Let’s face it. Reunions can be fraught. It’s easy to get caught up in living up to (or living down) our college reputations. In measuring the paths our lives have taken against those of others.
Reunions can also be opportunities to learn about exciting, new, and interesting things as well as about ourselves and about what we yet could be, even at our exalted ages. To tap into intergenerational experience and expertise. To grow.
We asked people to share with us things they took away from reunions that they have attended in the past. Here are closer looks at the wide-ranging experiences of seven classmates whose reunion takeaways have been lasting ones.
Remembering the way we were — and considering what we might yet become, even as we grow older and wiser — is a priceless opportunity. What might you discover here June 16-19?
BECKY GILLES RICHARDSON: An Introduction to Mitochondrial DNA, from a Class of ‘67 Alumni Achievement Award Winner, and … a Quilt
Maternal mitochondrial DNA. I had never heard of it even though I majored in biology. I went to a lecture by Mary Claire King ‘67 in a past reunion in which she talked about how maternal mitochondrial DNA had been used in Argentina to reunite stolen children with their families. The army imprisoned or “disappeared” their mothers and fathers and the children were adopted by military families. Dr. King used her knowledge of DNA to match the grandmothers’ DNA to the children’s. The knowledge about maternal mitochondrial DNA has stuck with me. My husband’s family’s has been trying to identify remains from WWII and mitochondrial DNA was what they used.
My second strong recollection is of the quilt that Jane Pflughoeft Plowman made for reunion. At our 25th reunion we had asked classmates to make items to auction as a fundraiser. Jane, an expert quilter, made a quilt in the design of the tiled-floor entrance to the math building. Raffle tickets were sold and I won the quilt. Ever since, it has graced a love seat in my library and is a delightful reminder of that reunion.
JONATHAN ICE: Glimpses into a Dramatically Different Culture
My most remarkable reunion memory occurred in 1992. A small group of us ‘72’ers watched raw footage of what would become “Heart of Brightness,” a National Geographic documentary on the botanical and wildlife ecology work done by classmates John and Teresa Butler Hart (’73) among the Mbuti Pygmies in Zaïre. As an old soc-anthro major this was of natural interest to me. It gave a window into the life that John and Teresa led among people of a dramatically different culture. While they were out in the forest in search of the elusive okapi, their three young daughters were contentedly back in the village, being cared for by the villagers. The Harts shared insights into the gestation of the film and items that didn’t make the cuts. Fascinating!
Tom Boe: Reconnecting with Friends…and Self
I didn’t know what to expect from my first (10 year) Carleton Reunion. But that first evening, joining classmates on the Hill of Three Oaks, I felt a missing piece of my life slip back in place.
That weekend I shared a Spartan dorm room with my old roommate, Ken Jones. That was fun. But it was an unexpected joy to connect with people I’d barely known as well as those I’d been close to.
Saturday morning my wife, Kathleen Kruyer Boe (’73), joined us. She’d transferred to Macalester for her senior year, but her heart remained at Carleton. Now she’s been on the ’73 Reunion Committee for 25 years. For both of us, our quirky, lovable classmates and their stories make Reunion unmissable.
Wayne Lepkin: The Chance to Thank a Professor Who Made a Major Difference
One of the things I have most looked forward to, at every reunion I’ve attended, is meeting up with one of my former professors, Richard Nau. As described in my Bio Book entry, I’m convinced that if not for his intervention, by suggesting a Math Department Comps Talk subject much more in line with my interests than what the rest of the department was apparently going to pick, I would likely have failed Comps. My interest was in computer science, but Carleton did not have a CS Department then, so majoring in math was the closest thing. I was not the world’s best math major, as I demonstrated on the written exam. The successful Comps Talk saved me. Moreover, it was Rich Nau who suggested I go for grad school to UNC Chapel Hill, where I met my future wife. Talking with Rich, who made such a difference, has always been one of the most enjoyable aspects of attending reunions.
JULI ANTONOW: A Change of Career
The 1992 Carleton reunion precipitated a career change. At reunion, I saw so many of my classmates with tiny children (what a long-term commitment that is!). I had done just about every kind of pediatric practice there was (public health, private practice, group and staff model HMO, etc.) and could not see doing 25 more years of the same. After returning home, I enrolled in a graduate program in Health and Hospital Administration at St. Louis University. That degree led me to Utah and a faculty position at the University of Utah School of Medicine with administrative roles as a medical director in the Children’s Hospital and at the Utah Peer Review Organization, a Clinical Quality Improvement Organization.
Ann Iijima: A Fateful Walk in the Arb
In 1980, I left my position as lab tech for Carleton’s biology department to start teaching in St. Paul. The department hired some guy named Myles Bakke to replace me (and gave him a higher salary, but who’s complaining). We ended up dating for a few months. My mother had him pegged as “the one,” and my father seemed to like him, despite his suspicions that the gold nugget in Myles’ earlobe was a growth of some kind. Nevertheless, our relationship ended. (We still don’t agree on who broke up with whom.)
In 1992, I came back for ‘72’s 20th reunion, my first in many years. I saw on the reunion schedule that Myles, now the arboretum manager, would be leading an arb walk. As I joined the alums standing outside Sayles Hill prior to the walk, I saw Myles and held out my hand in greeting. He swatted my hand away, picked me up, and swung me around in a circle. I spent most of the walk catching up with Ellen Deason, but, afterwards, Myles invited me to join him for coffee.
We were married on June 21, 1994, the anniversary of that fateful walk, and spent our next 25 anniversaries at reunion arb walks (him leading, me following with the crash cart). I expect we’ll celebrate the 30th anniversary of that walk back where it all began, or more accurately, restarted. It wasn’t the reunion I was expecting, but, again, who’s complaining.
Stan Seltzer: A Chance to Serve
One memorable — and documented — activity is from our 35th. I seem to recall prior to the 2002 Reunion there was discussion of a class service project, but this never made it into the program. Whatever obstacles there had been, they were no longer in place in 2007, and a band of 25 or so of us were dispatched to Mai Fete Island, issued gloves and weed wrenches (wow, could I use one of those at home), and quickly trained in the fine art of buckthorn removal.
At some point I found myself laboring on a rather large specimen. Soon, spotting this prize, Caesar Sweitzer was at my side to assist, and with great effort we prevailed, a feat impressive enough for someone to have taken this photo.