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Alumni celebrate 5th through 75th reunions

More than 1,000 alumni, friends and family members descended on campus for the College's biggest annual gathering of alumni May 29-31.

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Reunion 2009, for alumni whose class years end in '4 or '9, featured music and dancing, lots of family activities and special events, class dinners and receptions, and a talk by acclaimed Lincoln scholar Michael Burlingame.

The Class of 2004 had the biggest showing ever by a reunion class – 143 members – and the classes of 1969 and 1989 set records for the 40th and 20th reunions.  

Alumni came from as far away as New Zealand, Japan and Italy to reconnect with each other, faculty and the College. They hugged in the middle of Cro Boulevard, relaxed over lobster on Tempel Green, and shared stories during class discussions on topics from networking to shepherding kids through a college search.

Helen Bird '89 enjoyed catching up with friends into the early-morning hours in her class's hospitality suite in Smith, and Barry Gold '79 of Sharon, Mass., said he and his friends had enjoyed seeing their classmate, Vance Gilbert, take the stage Friday night. Thomas Read '89 of Silver Spring, Md., was happy to see classmates in person after connecting on Facebook.

Anne Roche '59 traveled from New Zealand for her 50th. "It was really worth it," she said, "to see old friends and make new ones. The program they had for us was just wonderful."

Reunion attendance was up 19 percent over last year, and reunion organizers attributed the increase to an exciting schedule of events and – believe it or not – the economy.

"These are difficult times, and alumni told us they enjoyed having the opportunity to get together with friends," said Sarah Fournier, assistant director of Reunion.

Concerns about the economy influenced some of the discussion topics for the weekend. The Class of 1974, for example, shared stories about career transitions and tips on how to network.

While Friday was overcast, the sun came out on Saturday just in time for the annual alumni parade, which featured class banners, balloons and the Connecticut College camel.

Convocation followed the parade, during which President Higdon outlined the College's progress and urged alumni to spread the word – especially to classmates who weren't able to be at Reunion. "This is incredible, what goes on here," he said, "and we want people to know about it."

Eleven alumni were honored during the weekend with awards recognizing their achievements. Diane Y. Williams '59, who received the College Medal, said she would share it with Ruby Turner Morris, the Lucretia L. Allyn Professor Emeritus of Economics.

Honorees also included Cristina A. Nardone '04, who died in Mali last year while working for a nonprofit. Her sister, Jacqueline Nardone, accepted the award on her behalf. "She was one of those few people who strike you as special," Nardone said in emotional remarks. "She was incredibly giving."

On Friday, alumnae celebrating their 50th Reunion were feted at a Sykes Society lunch. The speaker, Professor Catherine McNicol Stock, got members of the audience jitterbugging to historic recordings as she spoke on the topic, "What's Swing Got To Do with It?"

Two members of the Class of 1934 – Ann "Andy" Crocker Wheeler and Gladys Russell Munroe – were on hand to enjoy an incredible 75th reunion. Munroe got a standing ovation at Alumni Convocation when Constance Smith Gemmer '80 P'10, incoming president of the Alumni Board, congratulated her on the milestone. "We'll see you in five years," she grinned as the crowd applauded.

June 3, 2009