By Geoff Gehman ’80
More than 1,000 alumni returned June 1-3 to celebrate with their classmates over a long weekend with beautiful weather on Lafayette’s campus.
Here’s an inside view of those groups celebrating key class anniversaries: 5 years, 25 years, and 50 years.
Class of 2007
Standing on the lawn in front of South College where her class gathered for a reception, Lauren Fisher ’07 described how she helped her classmates break the record for reunion attendance. Most reunion chairs send an impersonal email “blast.” Fisher personalized her emails with links to the list of attendees, discounts for early registration, and the lively promise to relive flashbacks, live. Thanks partly to her magnetic message, a whopping 139 class members signed up, more than a quarter of the graduating class.
Selling with spark comes naturally to Fisher, a former Lafayette cheerleader who manages national talent and market expansion for Farmers Insurance in southern California. She picked up leadership skills and love of Lafayette from her father, James Fisher ’77, a member of the Board of Trustees. Her affection for Lafayette as an extended family is boosted by blood ties to James Fisher Jr. ’10 and Margaret Fisher ’11.
Lafayette “made me who I am,” said Fisher. “I’ve grown up wanting to give back.”
Jeriah Cohen ’07 shares Fisher’s concern for good college causes. A
former cornerback for the Leopards, he convinced four Lafayette graduates to invest in Neo Sports Athletics, which sells a patented protective football-uniform undergarment with super-light padding and hyper-drying material. One of the company’s biggest clients is the football team at Franklin & Marshall University, whose head coach, John Troxell ’94, coached Cohen’s Pards.
Cohen’s primary product is historic, too. The protective undergarment is the third football innovation tested at Lafayette, following the helmet and the huddle.
Like Cohen, Fisher is a social entrepreneur. She has enlisted 20 female graduates to establish a scholarship to be given every five years to a young woman attending Lafayette, starting in 2017. One of Fisher’s partners is her friend Meg Baker ’07, who met Fisher during their first year on the third floor of South College. “Lauren is the perfect person for this job,” says Baker, who reviews smartphone apps and other high-tech devices for Fox News. “She connects everyone.”
Class of 1987
Martie Smith Byrd ’87 stood during a reception in the lobby of Kirby Hall
of Civil Rights, explaining how a pair of campus activities led to a pair of jobs. Writing a weekly humor column for The Lafayette, she pointed out, prepared her for writing a monthly humor column for a Virginia magazine revolving around the ups, downs, and all-arounds of parenting five teens, three of whom were born within a year and a half. It’s also the subject of her book, The Kids Drank Pickle Juice, which is full of reminders that every parent feels desperate and that the unfunny can be desperately funny.
Byrd attributes her other career as a motivational speaker to serving as president of her sorority. “It’s great practice speaking to 100 women on a Sunday night, trying to keep their attention,” said Byrd, who triples as a type designer. “Let me tell you, there could be no tougher audience.”
Byrd is married to Dave Byrd ’87, two of the 17 members of the class who married Lafayette alums. Their path to matrimony was much straighter than that of Bradley Lewis ’87 and Kristen Fleschutz Lewis ’86. The pair met as resident advisers in August 1985 but didn’t date in college. They didn’t see each other for eight years, during which they worked in six states, including such far-flung places as Minnesota and California. They were reunited by the death of Kristen’s grandmother on Long Island. A one-year email romance followed, capped by a 1999 wedding.
For Bradley, reunions are good for getting to know classmates you didn’t know that well on campus. “It’s healthy to talk to people other than your old friends,” he said. “You can only relive the old college stories so many times.”
Scott Kyreakakis ’87 admitted he was once resistant to reunions. One reason is that he felt like an outsider at Lafayette, partly because he was only the second member of his family to attend college. His reluctance was worn away by the good time he had last year supporting friends who co-chaired their ’86 reunion. This year he returned with companion Robert Heywood to celebrate with other members of the metropolitan New York alumni chapter, many of whom he didn’t know on campus.
A reception became a ceremony with the announcement of a new
scholarship for study-abroad students in the memory of Sally Elbert Kalin ’87, who died in 2010 after an eight-year battle with breast cancer. Kalin’s father, Ed Elbert ’55, said his daughter was renowned for her cheerfulness, empathy, and love of foreign travel, a passion seeded by a 1986 trip to France. He and his wife, Vivian, chose Lafayette as a beneficiary rather than a hospital to spread their daughter’s collegiate legacy. “Sal established friendships here,” he said. “She lived here; she thrived here.”
Class of 1962
Barry Aronowsky ’62 stood in a dining room in Farinon College Center, explaining how he nearly backed out of his first reunion. “I always back out of things,” he said with a smile and a shrug. The accountant from Huntington, N.Y., backed in for a disarmingly practical reason. “I might not be around,” he said with a shrug and a smile, “for the next one.”
This was much more than Aronowsky’s first reunion; it was his first visit to campus in 50 years. Not surprisingly, he discovered a new universe. His fraternity, Pi Lambda Phi, for example, has long been the Lafayette Inn. “It’s like a foreign campus,” he said with a smile.
Aronowsky enjoyed reuniting with his long-lost frat brothers. And the accountant in him enjoyed the $231,607.21 check his class presented to Lafayette as its 50th-anniversary gift.
At the opposite end of the spectrum was Matt Thomases ’62, Aronowky’s
fellow Pi Lamb and one of eight ’62s attending their tenth consecutive reunion. The Brooklyn resident, a former self-employed investment banker, recalled a class that helped change his course as a religion scholar and sculptor. A first-year seminar on the New Testament led him to study intensely the Biblical structure of Moby-Dick. A half-century later he completed an epic journey by placing his bronze of Captain Ahab, head split open by a whale, in Pittsfield, Mass., where Herman Melville wrote his epic novel.
Nelson Markley ’62 praised a mentor and a mentoring event. It was math professor Charles Saalfrank, he said, who helped get him into a prestigious program at Yale, where he earned the Ph.D. that launched his own career as a math professor. Markley was also impressed by the 1958 inauguration of President K. Roald Bergethon on the Quad, which he watched from his room in Kirby House. The ceremony was “a sort of siren call” to a life in academia, which Markley capped with a four-year stint as Lehigh University’s provost.
Markley’s classmates offered plenty of lighter memories as well. John Rufe ’62, a senior judge for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, imitated the Shakespearean theatrics of William Watt, the fabled English professor and performer. Edgar Brick ’62, who owns an investment-advisory firm in Bucks County, cited his rare role as co-captain of an undefeated tennis team and captain of a swimming team that lost every meet—in the same season.
Class president Jeff Ruthizer ’62 traced the evolution of his successful reunion partnership with his good friend John Weis ’62, class fund manager. It began in 1992 when Ruthizer asked Weis to supervise the 30-year reunion parade, believing that a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel could whip marchers into shape. He was right. “That’s what really threw us together,” said Ruthizer.
Weis and Ruthizer sealed their latest victory when they officially presented their giant class gift on a giant check. Voted a third term as 1962 fund manager, Weis predicted an easier mode of transportation for the 55th-reunion parade. “We’re moving closer and closer,” he said, “to the trolley.”