Friday, June 1, 2012

Retirement Reflections — Why I Love College Reunions

Last weekend I celebrated my 45th college reunion with more than 100 classmates and their spouses/partners. I’m sharing here some of the reasons why I love going to these reunions. My alma mater is unusual in that alumni march in the graduation procession along with the administration, faculty, graduating seniors and advanced degree candidates. The atmosphere is electric and it is foreshadowed by an incredible camaraderie all weekend long.

I love these reunions not just because I get to catch up with friends from my time on campus, but also because I get to connect with classmates I knew only casually during my undergraduate years. Over time, I’ve become as close with many of the new friends that I see again every five years as I am with the ones I made over 45 years ago. Sadly, at this reunion we learned more about some of our classmates’ lives posthumously. No doubt this will become even more of a theme at future reunions.

Here are some of the reasons I enjoyed being part of my reunion last weekend.
One of my classmates who has chosen not to retire yet gave these reasons (paraphrased somewhat.) I love my work. I’m at the top of my game and I’m well respected. I’m known as the go-to guy in my field. How inspiring to hear that from someone in his mid-sixties. A tip of my pen, “And here’s to you, Mr. Robinson, wo wo wo. Coo coo ca-choo, Mr. Robinson!”

I was a scholarship student, so the university’s Annual Fund has a special place in my heart. I’m a co-chair of our Reunion Gift Committee. At Friday’s dinner, I reported on the status of our fundraising and made a pitch for support from those who were still on the sidelines. We needed just 58 more donors to reach our participation goal, and about $16,000 to reach a five-year comprehensive giving total of five million dollars.

One of my fellow co-chairs came forward with this offer: for each new donor who made a gift during reunion, she’ll add an extra ten dollars to the gift she’s already made. Then one of the men in our class made an even greater challenge. He’ll increase his own gift and match new and increased contributions made during reunion in order to get our class to five million dollars. What generosity of spirit by both of them! The dust hasn’t settled, but there’s money coming in because of them.

Another classmate’s second husband was considerably older than she (like mine is). She’s been widowed for some time. She heard me say that my husband has many stents in his arteries. She quietly took me aside and counseled me to make sure my husband gets annual angiograms, even if he has the medicated stents. Her husband’s stents calcified and they didn’t realize it and she lost him. What an act of kindness to want to spare me her same fate of early widowhood!

And speaking of clogged arteries, another classmate became a vascular surgeon after she graduated from medical school. She was on a panel about women breaking barriers in the workplace. She commented that a woman can be strong in her profession yet still show a softer side. And she was wearing red shoes! A woman after my own heart. (No pun intended…)

Another rewarding part of reunions is meeting the spouses of my male classmates. These women embrace our alma mater as though it were their own. The ones whose husbands are active in the class either in fundraising or on the event side are right beside them helping to make our class and our university successful. Our incoming class president is an example of this. At the risk of hitting some raw nerves, I joked that it reminds me of when Bill Clinton became President and quipped that with Hillary, the country was getting a twofer.

There are times when I think it would be great to celebrate reunions every year. As each reunion passes, after a weekend this intense, I’m increasingly exhausted. But with each reunion, there are also more and more familiar faces that did not live the five years from the previous one. All the more reason to savor them as we celebrate.

If you’re wondering why this post is a day early, it’s because we’re heading to Vermont for the weekend. My micro-preemie grandniece (now age 8) has a ballet recital. This may be the only thing that could top reunion weekend for pure pleasure!

1 comment:

The Reading Lady said...

I'm still learning what happened last weekend--stories like these. I forwarded your blog link to Stephania. She will be touched.

You were a gracious host and thanks for a sweet blog!