YAM Notes: July/August 2022

By Marty Snapp

Even Covid couldn’t stop our 55th reunion from being one for the ages, although 38 classmates reluctantly decided to cancel at the last moment, including me. Since I couldn’t be there, I asked our classmates to be my eyes and ears. Here’s what they reported:

“The event at the Jackson School on Thursday was a good start,” said Jorge Dominguez. “It’s a tribute to John Jackson‘s generosity and vision. The discussion regarding Ukraine featured the Dean, George Pataki, and Victor Ashe. One detail I found interesting was the Dean’s suggestion that there should be a demilitarized zone to separate Russia and Ukraine.”

Friday’s highlight was the memorial service in Battell Chapel, led by John Mitchell, Ron Meister and Bob Riedel. “It was done very beautifully,” said George Lazarus. “I especially liked the tape of [the late] Peter Ecklund playing ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ on the cornet. It was quite beautiful and very moving.”

At Friday’s “Yale Today” panel, Director of Undergraduate Admissions Margit Dahl stunned everyone when she noted that 35% of the applicants were accepted when we applied, but only 4.4% percent were accepted this year. “In other words, we ‘waltzed in,’ comparatively speaking,” said Mike Orlansky.

On Saturday morning Tom Gottshall once again conducted his tour of Grove Street Cemetery, and more than 50 people (and one dog) attended. “It was fascinating in and of itself, said Jorge Dominguez, “but the highlight was Tom himself – admirably well-informed, articulate, perfect delivery, a sense of humor, and rapport with the crowd. Truly a tour de force.” Shortly before the end the tour paused at Kingman Brewster’s grave, and guess who showed up? Kingman! (aka Handsome Dan XIX)

But the biggest crowd, as expected, was for John Mauceri’s presentation on how World War I, World War II and the Cold War impacted classical music. It was made the last event on purpose, for the same reason that the last award at the Oscars is always for Best Picture. And, once again, John did not disappoint.

“The room was absolutely packed,” said Rick Shaw. “He’s a charming bon vivant and a wonderful speaker with a wry sense of humor.”

“The audience was wowed,” added Randy Alfred. “His analysis was brilliant, and he got a standing ovation that went on for several minutes.”

(You can see John’s presentation – and every other important event – in a few weeks on our class website.)

And some people didn’t attend any sessions at all, like Bob Leahy, who preferred to use the time wandering around campus and hanging out with old friends. “What struck me is how easy it is to pick up a conversation after not seeing somebody in person for five years. The shortest, gladdest years may be over, but the personal connections endure.”

At the class dinner Bob Anestis announced that we raised $110 million for Yale, the largest gift ever by a 55th reunion class, and YAA awards went to Bob Allison, Paul Lamar, John Mitchell, Bob Riedel, Ron Meister, Steve Campbell, Dick Lawler and Dave Herzer. Peter Petkas and Barry Bardo will be the class co-secretaries, and Rick Luis will return as class treasurer.

So, what was the best part of the reunion?

“The people,” said George Pataki. “It’s always the people. My God, what a class we have! The seminars were interesting, and the campus is beautiful, but it’s the people.”

“Maybe it’s pandemic fatigue, or the state of the world, or the coming of age, but for whatever reason this reunion was extra special for me,” said Steve Campbell. “Of course, I reconnected with old friends; but I could also add faces and personalities to classmates who up to now had just been names on the Discussion Group. I attended talks and events, more than one of which brought me close to tears. I am so grateful to everyone who made this reunion possible, and to you, my classmates, whether you could be there in person or not, for being my Yale family. Thank you all.”

Twenty years ago, I posed a rhetorical question on our old listserv: “Are we a granfalloon?”

“The term comes from Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle,” said Charlie Carter. “It means a group of people who affect a shared sense of identity and/or purpose, but who in fact share only meaningless exchanges. It makes me feel so much better to know that we are not and never have been a granfalloon. Rather we, our class, is itself perhaps the greatest gift our alma mater has to give us.”