College Reunion

I spent the weekend of June 16-19 at Carleton College. The occasion was my 50 year class reunion, for which I was a member of the gift committee, which in turn was a part of the overall planning committee. Mia (my wife) and I had a room on the third floor of Watson Hall, “3rd Watson” was how we would have referred to it back in the day. I don’t know if the current students refer to campus locations like that. I lived on “6th Watson” my senior year.

I arrived about 5PM on Thursday, after driving through bad traffic on Highway 52. There was a nice reception and dinner, with a welcome by the college’s new president Alison Byerly. The other speeches were also good. People like my entry in the bio book. One classmate, RL, recognized me from Twin Cities SF fandom. There was plenty of beer and wine at these and at all of the late afternoon and evening events over the weekend.

After dinner I went to the pop music singalong for a while, but left early to to go to arb. Took the proper road rather scramble up the hill behind Goodhue like I did in ’92. With a little difficulty in the fading twilight I found the Monument on Monument Hill. There were lots of fireflies. I have never seen so many fireflies at Carleton.

I then proceeded to the Hill of Three Oaks, where a classmate, Carleton’s last Astronomy ajor, and a retired physics/astronmoy professor were leading a stargazing session. As the twilight finally faded (this was near midsummer at almost 45o North), more and more stars were visible, though there were some clouds. No planets — they were all in the morning sky.

I came back to the class lounge, where i had a good talk with RRP. She had been my computer date Freshman year, matched, IIRC, by the IBM 1620 computer in the east side of the basement of Laird Hall.

Friday morning I had a nice talk with RS. I did not know him well as an undergrad, but we connected as Stanford afterwards when I was in grad school and he was in law school.

Having jined the Heywood Society I went to its lunch on Friday. There was a good video presentation by Layla Oesper of the Computer Science Department. She is doing research in computational biology along withh several students.

Computer Science is the most popular major at the college now. It did not exist as a major in my day, though there were plenty of ways to work with computers. In addition to the IBM 1620 I mentioned above there were several PDP-8 systems. We interacted with them by teletype and paper tape.I took Atomic and Nuclear Physics in the Spring of 1970. Our professor gave us some problems that had to be solved by programming in FOCARL, a local dialect of the FOCAL programming language. We were not given any instruction in programming. We were expected to pick it up on the fly while studying physics. We did. The following fall I took Numerical Analysis. The professor there had the same policy. This was good preparation for my 41 year career in IT.

Mia had stayed home Thurday night, but she joined me on campus Friday afternoon. I was a physics major at Carleton, so we walked over to Anderson Hall, the new science building, for the reception given by the the Department of Physics and Astronomy. It was on the bottom floor of the building, or as the local physicists call it, Ground State Anderson. The remaining faculty from my time are all retired, but one of them, Bruce Thomas, showed up and we had a good talk with him. He was impressed by Mia’s drop spindle

We had to leave that gathering early because we wanted to get to panel on Vibrant Aging:

Join fellow alums to share perspectives on innovative housing alternatives as we age. We will consider the Village Movement, co-housing, walkable central cities, Universal Design to facilitate staying put—even expatriation—and the implications for finding health and happiness in community.

The expatriate now lives in York, England. The panelist talking about “walkable central cities” now lives in St. Paul, in a neighborhood we know. Both of them emphasized the benefits of everything being close, public transportation, and less or no need for a car. Since we are thinking of moving into St. Paul ourselves this was quite inspiring.

The Evening social hour followed. We had a nice talk with our reunion committee Head Cat Herder Alumni Office Reunion Director. After that we went to the chapel for our class photograph, followed by, for those of us on the gift committee, a rehearsal for our presentation at the Alumni Convocation the next morning. Mia watched us rehearse.

We then went to our Friday Class dinner. Lots of my classmates have done great things. Mia was not impressed by the food, saying that for the size of our gift we deserved better than tofu and chicken breast.

After dinner we went to the ’72 Acoustic Jam, which was organized by a classmate who has become a Luthier in retirement:

Bring your guitar, fiddle, banjo, or other acoustic instrument and join classmates and other alums for an acoustic jam. Bluegrass, traditional, folk, blues, rock? It’s all good. Mark Kreitzer, who teaches folk instruments at Carleton, will be there!

This turned out to be a singalong event, and we enjoyed it a lot.

Saturday morning there was the parade of classes. There was one person from the class of 1947, present for her 75 year reunion. This was followed by the Alumni Convocation in the chapel. Our gift reveal was a big hit. I am in the orange T-shirt (from our 1997 reunion) and tan pants, holding the number 9. JP, next to me in line and holding 8, was great company.

Mia and I skipped the class lunch and walked into town. There was a fair at Bridge Square. Mia bought some roving. I saw TF, who had been the Alumni Office coordinator for our class years agg, and her husband, at a restaurant and we joined them for lunch. TF had not met Mia before and neither of us had ever met her husband, It was another good conversation.

We then walked back to campus. Mia went back to Watson for a nap. Because of our early departure from the Physics Department event the previous day, I had been unable to pick up a T-Shirt I had ordered from the Physics and Astronomy Department, so I went back to Anderson Hall to get it. It had been left more me in a departmental mailbox, so I had to find the faculty offices. These turned out to be on the second floor of Olin Hall, which now has an indoor connection with Anderson Hall. In my day the faculty offices were on third Olin. This gave me a nice self-guided tour of the Physics and Astronomy Department spaces.

In the late afternoon we went to another class reception. We talked with THP and her husband. Her brother (class of 1960) had been one my managers when I worked at the Harris Bank in Chicago during much of the 1980’s and 1990’s. This followed by the group photographs of the gift committee.

We had beef tenderloin for dinner. No complaints from Mia this time! We sat with MC and her husband and had more great conversation.

We had a nice talk after dinner with DF (class of 1967, present for her 55 year reunion) and her husband, also DF, class of 1966. He was one of the legendary past figures of the Reformed Druids when I was active in that group as a undergraduate. A few reunions back I finally met him. Both of us ended up in the Episcopal Church, and we are both currently serving as parish treasurers. They are wonderful people and I am very glad to have become friends with them.

After that we went to the folk song singalong in a tent by Lyman Lakes, led by someone I know from the class of 1992. The songs were from Rise Up Singing. It was a good time.

After that we went back to Watson. Mia went to bed, but I stayed up for the last class social time. Some good conversations, although it was sad to learn that Goodsell Observatory is in bad shape and the telescopes are no longer usable.

Despite my late night (for a 71 year old guy), I got up for the 8AM class of 72 Memorial Service by the Japanese Garden. Out of an entering class of about 490 in the fall of 1968, and some transfer students, 48 are no longer with us. One of them was my second year roommate. It was excellent event and the committee members who put it together deserve a lot of thanks.Very good.

I then had breakfast with Mia. She went back to the cities after that, while I went to the all college Service of Memorial and Celebration at the chapel, which was also excellent. As always, there was a choir of reunion alumni who had only practiced the previous afternoon. One of them was the representative of the class of 1947! Over the seven reunions I have attended I have spent more time in the chapel than in my four years as an undergraduate.

The final event was a Reunion Committee party at the local home of one committee members. A nicer house than ours, but I have been indifferent to such things for a long time. He and his wife have given a lot to the college. Excellent food. I had a chance to talk with another friend I had previously missed over the weekend.

Over the decades my Carleton connections have changed. I am in less touch with some who I felt close to as a student, and become closer to others that I knew only slightly of old. Being at reunions, and especially volunteering for reunion work, is largely responsible for this.

This was the best of the reunions I have attended, though all have been good. The whole experience was magical, a life changing weekend. The fireflies Thursday night definitely enhanced the mood.

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