As summer weather arrived in the Chenango Valley last weekend, so, too, did more than 2,100 visitors to Colgate’s 2016 Reunion. This year’s event drew members of the Colgate community from class years ending in ones and sixes and featured several notable anniversaries: the 20th of Delta Delta Delta sorority, the 30th of the Alumni of Color organization, and the 50th of the Class of 1966. It also attracted alumni back to Hamilton from the more recent classes of 2014 and 2015, and from locations as far as France and Israel.
Jeanette Lyons Gridley ’91 traveled more than 700 miles from Chicago to reconnect with her roommate of all four years, Elissa Liebman Lunder ’91 of Boston, and her sorority sister M.J. Hetzler Gagan ’91 of Albany. Gridley called her trip to reunion, “so worth it.” She added, “It’s just a nice, easy weekend. People get caught up in errands and everything else, but it’s important to make time for yourself and your friends.”
Alumni from across the decades were represented, starting with the Class of 1938’s Everett Hanke. Interim President Jill Harsin remarked on these impressive statistics to the crowd at the annual awards ceremony, saying, “The essence of Colgate is attachment to the place, as you show by returning here all these years.”
The Class of ’66 welcomed 39 percent of the class back to campus. Peter McHugh ’66 hadn’t been to reunion in a decade,“but we have a lot of friends coming back,” he said. “Some of them I haven’t seen in 50 years.”
In addition to providing a place where alumni can reconnect, “we also wanted to offer a wide range of activities,” said Jenna Webb ’02, director of alumni relations. “Reunion is a special moment for the Colgate community.”
Those activities included familiar events like the Torchlight Parade and catered lunches with friends, as well as the more unique, including an Amazing Race–style scavenger hunt and an alumni podcast recording on “love, loss, and life after Colgate.”
Reunion College 2016 offered more than 50 lectures and discussions given by professors, administrators, and alumni. Topics included Cybersecurity for the Boardroom and the Living Room: Keeping Safe in the Digital Age, with Gus Coldebella ’91 (one of several events sponsored by the Colgate Professional Networks); Swoosh Life: A Young Professional’s Path with Nike, by Michael Dineen ’11; and Tales from the Colgate Trustees, with a panel of trustees both past and present.
Throughout the weekend, alumni could be found in all corners of the village, revisiting old haunts on Broad Street, strolling through the Saturday-morning farmers’ market, and lounging beneath the alumni tents on Whitnall Field.
The Colgate Bookstore offered several special events, including a children’s meet and greet with Curious George, a reading of the children’s book Up the Hill: A Tale of Colgate University by author Lindsay Fleece Rentschler ’05 and illustrator Rachel Adam Rogers ’05, and the 31st annual alumni authors book signing.
Although reunion centered around the return of alumni, some students also participated. More than 50 undergraduates helped to work the event in various capacities, providing transportation, entertainment, and information regarding sustainability on campus.
When Kim Muth ’19 discovered that her parents, Chris ’86 and Lorraine ’87, were attending reunion, she decided to accompany them on their trip and find a job for the weekend. Kim drove alumni across campus on a golf cart — a job that she said afforded her a new perspective on the university.
“A lot of the alumni ended up giving me tours,” she said. “They’d say, ‘This looked different when I was here’ or ‘This building wasn’t here.’ So it was fun to hear the history of the university firsthand.”
Another student, Ben Fetzner ’17, attended reunion alongside his a cappella group, the Colgate Resolutions. The Resos, along with the Swinging ’Gates and the Colgate Thirteen, performed at the alumni luncheon Friday afternoon and at the awards ceremony later that night.
Fetzner enjoyed the enthusiasm that the alumni audience showed for the university. “I’m always surprised, when we sing at the 50th Reunion banquet, how every single person seems to know the words to the alma mater,” he said. “It really shows how much they love this institution.”