A warmth borne of sunlight and fond memories bathed the campus of Franklin & Marshall College as alumni and their families gathered June 6-8 for Reunion Weekend 2014.
The annual event, this year for graduating classes whose years end in "4" and "9," drew more than 1,200 F&M alumni. They spent three days catching up with friends, visiting old campus haunts and discovering new ones.
As she waited for the start of Saturday morning's Reunion Class Parade, Susan Ushman lingered near the Protest Tree, outside Distler House, with her husband, Wayne Ushman '74.
"All he's doing is reminiscing about his days at the Protest Tree," she said with a laugh.
Wayne Ushman, of Northborough, Mass., recalled a few of his fondest memories, including great campus concerts by performers such as The Guess Who, Charlie Byrd and James Taylor, and streaking -- running naked through a public area as a prank, a dare, or protest. "We also managed to study," he said.
With the Ushmans were their sons, Dov, 12, and Benjamin, 16. The boys watched as hundreds of alumni, some waving the blue banners with their class years emblazoned in gold, lined up for the parade. Is F&M in Benjamin's future? "I'm thinking about it," he said.
As 30 student ambassadors bedecked in blue T-shirts served as taxi drivers, guides, location finders and general volunteers for whatever was needed, alumni -- some returning for the first time in years -- wandered the campus, admiring the changes.
Dennis Moriarty '69 said he was amazed by how much the physical campus had changed. Then, turning to his fellow classmates, he said that the spirit of the College they knew was still intact. "I can see the F&M of our day is still present."
The event-filled weekend began with the induction of members of the Class of 1964, F&M's 50th Reunion class, into the College's Nevonian Society, where F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield described how the school has transformed in the last half-century and discussed one of the College's many current institutional goals -- recruiting high-quality, underserved students who otherwise might never attend college.
"We're developing the school in a way that has a national reach and a local commitment while keeping with our enduring values" of academic excellence, service and leadership, Porterfield said.
During the Reunion Barbecue, when alumni gather for their class pictures while dining and listening to music on Hartman Green, potential future students such as 2-year-old Donivan Cherry climbed all over Ampersand Andy, a 6-foot-tall ampersand the College created in April for events such as Reunion.
"I guess I'm going to have to get a big ampersand and take it home," said Michelle Cherry '99, as she watched her son gamely attempt to scale the large, blue wooden construct.
A highlight of the weekend was Saturday morning's Alumni Celebration, during which alumni and their families gathered in the Barshinger Center for Musical Arts to honor distinguished peers, present the president with donations raised by their classes, and reflect on the major social and historical events that shaped their growth at F&M.
The weekend also showed the generational connections within the F&M community. Joseph Nolt '59, G'16, held up a pin that denoted his class year and his grandson's class year and said, "When you're here long enough you get a lot of stuff, but the thing I'm most proud of is this -- Grandfather '16."
Reflections by alumni were as rich and varied as the history of the decades in which they graduated. Members of the Class of '59 recalled Sputnik, the Russian satellite that when launched in 1957 signaled America was falling behind in the space race.
Karen Martin '79, a class committee volunteer, recalled the near nuclear meltdown at Three Mile Island on March 28 of that year. F&M, located less than 30 miles from the power plant, closed for a week until the danger ended.
"It was the year of two spring breaks for F&M students," Martin said.
Most students returned home that week, but she said the brave few who chose to stay helped the Physics Department monitor nearby radiation levels. They wore T-shirts with the phrase "Hell No We Won't Glow."
Also during the event, Porterfield and F&M Alumni President Anthony Della Pelle '84 presented five alumni with the Alumni Citation, an honor reserved for individuals who are distinguished in their professions, noted for their leadership, and have a record of outstanding accomplishment.
Among those honored was the late Victoria Ball '71, a career counselor at Brown University. In accepting the award, Ball's brother, Hiram Ball, said his family had a long tradition with F&M, going back to 1937, when his father attended the College.
Also receiving citations were Paul Brown '72 P'17, president of Monmouth University; Joan Fallon '79, founder and CEO of Curemark, a biopharmaceutical company; Marc Hochberg '69, professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine; and Judith White '73, professor of cell biology and microbiology at the University of Virginia.
In accepting this year's Alumni Medal, awarded to three alumni in recognition of sustained and distinguished service to the College, Nicole Teillon Riegl '90, chair of the Council on Women, thanked F&M and its community for their roles in shaping her into the leader she is today.
"It never occurred to me to not be an involved F&M alumna," said Riegl, who also serves on F&M's Leadership Council as well as working as a postgraduate mentor and Reunion volunteer. "My commitment to the College is lifelong, and I still have much to do."
The other recipients, Stanley Levin '74, co-chair of the Class of 1974 Reunion Committee, and Clark McSparren, M.D., '55, who served on the F&M Alumni Board for eight years, sounded similar themes in their speeches.
In addition, this year's Gold Award, given to an alumnus or alumna who has shown significant service and support to the College, was presented to Shadoe Tarver '10, who was an aide to former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The President's Cup, given to the Reunion class with the highest percentage of alumni giving participation, went to the Class of '64, which raised $2.3 million and had a 55 percent participation rate.
Mike Powers '64 recalled the richness of his Franklin & Marshall experience and how the College prepared he and his classmates for life after F&M. "I would never trade my four years at F&M," he said. "They were truly my golden years."
During the celebration, Porterfield, in his remarks, thanked all the alumni volunteers who helped to coordinate Reunion Weekend. He then recognized Executive Director for Alumni Relations and Annual Giving Mary Mazzuca, Associate Director Donna Pflum, and Vice President for Advancement Matthew Eynon for their leadership in organizing the event.
"Reunions are the result of extraordinary staff planning and generous toiling by alumni leadership," he said "And so, please join me in thanking our class leadership committees and our Advancement and Alumni Relations teams."
On Saturday afternoon, alumni also had the opportunity to attend forums hosted by their peers. Among the speakers were Michael Mark '74, associate chief counsel at NASA Langley Research Center, who discussed the landing of the probe Curiosity on Mars; University of Central Florida Professor Emeritus Llewellyn "Doc" Ehrhart '64, talking about his effort to preserve several species of endangered turtles; Kerstin Lindquist '99, who shared stories from her career as a broadcast journalist, actress on the television drama "The West Wing," and program host at home shopping network QVC.
Class socials and dinners, a reception at the home of the president, and the widely anticipated Party on the Green -- an outdoor gala on the heart of campus, Hartman Green -- topped off what everyone agreed was a wonderful weekend.