Connecticut College Magazine · Fall 2009

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Physicist Mohamed Diagne ´97 follows in the footsteps of retiring Professor Arlan Mantz. Photo by Ron Cowie

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Reunion 2009

Reunion 2009
More than 1,000 alumni, friends and family members came home to Connecticut College for Reunion 2009.

Alumni return to the College for a weekend of friends, fun and sun

View a slideshow of Reunion 2009

By Barbara Nagy, Rachel Harrington and Phoebe Hall


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

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 traveled from far and near to reconnect with each other, faculty and the College. They hugged in the middle of Cro Boulevard, cracked lobster claws 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 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 Leo I. Higdon, Jr., 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 of History 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.


Higdon says College continues to gain momentum


The economy is a significant challenge, but the College continues to gather steam and move forward, President Lee Higdon told alumni at Reunion.

“With your help we will continue,” Higdon said during his state-of-the-college address at Alumni Convocation. To attain its vision, the College needs to invest in people, programs, financial aid and facilities — and continue the conservative financial practices that have made it as well prepared as possible for the downturn, he said.

Higdon noted several examples of recent success: 13 Fulbright scholars in three years, a Rhodes finalist in the Class of 2007, national recognition for international and environmental programs. The College invested $10 million in the campus this summer alone, completed a new fitness center, and is investing in new faculty positions and academic programming.

Ninety-seven percent of the senior class, he added, is supporting the College this year through the Annual Fund. “It shows what students think of Connecticut College,” Higdon said.

Attendance at alumni events is up 35 percent, and the College has made a concerted effort to help classmates network with each other. The number of mentions of the College in the media has increased 30 percent. Admissions are strong this year, and transfers set a record.

A reputation for excellence is critical for this, Higdon said, adding that alumni can help. Students are looking to establish a long-term relationship with the College.

“What they want to know is, what kind of network are they joining,” he said. “We want people to recognize the Connecticut College experience as one that is without equal.”

Higdon encouraged alumni to take advantage of what the College offers and to spread the word to others — especially classmates who weren´t able to be on campus for Reunion.

“We want them to connect back. We are stewards of your investment,” Higdon said. — Barbara Nagy


Alumni reconnect with classmates and campus


The Connecticut College campus has changed immensely over the decades. But what mattered to alumni at Reunion 2009 was how much it´s stayed the same.

“It feels very comfortable — like it always does,” said Barry Gold ´79, of Sharon, Mass., who was standing in line for the Saturday picnic with his old friends Eric Ostroff ´79 and former trustee Dan Hirschhorn ´79.

“There´s a great bond with our friends,” added Ostroff, of Needham, Mass. “This has been a great magnet for us.”

Kim Trudeau ´94 of Waltham, Mass., said she also feels the draw. She stays in touch with professors like Joan Chrisler and Ann Devlin as well as friends. “I just love Connecticut College and going back,” she said.

Alumni traveled from as far away as France, Colombia and even New Zealand to see their alma mater again and, of course, their classmates. Helen Bird ´89, who lives in Paris and is studying at the Sorbonne, said the miles haven´t kept her away. “This is my third reunion back here,” she said. “It´s nice to reconnect with old friends.”

Anne Earnshaw Roche ´59 of Auckland, New Zealand, who was last on campus for her 40th Reunion, enjoyed visiting new and renovated buildings, walking to the riverfront, and listening to talks by Professor Emeritus Michael Burlingame and President Higdon. “It was just wonderful to see what good hands the College is in,” she said.

Gladys Russell Munroe ´34 traveled from Orlando, Fla., with her daughter, Jean Smith, for her 75th Reunion. “I´ve been to a lot of reunions,” Munroe said. “I´ve always been enamored with this area. I love coming back.” — Phoebe Hall

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