My piece a few weeks back about whether to attend my upcoming 50th college reunion, and the sobering fact that nearly 20 percent of my classmates have died, continues to draw reader response, both by email and in supermarket aisles.
Here’s a sampling of the written opinion, almost all of which supports one choice: Go.
From an astute fellow in Mystic, a graduate of Colgate and Cornell Law School:
“Other than the all-encompassing morbidity of this piece, I think you should consider attending your 50th, especially as an apparent adherent to the ‘I’d never go back for a reunion’ cadre. Understandable, but, as someone so interested in other people and their lives, reunions offer an optimal venue to check up on progress or lack thereof.
“Though I have not been to a reunion — high school, college or law school — for about ten years, I did so with a modest measure of regularity in earlier years. What always struck me were my memories, in particular, of conversations with people I didn’t know well or at all, in addition to those I counted as friends. As to the former, it was intriguing to learn what they thought of me and me of them during our time together. It was illuminating.
“I’d encourage you to try it before you add yourself to the list of departed souls.
From a longtime friend in North Stonington, an attorney, fisherman, historian, raconteur and intrepid adherent of tradition:
“50th reunions are daunting — mine was in 2015 (Penn State, Class of 1965). I recommend that you attend, with your old roommate if possible. I was in the NROTC program and learned that all of the Marine Corps and Naval aviators who went to Vietnam were killed! I knew everyone in the NROTC program and spent most of my time at the reunion with them. At one of the reunions, not the 50th, Dr. Eric Walker the former president of PSU, who was a graduate of Oxford, wore his academic gown— a sight to behold with velvet beret, ostrich plume and orange robes.
Of course Anna Coit set the standard. She was the surviving member, alumni journal newsletter editor/point person of her Vassar Class of 1930, and she kept her optimism until the last minute of her life.”
(Anna Coit was a matriarchal figure in North Stonington social, environmental and literary life who died at age 106 in 2014.)
From a reader in Mystic who, like me, spent his college years in Ohio:
“I always enjoy reading your articles but this one moved me to comment. First let me encourage you to go your reunion. I attended my 50th at Muskingum College (oops, now University but that’s another story) last October. We broke ground by being the first class to move to October and Homecoming and I think it actually helped attendance.
“I thought I’d be a cinch for coming the furthest, having left a University of Pennsylvania trip to the Dordogne Valley a day early to attend. There was no prize but someone came from Australia! In any event it was worth the effort.
“The Class of ’68 was certainly launched during a tumultuous spring, despite inhabiting a tranquil corner of Ohio. All in all it was good to see and interact both with close friends and those you knew less well but had shared experiences in that time and place.
“We seemed to have had fewer deaths as a percentage of our class and that sounds like an interesting research project! I’ll close by noting our favorite administrator was an Oberlin graduate and one of the finest gentlemen I’ve known.
“Go back to Oberlin and get fodder for another column!”
Finally, perhaps the most succinct and gently needling response came from one of my classmates, a woman who lives in Cleveland. In contemplating the dismal reality that nearly 90 of us out of a first-year class of some 525 students had died, I cited in the earlier piece the “cohort life expectancy” for those born in 1947, as most of us were, published by Social Security Online.
The figures were aggregate — that is, no accounting for race, education, wealth, profession and the like.
For women born in 1947, the life expectancy is 78.7 years; for men, 73.
As my classmate wrote in response to my musings:
“Since your life expectancy is kind of short at this point you might consider showing up at the reunion. We would love to see you!”
Steven Slosberg lives in Stonington and was a longtime reporter and columnist. He may be reached at: email@example.com.