon by Sam Brown ‘64

1927 will be hitting you up on Twitter with the all-caps.

Clip from May 1937 Alumni Review
May 1937 Alumni Review

1905 is evaluating the entertainment options.

“The famous Class of 1905 will celebrate its 35th by not having a band. This is a most desirable innovation, as the last band the class had made so much noise that no one could visit with another, thereby losing many opportunities to settle the affairs of the world.” (May 1940 Alumni Review)

And 1954 is ruthlessly on top of fundraising for the class gift. 

“If no one has yet put the arm on you, be prepared with pen at the ready, for Jack and Mabes have ways to make you contribute. Ever wake up to find a purple cow’s head on the bed?” (Peter J. Adolph, Class of 1954, Winter 1979 Alumni Review)

Who Says You Can’t Go Home?

“A word to those unable to participate in Reunion: The emphasis of the event included unconditional acceptance and rekindling of friendships, the value of family, the perception of one’s place in life’s continuing saga, a renewed confidence for the future bolstered by our collective example and promise, and the help of college, a place for growth without discrimination. Somehow, find your way back for the 30th, the 35th and others.”
—William D. Kerr, Jr., Class of 1956, Summer 1981 Alumni Review


Any former Reunion Chair will tell you there’s a special joy and reward when long-missed classmates come to reunion for the first time; or, when they come to find support during a tough time in their life. It’s never too late to attend your first reunion, as these alums can testify. [Use the orange arrows to browse through testimonials.]

“Many vignettes will stand out for all of us, but I will always remember running into John Stickney after 20 years and listening as he spoke with considerable awe about his reactions to this, his first Williams reunion ever. ‘I don’t believe this. Everyone looks terrific. This is wonderful.’ For those of us who were there, these succinct statements from an outstanding wordsmith will not seem at all hyperbolic or simplistic. John hit the nail on the head.” (Robert W. Chambers, Jr., Class of 1968, Summer 1988 Alumni Review)

“It’s astonishing how the prospect of a reunion--back to Williams again for the first time in two decades--is like the prospect of college for the first time. It’s as if I had never been there in the first place, as if I am 17 again, with the same flutters of exhilaration, hope, curiosity and especially fear. I first went to Williams feeling like a hick--I hadn’t ever been to the East Coast; I’d only visited one or two prep schools. Now, 20 years later, I feel like a hick all over again.

Williams appears suddenly, quiet even on a reunion weekend, and my first impression is of how small and complete a world it is. We park, and now I am floating across the big lawn that still comfortably holds all those children and dogs, and past the tent to Chapin just as the alumni meeting ends. The building empties without my seeing anyone I recognize, and now I’m certain my reunion is a disaster. The return of the unknown hick. But Chapin itself looks clean and fresh, and the memories begin to come back unsolicited: Up there is where I sat when Robert Frost read his poems and when the Budapest String Quartet played Beethoven; I was back here looking at Martin Luther King’s shiny forehead, listening to that great, rich oratory, five years before he was killed.

Outside, the bright light flattens the crowd, but I am able to make my way to a truck with our class sign on it. Before I know it there is a beer in my hand and I am surrounded by classmates I know. At first I can’t see much more than bald spots, grey hair, formed and settled faces. If anyone has doubts about time passing, a 20th reunion will greatly clarify reality. The class of 1963 is 40, and no one looks so young anymore. Yet within minutes these faces seem simply what they are, what they should be...This time-travel is exhilarating. You take a face, match it with a memory, and go back 20 years in seconds. Very soon the journey of decades is over and here we all are—again.” (Murray Ross, Class of 1963, excerpted from “The Making of an Alumnus,” Winter 1984 Alumni Review)

“June 1988 was my first reunion--and I’m glad I went. It just goes to show that Thomas Wolfe wasn’t always right. You can go home again! It was like peeling back 50 years in time.

The Berkshire Hills are still there (they seemed a little higher this time), so are the dorms, Williams, and Hells Entry at Morgan Hall (I visited every one of my old rooms). Weston field looks the same, but the Taconic Golf Course has a few more trees and the sequence has been altered. There’s also a new Club House since our graduation. But, otherwise, everything is very familiar.

Even Spring Street is recognizable although some of the stores have changed. There’s no Gym Lunch, College Pharmacy or Restaurant, but there are no high rises nor even second floors added to the buildings. Harts Pharmacy has moved across the street and Rudnick’s is gone, but the old Walden Theatre still has two shows a night, at 7 and 9 p.m. I felt at home, even among the new facilities that the College has added since our time -- including an indoor hockey rink that many of us asked for in ‘38.

It was great to see old friends and acquaintances, and to reminisce with classmates about our pecadillos and the 3 B’s--Books, Bennington, and Braehead. It was a time for reflection and renewal; even rejuvenation. A gala occasion!

Well organized and blessed with perfect weather (everyone had his fill of golf and tennis), 1938’s 50th was a huge success. And the Reunion Parade was one to savor for the rest of our lives. What a thrill to walk through the campus to the applause of the spectators which rose to a crescendo as we entered the new Field House. I’ll never forget it, nor Mt. Hope Farm. Some Farm! Queen Elizabeth would be happy in these surroundings. I didn’t know such an estate existed outside of Britain. It was delightful!

I’m only sorry that our departed classmates couldn’t have experienced it. I’m thinking particularly of the late Al Freeman, who loved the school, the golf course, and the class. In his memory I want to repeat a statement that he made time and time again: ‘1938 was the best damn class to ever go to Williams College.’

Amen.” (G. Geoffrey Young, Class of 1938, Winter 1989 Alumni Review)

“I first want to thank those of you in the Class of 1960 who attended the 30th Reunion and extended such wonderful friendship and hospitality to my wife and me. We were both deeply moved by your recognition, by seeing some old friends after as many as 33 years (yes, I did survive freshman year), and by the beauty of the school and the surrounding area. I do not know why I waited so long to go back, and I urge those of you who have not attended a reunion to do so (God willing).” (Tom Seefurth, Class of 1960, Summer 1991 Alumni Review)

“I must share one part of Rob's letter, penned, I think, by his wife, Melinda. It captured a piece of my mind when I read it, and chances are it might do the same for many of you. Facing unemployment within a few weeks of our 25th, Rob was apparently undecided about going to the reunion. ‘At the very last minute...duded up in his best Great Gatsby style, he went. It was one of the warmest moments of his middle-aged life. It seems a lot of his fellows had come with a similar well-earned humility from the triumphs of experience over ambition, and they couldn’t have been more supportive. Surveying Williamstown from a nearby mountain top Saturday afternoon, and basking in a gold Berkshire sunset over dinner that evening, his only regret was in not having made friends with more of his classmates when he’d had the time, and not having stayed in better touch with the college chums he did have.’” (Richard P. Gulla, Class of 1969, Spring 1995 Alumni Review)

Arriving in Williamstown

“Williams comes back after five years as if it were five minutes...”
—Jonathan Vipond, Class of 1967, Summer 1972 Alumni Review

 

The Reunion committees have been chasing down the remaining non-responsive classmates. If you can’t make it, you better have a good excuse. 

“Numerous phone calls were made to classmates whose lame excuses for non-attendance just couldn’t go unchallenged. One of these calls went to Kim Dawson. Dawson, you may recall, did not show up for the 10th reunion...However, upon receiving a call from several outraged classmates, he hopped a plane in California and showed up after all--the ultimate long-ball move.” (Jeffrey R. Krull, Class of 1970, Summer 1985 Alumni Review)

Like, a really good excuse. I mean, if this 1883 alum can get there...

“The class of 1883 was runner-up for the cup. Why not, when one member who lives in California and who had built up a reasonable bank balance to finance the trip, seeing the bank ‘bust up’ right in his face, with $27 in his pocket and a devoted daughter to drive him crossed the continent and kept faith with his classmates? Of such stuff are the men of the 80’s built.” (July 1933 Alumni Review)

Unfortunately some, despite best laid plans, can’t make it.

“I am so mad I could spit atomic bombs. For no reason except pure cussedness I came down with jaundice a couple of weeks ago, and the doctor says I won’t be ready to go to any reunion a week from now. I had been looking forward to this more than anything I can remember in the past few years, and it’s damn hard to just sit and be philosophical about it.” (Gren Sewell, Class of 1923, July 1953 Alumni Review)

I feel you, Gren, and we’ll miss you.

Because whether you drive up in the daytime...

“I came over the Taconic Trail from Troy and entered Williamstown on that wonderful, curving mountain road that sweeps down to intersect with Route 7. What a fantastic way to approach what must be one of the prettiest college locations in America.” (Dick Alford, Class of 1960. AR 1985 Summer)

Or roll in after dark…

“Upon arrival at Williamstown the ‘45 tent was completely dead, much to the joy of the ‘40 aggregation who had the tent adjoining on lab campus, but by diligent search, we were able to rout out (remember, it was 3 a.m.) a few of the more sturdy that had arrived earlier in the day…” (John E. Miller, Class of 1945, January 1951 Alumni Review)

There’s nothing like “that mystical feeling that seems to permeate the blood every time one re-visits Williamstown. Inexplicable, idyllic, majestic.” (Jay Tarses, Class of 1961, Summer 1991 Alumni Review)

The Parade

“The alumni parade on Saturday morning gave us a dramatic glimpse into how we’re going to look years from now and how we looked years ago. It’s a stunning visual, this passage of time, as we move inexorably closer to the front of the line.”
—Jay Tarses, Class of 1961, Summer 1991 Alumni Review

 

Yes it’s too early and you want to sleep in, but it’s time to line up for the parade.

It looks like 1944 and 1967 have both brought showstoppers. Which is your favorite?

Wendy, the world’s largest mechanical elephant, courtesy of the Class of 1944?

July 1954 Alumni Review
July 1954 Alumni Review

Or the enormous purple cow balloon of the Class of 1967?

An giant purple cow balloon is carried down the street by parade volunteers wearing purple shirts.
Summer 1992 Alumni Review

The Class of 1894 was “the first class to adopt reunion uniforms, a custom which has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception.” (May 1939 Alumni Review)

Even as this tradition shifted away from literal costumes, the spirit of fun has endured. Let’s take a walk from the back towards the front of the line.

1976: “The class of ‘76 had purple hats with horns and golden braids which made them look like Viking Amazons. Bill Jenks [‘56] was heard to comment that if ‘56 had hats like that he would never come to another reunion.” (Summer 1986 Alumni Review)

Alumni Review 1986 3 Summer - 1976 viking hats with braids reunion

1958: “The Reunion committee reached a new low in sartorial elegance with our official uniform but at least we stood out from the crowd. Would you believe a black dirt-bike jacket (no sleeves) which will be great in freezing weather but caused us to melt in the 80-degree temperatures?” (Summer 1983 Alumni Review)

1952: “setting a new reunion class standard for conservative flamboyance” (Summer 1992 Alumni Review)

Alumni Review 1992 3 Summer - 1952 conservative flamboyance reunion attire and paper mache bugler

1948: “distinctive headgear” (Summer 1978 Alumni Review)

Alumni Review 1978 3 Summer - class of 1948 reunion cow headgear 2

1946: “Things really got going on Saturday when Phil Smith unveiled the costume he’d personally designed for us. Something short of a Paris fashion, it was, nevertheless, the most unusual, coolest, and most colorful outfit in Williamstown that week-end. Clothed in large purple shorts with a stiff purple net top…with a purple cap, members of the class of ‘46 were the easiest to spot on campus. Later a lady told me that in the sunlight anyone could see right through the shorts. That explains why we were so looked at.” (July 1951 Alumni Review)

1939: “An unofficial, but much chanted slogan, was ‘ ‘39 has gone to pot.’” (Summer 1969 Alumni Review, Spring 1979 Alumni Review)

Alumni Review 1969 3 Summer - 1939 reunion costume is hippie wigs

1935: “official money-saving deluxe model 55th Reunion jacket” (Summer 1990 Alumni Review)

Alumni Review 1990 3 Summer - 1935s official money-saving deluxe model 55th reunion jacket

1933: “beer suits” (July 1938 Alumni Review)

1920: “French navy hat -- blue with red pompom, a purple band, and 1920 in gold on the band -- a white jumper with blue collar and class numerals on the pocket, red zouave trousers, and a purple sash.” (May 1940 Alumni Review)

1916, 1917, and 1919: “a dazzling array of clown costumes” (July 1920 Alumni Review)

1911: “suffragettes” (July 1914 Alumni Review)

1908, 1910, and 1912: “pirates, sailors and babies” (July 1913 Alumni Review) [Photos: E. Kendall Gillett photograph collection, read and view more here]

Black and white photo of men from the class of 1908 dressed as pirates at their fifth reunion.
A black and white photograph in an album shows men from the class of 1910 dressed as sailors with dancing in the street at their three-year reunion.

1898: “Returning members will wear no other designation than the snowy crown conferred upon them by old Mother Nature as a visible sign of her gentle benediction upon a long and well ordered life.” (May 1938 Alumni Review)

The Annual Meeting of the Society of Alumni

“We are here because we love Williams, we love the friends she gave us. We remember how Williams changed us, gave us opportunities, nourished us and sometimes pushed us further than we thought we could go...Williams is your college -- not because you attended classes years ago, but because you’re here this weekend, because you still believe. Williams is our legacy.” 
—Steve Harty, Class of 1973, Summer 1991 Alumni Review

 

Over the course of 200 years, the annual meeting of the Society of Alumni has been held in Goodrich Hall, Jesup Hall, Adams Memorial Theatre, Chapin Hall, Chandler Gymnasium, and outdoors in front of Stetson and Jesup. Grab a seat at your venue of choice, and let your eyes well up as the 50th reunion classes parade in.

Next we celebrate our oldest members in attendance, rising to welcome and honor Dr. Charles E. Harwood, class of 1852, who has crossed the continent to be present for his 77th reunion in 1929.

At this reunion of reunions we are lucky to honor many more, including (clockwise from top-left) Ernest A. Blackmer, Class of 1886, celebrating for his 77th reunion in 1963 (July 1963 Alumni Review); William M. Cooper, Class of 1903, celebrating his 79th reunion in 1982 (Summer 1982 Alumni Review); and George M. White, Class of 1920, celebrating his 79th reunion in 1999 (Summer 1999 Alumni Review).

Ernest A. Blackmer, Class of 1886, celebrating for his 77th reunion in 1963 (July 1963 Alumni Review)
George M. White, Class of 1920, celebrating his 79th reunion in 1999 (Summer 1999 Alumni Review)
William M. Cooper, Class of 1903, celebrating his 79th reunion in 1982 (Summer 1982 Alumni Review)

Speeches stitch together to compose a single song, of Williams, of connection, of time, and of hope.

“The first meeting that I ever attended of this alumni association was fifty-one years ago today. I was an idle and careless junior who happened to be passing by the old chapel, now called Goodrich Hall, and I heard an earnest and eager voice coming through the open door, and being a member of the ‘Logian, and inquisitive, I went in and saw on the platform speaking to the alumni a little man, white haired, white bearded, who seemed deeply earnest, telling some story to the alumni...it was not until long afterwards that I learned that it was Cushing Eells, of the class of 1834, back to celebrate his 50th class reunion and telling the alumni association, doubtless, about the college which he founded in Washington Territory twenty-five years before and which he had named Whitman College...I had little idea that six years after that extended glimpse of a great man, I should follow in his footsteps to the far Northwest, and that ten years after that meeting I should be elected president of Whitman College…” (Dr. Stephen B. L. Penrose, Class of 1885, July 1935 Alumni Review)

“These are but hints of Williams past and Williams present. What is the meaning to us of the events, the people representing Williams?

To find one answer, I would suggest that you walk through the campus late at night -- after Heinie Greer and his band have put their instruments away.

Walk with the wind in the trees and the stars overhead.

There is an intimation of the young men and the young women who will be walking those paths in the centuries to come.

We find ourselves in a presence, the presence of all those who have walked those paths in the past.” (Dickinson R. Debevoise, Class of 1946, Summer 1971 Alumni Review)

“So I return to the beginning. It is people that make Williams what it has been and what it is. People like Mark Hopkins, Jack Sawyer, John Chandler and Frank Oakley -- and all those, including the faculty mentioned, who contributed to our growth during our brief stay in this valley. Our growth has continued in the 25 years since 1960 and it will continue in the years ahead. But we have returned here precisely because this place is part of our foundation. We come back seeking things which cannot be recaptured and friendships which have dimmed. Nothing can be as it was, but it is perfectly good for us on this weekend to try to beat the system.

But I believe we come back most of all because this place represents hope. We left here in 1960 full of hope, but we since have learned to make compromises with our dreams. Thus, Williams represents our innocence. And what we are trying to do, some of us, is explore again that innocence, our attempts to be excellent, and to ignore the realities of our compromises and our failures outside this valley.” (Francis T. Vincent Jr., Class of 1960, Summer 1985 Alumni Review)

“I remember a crisp sunny day in Griffin Hall when Fred Rudolph asked his callow and jaded class whether they felt anything when they heard The Mountains. To the chorus of hardened sneers, he said, quietly and knowingly, you will, you will. He must have been about as old then as I am now, and I do, I do.” (Kirk Varnedoe, Class of 1967, Summer 1992 Alumni Review)

Astounding 50th Reunion gifts are announced, leading the classes that follow to consider their prospects (or lack thereof).

“The official meeting of the Society of Alumni was noteworthy for the magnificent gifts to the college from the classes of 1966 and 1941, $2.5 and $12.5 million, respectively. Now ‘41 was a large, well-organized class compared to the small rag-tag bunch in ‘46, so we have little hope of approaching their magnificent gift. But Jack Townsend, as usual, had a great idea. We will take the annual alumni fund contributions from our class for the next five years and invest them all in lottery tickets. If we hit, we have it made; if not, our gift will be zero. In either case, our class will be unique and long remembered. Jack and I passed this idea along to President Oakley at his reception for the alumni. He looked at us rather archly and said only, ‘I’m glad you’re worried already.’ I think it was purely coincidental that the hot water in the Zete house was turned off immediately after the president’s reception.” (George F. Pieper, Class of 1946, Summer 1991 Alumni Review)

We sing The Mountains, and head to lunch.

Saturday Afternoon

“We gathered for luncheon on the same porch, as usual, looking out at the same mountains, but with a keen sense of the passing of an era in the life of our class.”
—Charles H. Seaver, Class of 1900, November 1960 Alumni Review

 

After lunch we stroll through campus, revisiting favorite spots and checking out new buildings that have materialized since we were last here. We pass many class headquarters, none so bold as that of 1926, which has immortalized its perennial claim of greatness on a banner.

Alumni Review 1981 3 Summer - 1926 greatest class banner hangs on fitch hall

What should we do with the rest of our afternoon? Hike Pine Cobble? Go to The Clark? Head down to the family track meet at Weston Field and race President Chandler?

Alumni Review 1978 3 Summer - reunion track meet photos 1
“President Chandler took on all comers in the day’s featured event, a one-mile run.” (Summer 1978 Alumni Review)

As years collide and intertwine, there is also a baseball game at Weston Field, a tradition dating back to when Reunion and Commencement shared the same weekend.

“After the luncheon the classes, accompanied by bands, marched to Weston Field to watch Williams trounce the Connecticut Agricultural College nine by a score of 6-1. The game was well worth watching. The parade was a colorful one, although the costumes were not particularly original. The float of the class of 1920, representing a battleship, was quite an elaborate affair. It was set on fire during the game and Gale Hose Company had to be called upon to extinguish the blaze. Another ‘interesting event’ during the course of the game was the appearance of Lady Godiva, in the person of Keith F. Driscoll ‘15, of Syracuse, riding a white horse. As a concession, perhaps, to Williamstown conventions, Mr. Driscoll wore a little more than the traditional costume--not much more, but a little.” (July 1930 Alumni Review)

The antics will only progress as the sun sets.

Saturday Night

“Both good news and bad news emerged from our 15th Reunion this past weekend. First the good news. The 37-year-old body can withstand the demands normally made upon a 21-year-old body. Now the bad news. It cannot do so for prolonged periods of time and it takes longer to recuperate.”
—Edmund G. Bagnulo, Class of 1960, Summer 1975 Alumni Review

 

Let’s start the night off by joining the Class of 1958 up at Mount Hope Farm for their 25th Reunion dinner, it’s always so lovely up there.

“The Saturday night dinner-dance at the luxurious Million-Dollar Cow Barn on Mount Hope Farm featuring a great speech by Prof. Anson Piper ‘40...and an incredible naked dash through the startled diners by the unpredictable Mr. Murdock.” (Chet Lasell, Class of 1958, Summer 1983 Alumni Review)

Well, that escalated quickly.

Let’s go to The Log -- or Alumni House, as it’s known to the Class of 1912 50th Reunion crowd we encounter there.

“After the banquet Saturday night of reunion, Charlie and Jeanne Shons helped close the Alumni House and hied themselves to Fayerweather, only to find that they had lost their key to their room on the first floor. Charlie got the wire screen loose, put Jeanne on a keg and boosted her through the window with no campus cop or candid camera men to record the breaking and entry.” (Theodore K. Thurston, Class of 1912, November 1962 Alumni Review)

50th Reunion, folks!

Still up for more shenanigans? There’s always something going on at Sage Hall.

“...The panel session in Entry B of Sage Hall from 2.00 to 4.00 a.m. Sunday morning with Oz Coates as moderator and Ted Overton, Bob Spang and Senator Leech as antagonists…” (Willard D. Dickerson, Class of 1940, July 1960 Alumni Review)

“Rumor hath it that a ‘35 wife turned on a fire hose in Sage Hall. A lot of excitement ensued, but little damage!” (Peter Ball, Class of 1935, July 1955 Alumni Review)

“One highlight after considerable drinking was the disturbance in Entry E of Sage Hall. Fireman Chief Pawlick accidentally (?) bumped into the office at that location and for his reward was greeted with a 3-inch steady stream of water pumped directly for his special attention from the city water works. Assistant Chief Bremer assisted greatly in the direction of this stream out said door into the freshman quad from the hours of five until seven a.m., at which time, after due consideration and numerous votes of the fire department local 652, members Elliott, Brock, Miller, McNerney, Freeman, and pulling of straws, one made the call to relieve the two chiefs of the burden and the stream, only after the entire water system for the college at the main location was turned off.” (John E. Miller, Class of 1945, January 1951 Alumni Review)

There seems to be quite a racket happening next door at Baxter Hall as well. Should we check it out?

“The search for the class icon provides a fitting story to close this, my last, column. As you remember, Zac initiated a ‘75 tradition of a treasure hunt of sorts for the class icon. Clues were mailed to us with reunion information, and the finder of the icon was to receive a refund of his/her reunion charges. At 10:30 P.M. Saturday night, Zac reminded us all that the icon was yet to be found. Classmates who appeared to seriously take up the search included: Preston Battle, Jan Roberts, Charlie Selcer, Steve Stephanian and Bob Beck. The search was finally narrowed to mailbox #295 in Baxter Hall whose combination still eluded everyone. Charlie Selcer was reported to have been trying combinations from 11 P.M. - 1 A.M when Security finally closed Baxter. He and Bob Beck, however, weren’t ready to give up. They found an open window in Baxter and climbed in (Bob having to give Charlie a boost), only to find the mailroom locked. Frustrated, Charlie bagged the search, vowing to return at 8 A.M. By this time, Bob was convinced that Charlie knew the entire combination to box 295, though he was still missing part of it.

Not to be outdone by ‘the Hose,’ Bob racked his brain for a way to get into the mailroom. If only he could remember the name of the lady who sat behind the mailboxes our freshman year...the one to whom we paid our phone bills. Then the dawn broke...Zac would know her name since he must have contacted her to get the icon into the mailbox in the first place! Bob ran down to a pay phone on Spring Street and dialed information to get the phone number of Charlotte Marlow in North Adams. At 2:45 A.M. her phone was ringing. ‘What if she doesn’t answer?’ Bob thought. ‘I might have to break into her house, too!’ After a dozen rings, Charlotte’s daughter answered, and with some convincing, put her mother on the phone. Fortunately, Charlotte was ‘into it,’ knew what Bob was looking for, and told him to come on over to get the key to the mailroom. He ended up chatting with Charlotte for 45 minutes about all the medical ailments of her grandchildren, nieces, nephews, neighbors, etc., but returned to Baxter with the key (he’d left a door unlocked to avoid another break-in). At 4:15 A.M. the icon was his. Interviewed Sunday at brunch, Bob told this reporter that he attributed his success to ‘his ability to be alert at 3 A.M.” Who would have thought that one of the bennies of being on call as a neonatologist would be finding the Class of ‘75 icon?” (Julie Berens, Class of 1975, Summer 1985 Alumni Review)

Farewells

“I got a lump in my throat as my car rushed down the long hill. The reunion was over.”
—Dick Alford, Class of 1960, Summer 1985 Alumni Review

 

On Sunday morning, we gather at Thompson Memorial Chapel.

“Coming together, we realize that we are the family. We are Williams.

Reunion is not, therefore, an event. Reunion is a process whereby collectively the College is made whole and individually we are renewed. How terribly important it is, then, to close the process of reunion with this Memorial Service.” (John McKee Pratt, Class of 1955, Summer 1985 Alumni Review)

We remember the Williams family no longer with us.

“The impressive memorial service for departed alumni of reuning classes, Sunday morning in Chapel, listed 29 names under Class of 1929--since our 55th. News about Dan Layman had come in too late for inclusion. As the Chapel bell tolled and the audience sat in silence, I went through our list, bell by bell. It reached the last name, and then there was a last 30th stroke.” (S. Lane Faison, Class of 1929, Summer 1989 Alumni Review)

We linger as long as we can, until it’s time to say goodbye.

“We departed with revived spirit and a pleasant feeling that we still belong to Williams and Williams to us.” (Islay V.H. Gill, Class of 1896, July 1951 Alumni Review)

Once home, we settle our accounts, often finding, as 1964 so eloquently put it after its 25th, that “our bar tab snapped the budget like a twig.” (Dennis J. Helms, Class of 1964, Summer 1989 Alumni Review)

Here’s 1951 having their first go at it:

Alumni Review 1952 07 - 1951 1st reunion expense breakdown

We try to find words to describe the magic of the weekend.

“The problem with Williams reunions is that no one at home has a clue about what you’ve experienced. I returned, full of emotion and enthusiasm, and tried to convey to close friends the source of my strong feelings. My description of the thrill of following a helium-filled purple cow around the campus with 1,500 other alumni was met with expressions of disbelief. Barely concealed smiles of incredulity greeted my story of a classmate who installed an acre of sod for 24 hours so we wouldn’t get our shoes dirty as we partied at his house. How do you explain a gymnasium full of misty-eyed persons rising to their feet to pay respect to a man merely because he graduated from Williams longer ago than anyone else? I didn’t even attempt to ask them to understand the warmth, admiration, respect and love we have for one another.” (William M. Ryan, Class of 1962, Summer 1992 Alumni Review)

And we hang up our reunion swag.

Bert Weary has become an ecstatic ornithologist. He had a reunion hat which for some 14 years has hung, upside down, on a pillar of his back porch. He writes: “Some weeks ago a lady mocking bird surveyed the premises and decided this cap was ideally suited for a creche, built a splendid nest, moved in and proceeded to do her stuff.” (Richard L. Jackson, Class of 1910, July 1962 Alumni Review)

Could there be a more fitting destiny for such a hat? For what is reunion if not a coming home.

Until next time...

 

Dedicated to all the 0s and 5s and 1s and 6s who have had their reunions postponed...hoping we can all be together again in the Purple Valley soon.

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