Symposium from 40th Reunion – June, 2007

By Ken Willcox

Below is a summary of some of the comments made by classmates at the class symposium held during this year’s reunion. A total of 96 people participated in the free-flowing exchange of life experiences and reflections.

Allan Stern leads discussion at the symposium at our 40th reunion

Allan Stern was the moderator. Lead speakers were Ted McPherson, Bill Clendaniel, Bob Conway, Paul Lipof, Chris Covington, and Gregg Meister.

Chris Covington’s primary concern was balance. He has tried to reach it throughout his life sometimes with more success than others from his overly employed business days in San Francisco to more balanced time with his family back on the East Coast. The upcoming balance will be between retirement and all of the other things you want to do including philanthropy and community. Prostate cancer also has a way of focusing your attention.

Paul Lipof noted the loss of respect as you get older and less relevant to others. He, too, discussed striking the right mix in retirement of activities and giving back.

Chris White suggested that at this stage we have the luxury of trying to do things that might fail. If we haven’t failed in our lives, then we haven’t tried.

John Way pondered how God will judge our time on earth. We should consider how we are using that time in the best possible way. One of Williams’ gifts to us has been to give us a privileged environment in which we can be courteous and listen to each other.

Bill Clendaniel will be retiring in 13 months. He has had a satisfying nonprofit career as director of the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge MA. He recommends that people get involved in the nonprofit sector. Those organizations are always in need of capable help. In addition there is much to learn from the groups on whose boards you may serve. He added that a wonderful gift to your family is to write a summary of your life. He plans to do that himself.

Bob Conway says he is not close to retiring. Thanks to successful resolution of several medical problems, he has had a resurgence of energy and has recently completed a couple of book with more in process. In answer to the question, “What advice would you give a graduating senior?” he urged compassion and tolerance for others, especially those with whom you disagree. Stating that he was ashamed of both presidents from our generation, he thought the cause of many of our nation’s problems was excessive partisanship and the intolerance associated with it.

Ted McPherson emphasized a lifetime of learning. He is proud of his entrepreneurial work and encourages it for all. Be willing to risk. Be a leader. Be unpredictable, a non-conformist. It is from that that new ideas spring. He quoted George Bernard Shaw, who said, “All great innovation starts with an unreasonable person. If it’s reasonable, it has probably already been done or thought of.” Ted said he hoped the sprit of our class would continue.

Gregg Meister told the story of how he came to the life-changing mission of building on his Presbyterian ministry by starting a video production group to film the very poorest in our hemisphere in the Dominican Republic. He described their environment and exclaimed that their wretched condition should just not exist! He added that his biggest disappointment has been his inability to dent world poverty. He remembered how his time at Williams challenged his religion. Critical to him is the ongoing ability to keep his perspective on social justice.

John Hufnagel expressed his disappointment in our war on terror. He also urged us all to use the class as the incredible resource that it is.

Allan Stern closed the symposium by thanking all the participants and expressing the desire that these meaningful conversations should continue for the rest of the weekend.

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