The word “reunion” can have many associations, depending on with what or with whom you are reuniting. A reunion between a parent and a child can be heartwarming. A high school reunion often includes awkward moments. But what about a college reunion? And what about a college reunion at a school not known for its school spirit but rather for a student community that is varied and diverse and often distracted by the urban metropolis steps away from its campus’ gates? As Reunion Weekend 2016 approaches (Thursday, June 2–Sunday, June 5), I thought about the meaning of a reunion at a school whose alumni are known as independent-minded, urbane and sometimes more socially conscious than socially unified.
Reunions at Columbia College have been happening for some time now. I have attended five for my Class of ’88, and four for my wife, Sherri Pancer Wolf ’90. I have found reunions are an informal and fun way to see old friends and classmates while being reminded of a place that was formative in my development. When I return to campus for reunion and see the Greek names running across the top of Butler Library or leisurely walk up the Low Steps — instead of racing across to make it to wrestling practice — memories of who I was as a student wash over me, even 25 years later. And when attending a cultural event as part of reunion — taking in a Broadway show or attending a ballet at the Metropolitan Opera — I’m reminded of my Core class outings while a student.
I have realized that Columbia College reunions are more than just an opportunity to see old friends and classmates — though it always amazes me how great the CC’88 turnout is and how well everyone is doing — but they are also a rare chance to reconnect with your 20-year-old self. I assure you that as reunions go, the one between you and your younger self is quite satisfying. It is eyeopening to reflect on who you were before you read the Core Curriculum, or panicked over that final paper or heard your graduation day speaker while sitting in a sea of Columbia Blue gowns. Passing Koronet Pizza makes me smile every time, as I think of the many late nights spent there either on the way to or back from a social adventure. Standing in front of Carman Hall reminds me of freshman move-in day, a time when I still relied on my parents to help me. A reunion is as much about oneself as it is about reconnecting with a place or with others. That’s not to say, though, that it’s not also a great time to show your family the pool where you took the infamous swim test or the Butler stacks where scenes from Ghostbusters were filmed.
Since my 25th reunion in 2013, I have longed for more ways to connect to my younger self (don’t we all?) and to my Columbia friends as well as to current students and some of the College’s terrific current faculty. Waiting five years seemed too long, like I might lose momentum. Fortunately, opportunities to attend a Columbia reunion have become more frequent for me. I returned last year for my “27th reunion” while Sherri celebrated her 25th. Though I was out of my five-year cycle, I saw many familiar faces from my residence hall, from classes and from intramural teams. Surprisingly, I saw several other CC’88ers, too. In some ways, being back with friends made through non-class connections was just as fulfilling an experience as reunion was with my own class. I was seeing myself through other lenses, beyond just my graduation year and through my interests and passions. The chance to take Mini- Core Classes and have a glass of wine on the Steps — legally — was a nice bonus.
The opportunity to reconnect with the College, with friends of all affiliations and, of course, with Koronet, is now a more regular occasion for everyone, not just for those with a spouse in another class. The Saturday of Reunion Weekend 2016 (June 4) has been renamed All-Class Reunion. Formerly known as Dean’s Day, it is an annual event for all College alumni to return to campus for Mini-Core Classes, lectures, the Wine Tasting and Starlight Reception on Low Plaza, and for mingling with alumni from your own and other classes. Whenever you want to look back in time to gain perspective on who you are today — by meeting up with old friends or former teammates, by visiting campus spots that had meaning to your student experience or by sitting in a classroom with intelligent people — I encourage you to view Reunion Weekend as something to which to look forward to. I know I do.
So please mark your calendar for Reunion Weekend 2016. If your year ends in 1 or 6, you have a four-day milestone celebration ahead of you. If you’re like me, in an “off ” year, let’s make the most of our one special day at All-Class Reunion. I’ll see you then!
Published quarterly by the Columbia College Office of Alumni Affairs and Development for alumni, students, faculty, parents and friends of Columbia College.