On the weekend of October 20-22, 2017, eleven ’67 classmates and spouses showed up for the annual “Mini-Reunion Weekend,” along with members of the surrounding classes of ’68, ’69, ’70 and ’71. Our class representation was small but understandable after our outstanding June reunion.
Some of the events that were enjoyed over the weekend included
- the multi-class events (Friday dinner, Pass the Baton, Sunday breakfast) afforded an opportunity to see many non-’67 people we miss in our five-year class reunions.
- an “object class” at the Williams College Museum of Art where anthropology professor Antonia Foias and her students explained their research on pre-Columbian museum pieces.
- Talking with current students and post-50th alumni at the football tailgate on Saturday.
- A faculty lecture by psychology assistant professor Laura Smalarz on The Psychology of Eyewitness Misidentification.
- a chance to chat with outgoing President Adam Falk at the Friday night dinner, and wish him success in his new venture.
The main event of the weekend for our class was held on Saturday night. This was the annual “Pass the Baton” dinner, where this year our outgoing 50th Reunion class of ’67 passed on reunion responsibilities – and an actual baton — to the incoming 50th Reunion class of ’68.
This was a tradition that started actually in the fall of 1967 when the class of 1917, celebrating their 50th that year, decided to make a formal event of passing on the 50th reunion responsibilities to the following class of 1918.
For Williams President Adam Falk, this was his last alumni event before his departure at the end of the year. He remarked on how bittersweet it was, and how one of the highlights of his tenure at Williams was in getting to know so many alumni so well.
Class of ’67 Co-President John Hufnagel spoke, talking about the reunion process and how much a sense of gratitude as well as humility arose during the planning and execution of our reunion. Huff’s remarks are included below.
Then Class Co-President Allan Stern and Reunion Fund Drive Chair Turner Smith helped Huff to formally transfer the baton to Class of ’68 President Ned Perry.
Participants in this weekend’s events:
Rich Bernstein and Beth Mandelbaum
Arn and Susie Heller
Peter and Alicia Pond
Turner and Judy Smith
Allan Stern and Susan Scrimshaw
Harry and Suzanne Tether
Huff’s remarks are included below:
Pass The Baton Ceremony
Remarks by John Hufnagel, Class Co-President for the Class of 1967
October 21, 2017
Thank you, Mark (Robertson), thank you, Adam (Falk), for sponsoring this wonderful tradition. I would like to first welcome those of my classmates who could come back for this beautiful fall weekend in Williamstown, many of whom have spent a significant number of days here recently in preparation for our 50th reunion last June. It’s nice not to have an agenda facing us but to be here for the fun of passing the baton to the Class of 1968 and to know what it means to be on the other side of a 50th reunion.
It is also a joy to be here to further reflect on the events of last June which for all of us who attended was a life experience. I extend my gratitude and that of my co-presidents Jonathan Vipond and Allan Stern and of Bob Tyre, Allan’s Reunion Co- Chair, to all of you in the class for your participation in our Reunion and this weekend. I would also like to extend a special thanks to Turner Smith who so valiantly led our Reunion Gift Committee. What a great job Turner did quietly leading us in our gifting in such a respectful way.
I would again and again and again like to thank the 50th College staff who dedicated their attention to us, dancing us through the steps necessary to have a successful reunion without stepping on our toes. Mark Robertson, Chris Robare, Darlene Alderman, Margaret McComish and Amy Filson, we can’t thank you enough for your masterful guidance.
On behalf of the class, I would also like to extend our thanks to you, Adam, for helping us set a course in our gifts that you felt would best meet the future needs of the College. We wish you well in your new position, but please know how much we have appreciated your attention to the College and your personal interaction with us throughout this experience. It was a joy working with you and we will miss your idance and friendship.
To the Class of 1968 – I think you know that the tradition of passing the baton started 51 years ago after our graduation and the start of your senior year in college. In the fall of 1967 the Class of 1917 passed the first baton to the Class of 1918. What did it mean to us then? NOTHING. I so wished that as students we might have experienced this event to know the depth of stewardship that the alumni body feels 50 years after graduating.
As we approached this event last year, I realized what it must have meant to the Class of 1917 having its 50th reunion when we graduated. By 1967 they had lived through the influenza epidemic of 1918, two world wars, the Great Depression, the Korean War, the start of the nuclear age, the novelty of the airplane to space travel, the start of the Vietnam War, and nine Presidents. In those 50 years they had personally experienced successes and failures and the hardships of their times, and yet they valued their Williams’ experience such at their core that they gathered together to share their 50th reunion experience with the Class of 1918 by creating a new tradition of passing a reunion baton to them with good will and humor.
While that 50 years to us in 1967 seemed like infinity, it is now 100 years since the Class of 1917 graduated as our lives overlapped. In our minds, the last 50 years have flown by, yet we too have experienced the unimaginable and nine Presidents. And yes, to the Class of 2017, 50 years is still infinity. Yet here we are 51 years since the initiation of this tradition, with Williams as a piece of our core, passing a baton with pride in our Class’s accomplishments with 51% of our class attending, and raising, much to our own disbelief, a sum for the College that before the event seemed like an unsurmountable amount of money.
We now challenge you, the Class of 1968, to do better than we did. Listening to Ned Perry at lunch yesterday and at dinner tonight, I believe you have both the desire and the leadership not only to accept our challenge, but to eclipse us.
But there is a more significant challenge we offer to you: to have as much fun as we did sharing this experience as a class.
What lessons can we pass along to you? Really, none. It’s your class and your experience. You know your class, follow its direction. I can tell you what was unexpected and what we did not see coming from the experience beforehand.
Through the five-year process of interaction with the College and each other, we watched two emotions taking over. The first, a truly pervasive sense of gratitude; and the second, a deep sense of humility. The gratitude came out in several ways.
As we reconnected with classmates and seriously talked with each other, there was a theme in the reflections of 50 years of how grateful we were to have shared four years at an institution that nurtured our sense of curiosity and our desire to learn and that we felt blessed that we had had a liberal arts education that added so much to the richness of our lifetime enjoyment by enlarging our scope of interest and our ability to absorb new things. In our class survey we found that 95% of the class felt they had led happy, interesting and productive lives and were grateful to Williams for adding to that feeling.
We also became grateful in another way. We started out the reunion process with the feelings that from the collective wisdom of our 50 years’ of experience, we could see the warts on what was happening today in education and particularly here at Williams. If the College would only listen to us, we could show them how to make this a better institution with all that we had to offer. Instead of fighting that impulse, the College was open to our ideas and open to a dialogue about those ideas. It didn’t necessarily agree with many of them, but it peeled the onion and exposed us honestly to the challenges that are faced in maintaining the integrity of the institution. The more we interacted, the more grateful we became that the College is way ahead of us in understanding the ever-changing nature of educating college students.
I mentioned humility. Oh, we set out with tangible goals for reunion, with flow charts, timetables, picking leaders for their strength in management or experience, all with the intent of delivering the perfect reunion. (Our thanks again to the staff that answered questions and guided us through the many pitfalls that arise) — but something else emerged in that time as well. In the process of working together, visiting closely with distant classmates, having regional get-togethers with shared educational experiences, reviewing and reading the personal bios and creating the memorials for the Class Book, cringing at our mistakes on some issues, smiling at our small victories, and laughing a lot at our different styles, we became aware of a heightened sense of trust in each other that we could share life’s fragile sides.
After 50 years of experiences, classmates did not puff about accomplishments but wished to share the good fortune of being alive, share our successes and our failures, and share the issues we had overcome and those we could not. The end result was a profound sense of humility and a compassion for each other’s lives. The sense of community that came out of this collaborative effort culminated in a true warmth and openness toward each other at reunion that surpassed all expectations. Every table had a different composition at each meal, and not a cell phone emerged. We were engaged in a precious moment in a long life.
To you, the Class of 1968, I know the gratitude and humility will sneak up on you as well, for you are a wonderful group of people with a deep sense of curiosity, a love of learning and an appreciation of the value of friendship that had seeds placed in you by this institution 50 years ago.
We hand you the baton, continuing a tradition that will have unexpected benefits, as did the Class of 1917 as it passed it to the Class of 1918 those 51 years ago. Good luck and have fun.