Alumni Reconnect at Reunion 2004
By Shira Boss-Bicak '93
More than 900 College alumni, plus families and guests, returned
to campus June 3-6 to celebrate their class reunions (photos 1,
2) as well as the University's 250th birthday. Some alumni came
back to Morningside Heights for the first time in a quarter-century
or more to find a campus and neighborhood that has undergone many
changes, most for the better. Classmates visited at receptions,
lunches and dinners; lectures and panel discussions; tours; cultural
outings and other events. This scrapbook highlights just some of
what went on at Reunion Weekend 2004, the best-attended ever.
Friday morning and afternoon boasted spectacular weather, and alumni took full
advantage of being on campus to meet for panels and tours, including an excursion
to Kykuit, the former Rockefeller family estate in Tarrytown, N.Y.; walking
tours of historic Harlem and Times Square; and a VIP tour of the United Nations,
sponsored by Fernando Ortiz ’79, legal officer with the United Nations
Department of Peacekeeping Operations. Many classes held evening cocktail parties
on, near and off-campus — the Class of 1979 even split up its gatherings,
with separate events for alumni and partners.
Friday night’s Casino Royale (3) and Young Alumni Dance Party (4) at
the Hammerstein Ballroom was crowded and rocking as usual, with more than 1,300
young alumni from the College, Barnard and SEAS gambling with “Columbia
cash,” which they could redeem for prizes, and then dancing the night
The Class of ’94 kicked off its 10th reunion at a buffet dinner in a
special room on site, where many reconnected — and some just met, as was
the case for Matti Almers ’94 and Henry Woo ’94, bankers in New
York and London, respectively. Shawn Landres ’94, who was especially busy
covering reunion for Class Notes correspondent Leyla Kokmen ’94, came
from Los Angeles and brought his wife, Zuzana Riemer Landres. Dana Herdoon-Raucher
’94 enticed her husband, Yossi Raucher ’04 Business, to return to
campus just two weeks after his graduation.
Saturday’s weather was cool with intermittent light rain as the parties
continued at class luncheons and at the busy barbecue buffets under tents on
Low Plaza and South Field (9). The youngest attendee at the Dean’s Brunch
(10) was Eleanor Teweles (born January 9), daughter of Liz Pleshette ‘89
and Josh Teweles. Professor of Classics and History Roger Bagnall (5) delivered
the weekend lecture, while many children of alumni played at Camp Columbia (8).
Plastic surgeon Robert Kraft ’74 and neurologist Gary Friedman ’74
(6), who moved back to New York from Oklahoma a year ago, recognized each other
at the Classes of ’64–’84 barbecue on Low Plaza. Nearby, Kraft’s
wife, Ruth, sat with their son, Mike ’05, and neuroradiologist Steven
Schonfeld ’74, whose son, Scott, graduated last year.
The omnipresent Gerald Sherwin ’55, former Alumni Association president,
was gathering ideas for his class’ 50th reunion and caught up with basketball
star Alton Byrd ’79 (7), who was back to campus for the first time, with
his wife, Francine, and their daughter, Alana. After graduation, Byrd played
professional basketball in London for 17 years.
PHOTOS: EILEEN BARROSO (3, 4);
SHIRA BOSS-BICAK '93 (6, 7); ALEX SACHARE '71 (1, 2, 8, 11)
and MASHA VOLYNSKY '06 (5, 9, 10).
The guided tour of the campus’ underground tunnels (13) was
a big hit. Parts of the labyrinthine system are reported to predate
the University’s move to Morningside Heights and stem from
Buell Hall, the former Bloomingdale Insane Asylum. Today, the tunnels
are closed to pedestrians, but alumni from the ’50s and earlier
remember darting through them on a regular basis. “The tunnels
were a godsend in bad weather. Theywere warm and dry,” remembered
Harvey Leifert ’59, who waited with his wife, Claudine, for
the tour, only to give up their places when it was overcrowded.
“Oh, well,” Leifert said, “I’ve seen them.”
After the 1968 demonstrations, during which the tunnels provided
access to blockaded buildings, many of the entrances were closed.
An underground community of the curious continues to secretly explore
the system, however. One of the more committed tunnel fans, a 2001
SEAS graduate, sneaks under campus and gives guided tours. He’ll
also answer questions sent to
Reunion-goers entered the tunnels through the basement of Hamilton Hall, walked
along an increasingly narrow passage crammed with pipes and wires
and climbed through a door leading to the center stairway of Philosophy
Hall. The next tidbit was served by descending the outside of Uris
Hall to the University’s cavernous plant, two underground
stories of giant equipment where steam heat is generated.
For those who missed the tour, an illustrated article about the
tunnels can be found on the Internet:
Another article about the tunnels was published in Spectator
last year; go to www.columbiaspectator.com
and search for “Forbidden Tunnels Guard CU History.”
On another tour, alumni got a look at the Manhattanville area (12), site of
Columbia’s proposed new campus.
On Saturday evening, class dinners were held at venues on or near
campus. The bicentennial class of 1954 celebrated its golden reunion
in Low Rotunda. Barnard history professor Robert McCaughey, author
of Stand, Columbia (Columbia University Press, 2003) and
Saul Turteltaub ’54, a Hollywood writer and producer, spoke
to the class, and items from Peter Ehrenhaft ’54’s collection
of Columbia memorabilia were displayed. McCaughey (11) signed copies
of his book on Friday.
In Low’s Faculty Room, the classes of 1944 and 1949, including Albert
Koska ’49 and his wife, Catherine (17), heard head football
coach Bob Shoop speak on “Columbia Football: Now and Then,”
while the Class of 1959 dined at Terrace in the Sky on West 119th
At the Class of 1964 dinner, held under a tent on South Field,
Ivan Weissman ’64 introduced the evening’s speaker,
historian Mike Wallace ’64, by announcing, “My freshman
roommate won the Pulitzer Prize. What did your freshman
Nearby, the class of 1969 was invited to cocktails in the recently renovated
Hamilton Hall lobby and to dinner in a tent on Van Am Quad. Provost
Alan Brinkley gave a keynote talk. Woody Lewis ’69 (16, left,
with Jon Rosenfeld ’69), a software developer, came from the
San Francisco area. “I like people I knew then to see me now,”
he said, explaining that he was a rock musician during his campus
days. This was Lewis’ fourth reunion, and he declared it the
best so far, owing to the increasing earnestness of classmates.
“People are more intent on discovering our experiences and
commiserating or sympathizing with our troubles. We’re survivors,
and people cared enough to come and share what we’ve been
through.” Among them was Mark Rudd ’69, who participated
in a spirited panel discussion earlier in the day that explored
the long and winding road many had traveled since their College
PHOTOS: SHIRA BOSS-BICAK '93
(14, 15, 16, 17, 18); LAURA BUTCHY (19); EMILY MORRIS '02
(12, 13) and ALEX SACHARE '71 (20).
The 1974 class dinner was held in the Starr East Asian Library in Kent Hall.
Several classmates attributed their attendance to the tireless recruitment
efforts of longtime CCT class correspondent Fred Bremer ’74,
including New Yorker Brian Eskenazi ’74, who publishes illustrated
art books and was attending his first reunion.
Attorney Bill Roth ’74 said, “Most of the people I’ve been
talking to I’ve never met before,” but pointed out what
an easy ice-breaker the Columbia connection is. Roth discovered
another school’s connection in Pasquale DeVito ’74,
however. Roth looked across the table, read a nametag and asked
in surprise, “You’re Mr. DeVito?” It turns out
that DeVito has been Roth’s daughter’s religion teacher
at Horace Mann for the past four years. Roth had heard much about
the talented Mr. DeVito, but had not known they were classmates.
The Class of 1979 rang in its silver reunion at Casa Italiana (19),
joined by Dean Austin Quigley. With a turnout of nearly 100, the
20th reunion Class of 1984 celebrated in the Jed Satow Room on the
fifth floor of Lerner Hall, with a spectacular view of campus. Rupert
Li ’84 came from Hong Kong for the occasion, which was attended
by the class’ special guest, Professor Emeritus of Spanish
and Portuguese Karl-Ludwig Selig.
Members of the Class of 1989 caught up over cocktails and dinner in the Hepburn
Lounge of Uris Hall. The Class of 1994 reminisced during dinner
in John Jay Dining Hall, while the most recent graduates at reunion,
the Class of 1999, celebrated their fifth anniversary in Lerner
After Saturday’s dinners, alumni converged on Low Plaza for the annual
all-class champagne and dancing extravaganza (20). The weather cleared,
the band kept the music going into the wee hours, and as always,
Dean Austin Quigley and his wife, Barnard professor of English Patricia
Denison, were front and center on the crowded dance floor. Only
the chocolate truffles and pastries drew some to the sidelines.
Alumni from SEAS and Barnard joined in the merriment, and the happy
crowd swelled out the sides of the tent.
Among several intra-College couples attending reunion were Shelley
Schneiderman ’94 and real estate development consultant Adam
Ducker ’93, who met not on campus but later, at a College
alumni event in Washington, D.C. They were married in 2001, and
recently moved back to D.C. after living in San Francisco.
Christina Benedetto ’89 and Robert LaPlaca ’89 (15),
who met on Carman 12 during their freshman year and were married
two years after graduation, came from Connecticut, while doctors
Nicholas Bavaro ’89 and Jacqueline Bavaro ’88 (14),
who met in chemistry class, went to med school together and were
married at St. Paul’s Chapel in 1993, came from Westchester.
Annie Della Pietra ’91 and Chris Della Pietra ’89 (18) met not
while students but as alumni, at the 1994 Homecoming football game.
For his proposal, Chris came up with an excuse to get Annie to board
the 1 train from the West Village to 116th Street so he could kneel
in front of Alma Mater. They were married in 1997 and live in New
Contributing writer Shira Boss-Bicak ’93 is a freelance journalist in
New York. Her most recent CCT cover story (March 2004) was about the 20th anniversary
of coeducation at the College.