By Geoff Gehman ’80
More than 1,100 alumni returned June 6-8 to enjoy Reunion Weekend with their classmates, recall favorite times from their undergraduate days, and catch up on recent events as well as happenings at their alma mater. Here’s an inside view of the groups marking key anniversaries: 50th, 25th, and 5th.
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The Class of 1964
Reunions are for celebrating unions, and seven Phi Kappa Psi brothers had plenty to celebrate. All of them courted their wives at their fraternity. All of them remain married to the women they romanced. Five of the couples attended Reunion, including Jim and Susie England and Harry and Merrily Spiess, who made the remarkable even more so by marrying on the same day. Jim England is still tickled that half his Phi Psi brothers attended his wedding while the other half attended Harry Spiess’ wedding.
Robert Kruvant came from his home in California for his first reunion since his 25th, when he and his wife rolled a stroller with the witty sign “Children, Not Grandchildren.” A natural humorist, he recalled how the 400th anniversary of William Shakespeare’s birth was marked by the painted shorthand “W.S./1564-1964” on Quad cross-walks. Students were blamed for the graffiti when it really was the work of William Watt, the fabled English professor and academic comic.
It was at Lafayette that Kruvant received rare access to rare minds. He sat on Watt’s porch listening to the teacher’s son-in-law discuss the poetry of Edmund Spenser. He tried to solve tricky problems on the porch of history professor Jacob “Ernie” Cooke, even when Cooke was “up to his elbows” editing the papers of Colonial movers and shakers. He will always be indebted to Cooke and Watt for opening “mental doors.”
For Kruvant and his peers, the doors to a safe world were shattered by the 1963 assassination of John F. Kennedy. England learned of the president’s death during a biology exam. Told by a handyman, he didn’t believe the shocking news until he heard memorial bells tolling in Easton.
Two days after Kennedy’s murder, eight Class of ’64 classmates stood in Washington, D.C., watching his funeral procession. Jeffrey Brown, who served as the class’ Reunion chair this year, remembers that he and his comrades waited all night to secure front-row spots along Pennsylvania Avenue, passing time by throwing a football by the Washington Monument.
On Saturday afternoon, Brown and Victor Ferraris, another member of the JFK 8, watched a home movie of the Kennedy ceremony recorded by Tony Califano, their late friend. The grainy footage became emotionally crystal clear with the appearance of the caisson bearing Kennedy’s casket and the riderless horse. Brown will never forget how the clacking hooves turned a noisy crowd dead quiet. Half a century later, that silence still stuns.
The Class of 1989
Bob Brem stood by South College, the site of his class’ outdoor reception, and accepted the unofficial Most Miles prize. He traveled to Easton from Seoul, South Korea, where he is a retiring Army colonel. Accompanied by his wife, Ok Kyong Brem, the logistics planner combined a return to campus with a visit to relatives in Maryland, including their daughter, a student at Salisbury University.
Brown’s first reunion was bittersweet. His fraternity, Sigma Chi, no longer exists on campus. Neither does his department, metallurgical engineering. The absences were softened by the presence of class correspondent Fred Brown, a former football teammate, and four of his seven fellow metallurgical-engineering graduates, including the married couple Steve and Cathy Jordan Attanasio.
Natalie Norteman Bartner and Kaaren Anderson Sagastume discussed their friendship like a married couple. They met as pre-freshmen on the steps of Kunkel Hall, the very definition of serendipity. They quickly bonded over coming late to orientation from fairly distant, fairly unusual states—West Virginia for Bartner, Montana for Sagastume.
As sophomores, Bartner and Sagastume shared a spring-break cruise. They returned on a Sunday to a nearly deserted campus with no food services. They went to Wawa, where they bought a gallon of ice cream. Cookies ’n’ cream, said Sagastume with a sweet smile, was “our Easter brunch.”
Two ’89s honored the legacies of their ’64 fathers. While Jill Spiess Cutler enjoyed her 25th reunion, her dad, Harry Spiess, enjoyed his 50th. Tom Goslau videotaped a story of his dad playing center in the 100th Lafayette vs. Lehigh football game, for the College’s “MyRivalry” website. When William Goslau visits his fraternity, Chi Phi, he always enters the barroom, which contains a piece of goalpost from that 6-6 tie. Bill considers that wood a sacred relic. In fact, he’s ordered Tom to save it no matter what, even if the barroom burns.
The Class of 2009
The youngest Reunionites interrupted their party in Anderson Courtyard to recall playful and profound events during their college days. One of the most pleasant times for TarynAnn Barry, this year’s Reunion chair, was rushing the field after a 2005 victory over Lehigh that earned Lafayette a share of the Patriot League football title. For Jenny Polak, one of the most provocative times was a rousingly real-world commencement speech by Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who received the 2008 Presidential Medal of Freedom. His challenge to stay passionate and compassionate, even at the risk of offending the politically correct, continues to inspire Polak in her job as Ohio University’s assistant director of academic services in athletics.
For Kavinda Udugama, his friendship with Polak is near the top of his proudest Lafayette achievements, along with collaborating with residents of a rural Honduran village to establish coffee as a cash crop there. Five years after graduating, they remain constantly in touch. Polak was flying to visit Udugama, a program manager for Cisco Systems in the Bay Area, when a woman went into labor on the plane. Thanks to an emergency landing in Arkansas and a connecting flight to Texas, Polak met Udugama more than eight hours late. She can’t think of anyone else worth so many hassles.
Jason Mills says a flight anchors his most playful event, which doubles as his most profound. In 2008 he flew with his football teammates to Virginia to play Liberty University, then undefeated and nationally ranked. The chartered jet made the defensive end feel “awesome,” like he was an NFL player. He felt more awesome after Lafayette’s 35-21 upset.
The game and the trip reminded Mills that reunions are for celebrating unions. “We graduated. We made it. We have good lives. We’re here to celebrate.” He celebrated by high-fiving Polak and Udugama.