Low Plaza

Alumni Relive the Past While Creating New Memories at Reunion Weekend

By Tim Cross

The weather wasn't the best, but the reunion may well have been.

Despite gray skies and intermittent showers for much of the weekend, approximately 600 alumni, along with spouses, children and friends, attended Reunion 2001, held on the Morningside Heights campus and at locations around New York City from May 31 to June 3. This represents a significant increase from the attendance of about 400 alumni at recent reunions.

Reunion 2001 featured an expanded program that began at the theater on Thursday evening and included a full day of activities on Friday. Events were designed so they would appeal to all age groups, and there were several events tailored specifically for young alumni, who are seen as key to the College's effort to increase participation.

"This reunion program was much more extensive than anything we've done previously," noted Executive Director of Alumni Affairs and Development Derek A. Wittner '65. "It's part of our effort to strengthen the bonds among alumni and between alumni and the College, and increase their participation in the life of the College."

Nearly 100 alumni attended performances of Aida, Chicago or Contact on Thursday evening and then gathered for a post-theater reception at the storied Sardi's Restaurant on 44th Street. At the same time, members of the Classes of 1991 and 1996 held a party, the "Bare and Whine Blast," at Idlewild in the East Village.

On Friday, about 40 alumni took a bus to the Rockefeller family's Kykuit Estate near Tarrytown, while other alumni enjoyed lunch beneath tents on Low Plaza before hearing a presentation on College admissions, viewing photographs by George Zimbel '51, taking a campus tour or taking trips to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Rose Space Center at the American Museum of Natural History, or the Museum of Modern Art.

"In previous years, we began reunion on Friday night. But we wanted our alumni to be able to enjoy not only the campus but the city as a whole, so we expanded the program," explained Ken Catandella, director of alumni affairs, who worked with class committees to develop the new reunion program.

On Friday night, in addition to several class-specific dinners or receptions, reunion shifted to the Hammerstein Ballroom on West 34th Street for "A Taste of New York." About 350 alumni, faculty and guests gathered for the ballroom buffet which featured food from stations simulating Chinatown, Little Italy and the South Street Seaport. Later that night, the ballroom was the site of the Young Alumni Dance Party (for all College, Barnard and SEAS alumni who graduated between 1991 and 2001) which turned out to be the best-attended event of the entire weekend, drawing nearly 1,000 guests who danced till the wee hours.

On Saturday morning, Dean Austin Quigley greeted alumni at the annual reunion convocation, providing an update on the College and reciting the names of the alumni who were receiving Dean's pins in recognition of their work on behalf of their classes. Most Saturday activities stayed close to home. Rain forced the cancellation of volleyball games on South Field, but other campus activities—including class-specific discussions, Professor Ken Jackson on "Columbia and the City of New York," Michael Richman's "Making of Alma Mater" and a barbeque followed by jazz on Low Plaza—proceeded on schedule.

Class dinners shared the theme of Columbia in the city. President George Rupp addressed the Classes of 1976 and 1941 at their joint dinner in Low Library Rotunda while Dean Quigley spoke before the Class of 1971 at the Van Allen Mansion on East 65th Street. Other class dinners were held in Casa Italiana, the Starr East Asian Library, the Kellogg Center in the International Affairs Building and Alfred Lerner Hall, as well as the New York Carriage House on West 54th Street and Terrace in the Sky Restaurant on West 119th Street. Dinner speakers included Professor of Art History Hilary Ballon, Professor Emeritus of History James Shenton '49, Parr Professor Emeritus James Mirollo and Adjunct Professor of Architecture Andrew Dolkart.

It had rained off and on all day on Saturday (a sudden downpour had sent alumni scrambling for cover during class pictures in front of Alma Mater before dinner), so the Starlight Reception was moved indoors. Some 700 people danced up a storm inside Low Library Rotunda, and when the rain stopped, many spilled out onto the steps for fresh air and more quiet conversation.

Reunion's final event—bagels, lox and The New York Times on Sunday morning in Lerner Hall's Roone Arledge Auditorium—was well attended, even if a few guests seemed a bit bleary-eyed from the night before.

Alumni seem to approve of the expanded reunion program. "It was a wonderful event," George Souls '61 wrote the Alumni Office shortly after reunion. "Our events were well-coordinated, timely and content-rich. What more could a returning alumnus hope for?"

Reunion 2002, for classes ending in 2 and 7, is scheduled for May 30 to June 2, so alumni from those classes should save those dates. Information will be distributed in the fall. If you would like to help in planning your class's reunion program, call the Alumni Office at 212 870-2288.

To see the photo gallery, click here

Published: Jun 13, 2001
Last modified: Sep 18, 2002

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