Living group occupied unique niche on campus — by Danielle Ward ’08
Kirby House alumni already know how to plan a reunion. During the tenure of former president Gary Dunn ’88, members held an annual event called the Kirby Klambake. Each spring the Kirby alumni would return to the house and reconnect with their friends on the patio.
“It was a sort of annual Kirby Reunion,” says Dunn.
Fellow former president Jim Doughty ’90 hopes the group’s gathering during this year’s Reunion Weekend (June 6-8) will capture the spirit of those times.
- Online registration and extensive information about Reunion are available on the Reunion web site.
“It would be grandiose to say that [the reunion] is a celebration,” he says. “It’s personal. It’s for people who have enjoyed this experience together and keep in touch, but don’t have many opportunities to partially recreate that experience.”
Both Doughty and Dunn describe their membership in Kirby House as having been pivotal in their student experience. During their time at Lafayette, it was the only non-Greek social living group on campus. Kirby House operated like a fraternity but was not affiliated with a national organization, had no pledging, and in the early ’90s voted to accept women as members. Dunn describes the building as “spectacular” and lists the marble foyer, large living room, leather furniture, library, barroom, kitchen, and dining room as part of the appeal of living in Kirby House; however, Doughty insists that the House was simply a “shell to be filled with experiences. We were fortunate enough to have a great group of guys.”
Dunn and his wife, Jennifer Gardner Dunn ’88, began planning the reunion to coincide with their 20th class reunion. “My wife and I were definitely going to return for [our 20th] reunion so I started encouraging other Kirby alums in my class to come back as well. We had a large Kirby group in our class, but of course, we also have many good friends from neighboring years. We wanted our friends from all of those years to join us and then they have Kirby friends from other years. It very quickly became obvious that we should just plan an entire reunion for all Kirby alumni,” says Dunn.
Doughty agrees that the reunion was a spontaneous idea that grew. “We never thought of it as anything that formal or specific,” he says. “It grew organically.”
“I had a great college experience at Lafayette and outside the classroom that experience was centered around Kirby House,” Dunn says. “Although I have many valuable memories of certain classes or my three years as a manager with the men’s basketball team, what I miss most about Lafayette is living with a great group of friends in Kirby House. When else in life can you just walk down the hall and always find someone to split a pizza, get help with homework, or depart at midnight on a spontaneous road trip to Atlantic City?”
Doughty echoes Dunn’s sentiments. He says it was the people who made Kirby House such a great experience. “I was fortunate enough to be part of a special group of which I still remain friends,” he says.
Both hope that fellow Kirby alumni share their sentiments and use the reunion as an opportunity to reconnect. “Over the years since graduation, we’ve spread apart more geographically and we’re all so involved with our own daily lives and families that it becomes harder and harder to get together,” Dunn says. “Bringing a large group of Kirbys together at one time will be special and a lot of fun.”
Doughty agrees and implores his fellow Kirby members to attend the reunion: “Life today isn’t what it was 20 years ago. There are a lot more demands with work and family, but if there is any way to get to Easton, you would make a lot of people very happy.”
He looks forward to being back on campus and sharing the experience with his family. “I’ll walk around Kirby House and make a complete bore of myself to my wife pointing out things,” he says.
The group’s main event during the reunion will take place at Gilbert’s Café, which takes up what had been Kirby House’s dining room, kitchen, and barroom.
“I’ll be a little wistful because it used to be our place,” Doughty says.