Having a (Fall) Ball

Scott Donahue '76 with daughters Savannah '17 and Lara '14 at Fall Ball 2014

Scott Donahue ’76 with daughters Savannah ’17 (left) and Lara ’14 at Fall Ball 2014

Scott Donahue ’76

“If walls could talk,” Scott Donahue ’76 mused recently about Apartment 6A on 91st and 3rd in Manhattan. Starring a colorful cast of Colgate characters, some of the apartment’s stories were retold — and a few relived — this past November at a multigenerational reprise of a gathering called Fall Ball.

Donahue transformed the place over the years, and not just from three bedrooms to four. It’s gone from his bachelor pad to his family abode to a condo for college kids. He first moved there after graduation with classmates Chase Carey and Bill Freeborn. Their Delta Upsilon brother Tom Dempsey ’72 welcomed them to the city by turning over hosting duties for the Fall Ball, a fanciful name for his annual bash.

Over the years, Apartment 6A continued to be the party spot, as well as housing for various alumni — who picked straws for rooms, crashed on the couch, and one even squatted on a mattress in the closet. People came and went. When Donahue returned to New York after working in Chicago for a few years, he ended up getting the apartment — by virtue of being “the last man standing” (the only one who had yet to marry). He bought it, wed Toni, and the couple raised their daughters, Lara ’14 and Savannah ’17, there.

“As I was changing diapers and bathing kids, I had more than one ‘Look at you now’ moment,” Scott noted. They moved to Connecticut when Lara was 7, but Scott kept the apartment-turned-condo and rented it to college students. When Lara graduated last year, she and her best friend, Kristen Friberger ’14, became the first Colgate alumni to live there since her dad’s era.

Thus, she revived the Fall Ball. Lara invited her friends as well as her dad’s cronies, who sent her e-mail reminiscences throughout the planning. One even insisted that Lara hang a Farrah Fawcett poster that had graced the walls in the ’70s. She obliged: “We wanted to make it as much like old times as we could.”

Lara and Scott also hung door signs listing who had lived in which rooms. During the party, she put her Colgate tour guide skills to good use as she showed guests around the apartment, listening to their stories along the way.

Expecting dozens of people to come, Lara planned the party in two phases: 6 p.m.–10 p.m. for her dad’s generation, and 10 p.m. on for hers. But several younger alumni came early, and “We had the young people and the old people bonding and laughing about the same things,” said Lara.

Eventually, the older folks called it a night. “Lights went off, the music turned up, and instead of it sounding great, it sounded horrible,” joked Scott. “It was clear it was time to leave.”

— Aleta Mayne