YAM Notes: July/August 2017

By Martin M. Snapp, Jr.

50th Reunion

Best. Reunion. Ever. Those words were on the lips of everyone there, and they were right. Thank you, Tom Gottshall. To those of you who weren’t able to make it—boy, what you missed!

That’s the bad news. The good news is that everything was videoed, and Joe Briley is putting all of it up on the class website. That includes the class dinner at Commons; the moving memorial service at Battell Chapel, which was conducted with great dignity and feeling by Bob Riedel, Ron Meister, and John Mitchell; the Whiffenpoof concert at Sprague Hall; the career panels featuring Gary Abrecht, Doug Schofield, John Wilhelm, Victor Ashe, Henry Jones, and Jorge Dominguez talking about their fascinating lives; Tom Gottshall’s tour of the Grove Street Cemetery, where we laid a wreath on Kingman Brewster’s grave; and the Brewster retrospective with Geoffrey Kabaservice ’88 (author of the definitive book on the president who always considered us “his boys”) and Brewster’s right-hand man, Sam Chauncey ’57, which featured some of the most delightful gossip I’ve heard in a long time.

But the most popular event was John Mauceri’s brilliant lecture, “Broadway from Gershwin to Hamilton,” a sequel to his equally brilliant “Music and the Movies,” which he gave five years ago at our 45th.

But John almost didn’t make it this time. On Wednesday he was bedridden with a painful kidney stone, and it looked like he would be forced to cancel. But the stone—and the crisis—passed on Friday, and in the best show-must-go-on tradition he rose from his sickbed and drove to New Haven just in the nick of time.

You’d never have known he was ill because he was totally in command of both his material and the audience—alternately absorbing, enlightening (you wouldn’t believe how much rap music has in common with a Gershwin tune), and hysterically funny. Wait until you hear his riff on “I Got Rhythm,” which had us in stitches.

The other unexpected appearance was by Walter (better known as Handsome Dan XVIII), an adorable nine-month-old puppy who seems to be a worthy successor to his predecessors. We had been warned not to expect him at the class dinner because his handlers were worried that all those people—403 classmates plus 314 guests—might frighten him. But thanks to a little nudging from Rick Luis they relented, and Walter (named after Walter Camp) made a surprise entrance. The little pup took all the commotion in stride, of course. What else would you expect from a Yalie?

Actually, the reunion really started a week before we got to New Haven, when the class books arrived in our mailboxes. Isn’t it great? In fact, beyond great. Just as I find it hard to believe that any college reunion that ever was or ever will be can ever match this one, the same goes for reunion class books. Mike Kail and his team have come up with one for the ages.

There are so many good things in it, I don’t have room to list them all. But the masterstroke was the suggestion by Rick Luis to ignore tradition and, instead of relegating our deceased classmates to the necrology ghetto at the back of the book, include them with the living in alphabetical order. The message was profound and unmistakably clear: They are still a part of us, and always will be.

AYA Awards—all richly deserved—went to Randy Alfred, Victor Ashe, Frank Clifford, Rick Luis, Bill Mace, Don Metzger, Peter Petkas, and all the Whiffenpoofs except Mike Kail. AYA wouldn’t let us give him one because he already has one, and they have a no-repeat rule. So instead, we gave him framed sheet music of “The Whiffenpoof Song” from 1936, arranged by Rudy Vallee ’27.

There’s so much more to tell, but I’ve run out of space. I’ll pick up where I left off next time.