Amid laughter, warm embraces and greeting long-ago friends, Franklin & Marshall College alumni arrived on campus for the June 5-7 Reunion Weekend 2015 and took stock of how things have changed -- including themselves.
From classes with graduation years ending in "5" or "0," this year's annual event drew more than 1,000 alumni who spent the weekend getting re-acquainted with the campus, faculty and friends.
While the Class of 1965 celebrated its 50th reunion, there was also a rather sizeable contingent from the Class of '55 and a showing of perhaps the last member from the Class of '35.
As he waited for the start of Saturday morning's Class Parade, with a bagpiper to lead them, Eli Zebooker '35, who last visited the campus 30 years ago, joked, "They got some new things here."
The 102-year-old alumnus, who served in World War II and later practiced dentistry for 50 years in Philadelphia, said he no longer has anyone to reunion with at F&M, but he wanted to return for perhaps a last time.
"Eighty years ago I graduated. I thought I would come back one more time," said Zebooker, who proudly carried his class flag in the parade. He then smiled and said of his visit, "It's a refresher course."
Memories and What an F&M Education Means
From the Nevonian Luncheon on Friday afternoon to the Party on the Green Saturday evening to the Farewell Brunch on Sunday morning, there was a sense among all the F&M alumni of re-connecting with the place where they transformed their minds and character.
"You want to talk about confidence? You want to talk about the ability to make a difference? That's what an F&M education meant to me," said 50th-year attendee Kenneth Duberstein, '65, P'09, P'12. "There's nothing like an F&M education. It teaches us to shine in our professions."
Friday afternoon included a talk by Joel Eigen, the Charles A. Dana Professor of Sociology and co-house don of Ware College House, about the complex role that neuroscience plays in helping the courts determine whether someone is guilty or insane.
Following a stimulating Q&A, the older alumni expressed interest in Eigen's role as a house don -- in the post 10 years, he is the last of the College's original four dons -- and how the College House functions at the intersection of academics and residential life.
"I think I would have enjoyed it when I was here more than the way it was," confided William Honaman '55, P'81, P'83.
Additional weekend activities included tours of the campus and the Philips Museum of Art, and in the evening there were dinners, socials and treks to downtown Lancaster's First Friday events.
"It was fun being downtown and seeing all the new restaurants," said Sarah Haggarty '10.
Flapjack Fest and Nevonians
Before Saturday morning's Class Parade, there was the Flapjack Fest, a new Reunion Weekend tradition replicating a similar event that current F&M students enjoy as part of Finals Week. Alumni hungry for an early breakfast appeared outside Zime, the campus café, where two Reunion volunteers, F&M seniors Alexander Levit and Caroline Muir, teamed up to prepare and serve flapjacks hot off the griddle.
"Pick anyone you want," said Levit, wielding a spatula. "I didn't know I would find my calling today."
As he enjoyed his flapjacks with syrup, Brad Broileau '10, said he found his first Reunion Weekend experience "surreal."
"It's amazing how things have changed, but not all," Broileau said. "I'm staying in the same room that I was in my sophomore year."
Arriving for flapjacks, too, was Christina Brick Gersh '95, her husband Adam Gersh '97 and their budding Diplomats: Julian 11, Bennett 8 and Myer 6. "I hope so," Gersh said of her sons becoming legacies. "We've been buying them T-shirts since they were born."
For the Class of '65, the weekend had special meaning as members were inducted into the Nevonian Society honoring the life achievements of alumni who have celebrated the 50th anniversary of their graduation from the College and the spouses and partners of such alumni, who automatically become lifetime society members during the class's 50th reunion year. Among the many luminaries in this year's induction class was former F&M President Richard Kneedler '65, who served the College from 1988-2002.
Before signing the Nevonian Registry, receiving his pin and standing with his class for photos, Kneedler said the moment was especially heartfelt because in 1968 he went to a similar event with his father, who also attended F&M.
"He was the Class of 1918," said Kneedler. "So, I kind of gulp."
At the annual luncheon, Alumni Association President Ricardo Rivers bestowed upon William Bates '64 and Richard Gehrst '64 the Alumni Development Volunteer Award, and presented the Alumni Citation to Michael Wood, M.D. '65 and the Nevonian Medal to John Neigh, M.D. '55.
"I was fortunate with my education here," Neigh said. "The leadership of the professors, both teaching me and helping me achieve my goals, is one I'll be forever grateful for."
A Promising Future Ahead for Liberal Arts and F&M
At the Alumni Celebration, where the classes from '65 through '10 gave class gifts totaling a combined $1.7 million, F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield spoke about the College's enduring commitment to the liberal arts and its promising future.
"Even as F&M has become more global, no college is more enmeshed in the idea of America," Porterfield said. "The notions, for example, that national strength requires intellectual strength, that economic growth requires academic growth, that upward mobility requires equal educational opportunity, and that global peace requires the broad sharing of knowledge.
"These ideas are very American -- and very F&M."
Invited by Porterfield to address the audience of alumni and families about the College, Kneedler praised the leadership shown by the president and Board of Trustees in a time when the value of a liberal arts college education is questioned.
"There is no reason to be concerned about the relevance of the liberal arts," Kneedler said. "There is no room for pessimism. There is only great optimism about the future of what we can do together. Franklin and Marshall is a national leader thanks to Dan Porterfield and the support he gets from our great Board of Trustees."
During the ceremony, the Alumni Citation was presented to Dr. Kathy Harring '80, the Hon. John Brunetti '70 and Ian Ruzow '85. Porterfield presented the Alumni Medal to F&M Trustee Doug McCormack '85 and the GOLD Alumni Award to Joaquim Hamilton '06.
"Thank you, F&M, for classmates who turned into friends, friends who turned into family and a girlfriend who turned into a wife and mother," Hamilton said.
Reunion Barbecue and Alumni Forums
Following the Celebration event, the Reunion Barbecue and Class Photos on Hartman Green drew friends, families and faculty for food, beverages and music from the Jazz Me Band. Meanwhile, the Little Dippers Carnival featured a vintage 1966 Good Humor Truck with a driver dressed in period clothing and dispensing ice cream.
Donald Tyrrell P'81, a former psychology professor at F&M, approached the truck and posed for a photograph with the Good Humor man. "Sixty years ago I did this in Connecticut," Tyrrell said, explaining how he worked through college.
Saturday afternoon featured Reunion Alumni Forums with Wood, retired president and CEO of the Mayo Foundation Inc., William Smulyan, M.D. '65, and Gerald Kumin, M.D. '65 discussing the challenges facing healthcare while Alan Leshner, D. Sc. '65, P'99 talked about the advances in neuroscience.
Duberstein, former chief of staff to President Ronald Reagan and now chairman and CEO of The Duberstein Group Inc., took questions about politics. Regarding the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, he said, "Nobody has any idea."
However, Duberstein urged politicians on both sides of the aisle to work together and recalled how he, as Reagan's chief of staff, and F&M alum William Gray III '63, a Democratic congressman who was then chairman of the House Budget Committee, worked together for the good of the country.
"Bill and I didn’t agree on much, but we found ways to get things done," Duberstein said.
After a late afternoon reception at the President's Home, Saturday evening was filled with class dinners and then, to wrap up a wonderful weekend, Party on the Green, where alumni danced to the music of Group Du Jour, and had momento pictures taken in the F&M Photobooth.