In anticipation of inventing a time machine, you try a school reunion. Your past will come back and immerse you in school days long gone. This can happen even if it’s not your own reunion. In June I attended my husband’s 50th college reunion, and although I didn’t attend the same college, I was – indirectly – transported back in time. The talk, the music, the presentations, and the heartbreaking tribute to deceased classmates pulled me back in time between 1966 and 1970.
The university my husband attended, Colgate, is a small liberal arts institution in a hilly, rural area of central New York. The buildings are perched on hilltops and offer beautiful views of the leafy campus and the quaint town of Hamilton nearby. To reach the campus buildings, you can climb steps or take a winding path. The topography encourages a healthy lifestyle. I loved doing my daily jog along the winding trails in the fresh air.
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Great conversations with my husband’s classmates and their wives (it used to be all male but now it’s a student) started as soon as we arrived. There were many stories about the college years, but people also shared their life experiences since graduation. The class was a group of high achievers with many academic and professional degrees. Impressive careers were reported – including a number of ministers, social workers and consultants. People were warm and friendly and showed interest in me, a non-classmate.
One-hour “class” presentations were offered. A classmate is a well-known documentary producer, so I went to the screening of his video about five families in New York City and the hardships they were going through during the pandemic. I attended several other interesting presentations. One concerned the healthcare system, another media trends. I loved the mental stimulation of the presentations. Unfortunately, like many college students, I wanted to get through with minimal effort. I’m sure I missed many opportunities to explore topics outside of my major and delve deeper into the courses I took. In the evenings there was music from one of the bands that played at the college in the 70’s.
The next day, after breakfast in the student cafeteria, a beautiful ceremony was held in the chapel in honor of the deceased classmates. Freshman photos of each of the 70 (out of 500) deceased classmates flashed on a screen, hymns were sung, and several eloquent speeches were delivered by faculty and classmates. Thought was given to my husband’s dear friend who died in 2005 at the age of 57. It was touching to see the freshly smiling faces of these young men who are now gone.
Finally, I went to a “50 Years Behind the Cameras” presentation by the famous documentary producer. He was there and told a very interesting story about his work, illustrated with short excerpts from several of his documentaries. He was the quintessential ’60s/’70s guy – anti-establishment, brash, generous, irreverent, eager to help society, not focused on big bucks. I knew the guy so well and had idealized him for a long time.
What happened to these values? They are not as present today. The reunion made me feel like I had gone back in time and that things were better then. After another great dinner and many good conversations and goodbyes, we hopped onto the thruway and made our way back to the present reality. Since then I’ve shed some tears and wished I could go back and relive my college days. I would really take full advantage of it this time, avoid the mistakes and increase the effort. Where’s the time machine when you need it?