'44's return to take "Reunion 601"
(Some 209 complete a non-degree three-day course)

 

The course subtitle: How to fit 209 sardines into a can for 180

     Some 128 classmates of our 350-odd duespaying Class members, many more spouses, and a few progeny experienced our 60th this past June 10-13 and this "Report Card" on the gathering's major activities is primarily intended for consumption by those 220 classmates who did NOT take in our 60th.  The A, B, and C grades, as shown, are tempered in part by our total '44 attendance at a particular Reunion function or action. An activity might have been "the greatest" but this non-academic had to give the activity a lower grade IF its "No show" total was high.

     Biased? . . Of course we are . .  Do you agree with us? . . You may or you may not, but  this is the way we saw "Reunion" fall out and it's a somewhat different way in which to report back to you on this exercise. Being the "Let's try it!" micro-managing person you know us to be, you shouldn't expect any less from us.

We'll start with the MAILBOX-STUFFING that preceded the gathering.  It was detailed and heavy-handed (and hopefully humorous) but apparently it was effective for we did wind up breaking the existing 60 Year Reunion Record of 105 by more than 20 percent. We agree that the hard-to-beat Finger Lakes environment and the always beautiful Cornell campus were also major factors in getting our large octogenarian turn out.

Looking at our ON SITE REGISTRATION and support, we had four of the finest Reunion Clerks we've ever had, and we've dealt with many clerks in our eight stints as Reunion Chair . . . Amy, Anne, and Alex were true Shakers and Movers in being your drivers, our responsible pick-up and delivery trio, and the "muscle" we needed whenever anything had to be moved, lifted, hung, or displayed. They truly provided six more arms and six more legs to this low-speed geezer.  Petite Stephanie (the Class Clerk without a driving license) was condemned to work at the computer, never complained, and just kept smiling throughout. They were absolutely great young people and we hope that many of you had the opportunity to chat with them over the three-day period.

     The HOUSING SPLIT experienced by our classmates didn't seem to faze anyone; it bothered us considerably for we had thoughts of stranding classmates at one or both of the two locations. About 45% of us bedded down in Hurlburt House (our 2004 Head- quarters) another 45% chose the comfortable Statler Hotel accommodations that were a good two miles plus and ten minutes away; and the remaining 10% were commuting "locals." The reason things worked out well despite this scattering of our attendees was due to Alumni Affairs arranging for prompt, always available private bus transport for all '44's. (We had two 24-pass. buses of our own). Nary a grouse was registered with this "Hearer of All Complaints." We got to where we had to be en masse and on time!  So "Thank you, Alumni Affairs!"

Our opening sit-down, the Thursday night "INTERNATIONAL ENTREE SALAD BUFFET" had a problem or three. The caterer just barely got the table cloths on and the buffet tables set up in time for President Jeffrey Lehman's visit with us. We were trying to get everyone seated in the tent BEFORE he and Kathy Okun arrived and had planned to introduce both to Andy Capi and Dick Evans and their spouses in the lounge. They would then walk the couple down the ramp to the tent. A tap on my shoulder and there they were and the lounge was STILL a milling scene. '44 survived, however. Our Cornell Fund trio, Hank Bates, Jerry Levitan, and Peter Miller, did a fantastic job raising over $3.2 million and presented Cornell's No. 1 with the perennial styrofoam check; Pres.Lehman gave us a quick informal summary of things Cornell; Kathy told us how happy she was to be in her new surroundings; and the two then graciously accepted mementos from '44. The 3rd putdown? One of the salad entrees was unidentifiable and tasteless. We deserved to hear about that and we did.

     Our first on-campus gathering: a PANEL LECTURE sponsored by '54 and held in the Kennedy Auditorium, was acclaimed by our classmates as being exceptionally inter-esting and the program received "rave reviews" from all present. The panel consisted of three of Cornell's top personalities, each an outstanding speaker. President Emeri-tus Frank H.T. Rhodes led off with "Educational Systems of the Future" (A real eye-opener); he was followed by  Glenn  C.  Altschuler, the Professor of American Studies and the Dean of Continuing Education who spoke on "The Changing American Culture"(Yet another outstanding address); the two were followed by David L. Call, Dean Emeritus of the College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, whose subject, "Mad Cows - What will we eat?" - a very thought-provoking talk, particularly since we went  to lunch at the Straight  right after his lecture. Our hats are off to the Class of '54 for putting together this fine program. It was a very informative, well-spent hour.

A new experience: riding a '44 bus from Kennedy Hall to our "WORLD OF SUBS LUNCHEON" in Willard Straight's impressive Memorial Room. Our buses drove right onto Ho Plaza, the paved-over street that's now a pedestrian mall running from the Campus Road crossing right up to the Libe Tower. Our '44's were deposited in front of the Straight entrance. How's that for service? .. The Subs were BIG and MANY and the well-attended luncheon went off well  -  the diners had a tubful of  Moose Milk to quaff BEFORE lunch, thanks to our ice cream-toting clerks and  Master Brewmaster Maggie Kappa and Trainee and Heir Apparent Bill Wheeler . . While no one over-indulged or staggered out of the Straight, the Moose Milk was consumed quite quickly - Isch needed a quick "fix" and, unasked, wrung out the traditional "ingredients" one by one into a glass held by Dotty - the bra, the jockstrap, and the red sock - and downed the squeezed out last five ounces of Maggie's Mix!  Ugghhh!
       '44 website viewers got a brief chance to meet and to chat post-lunch with Keith Kubarek, our website programmer, who was our personal luncheon guest along with his wife, Diane .. Left dab smack in the middle of the campus, our guys and gals had a one-time afternoon opp'y to visit the Campus Store or the new Kroch Library, or even take a fast shuffle through the nearby Johnson Museum. With buses off duty until 4 pm, our '44's did one or more of the foregoing and then called it quits OR opted to walk UPHILL to Bartels Hall and attend the ensuing well-publicized lecture.

     At 3 p.m. many of us attended the 2004 OLIN LECTURE featuring Cornell astronaut Edward (Ed) Tsang Lu, '84, a veteran of three space missions and 206 days in space. The affable, young Cornell BSEE's subject was "Rocket Ships, Asteroids, Dinosaurs, and Immortality." It was a fascinating address, particularly that part that dealt with Lu's return to normal life after more than six months in space. Our classmates viewed his presentation from an up front '44 section on the (basketball)  floor of Newman Arena, thanks again to Alumni Affairs. We still remember the Olin Lectures in Bailey Hall at many earlier reunions at which - from our loge seats on one side of Bailey Hall - we '44's viewed the oldtimers filing into their front row seats . . Let's face it, gang! . .  WE are now the oldtimers! 

That evening, we parked our porkpie hats and khakis and donned coats and ties and cocktail dresses for our only "formal" gathering: the 2004 CLASS BANQUET. The function was held in the main ballroom of the Statler Hall and followed a four-bartender, open bar reception that prepped everyone quite well for the activities to follow. The Statler was up to the task - its filet mignon and salmon entree was, in the words of many, "simply outstanding." Dessert served, Class President Dotty, in brief remarks, greeted all as "survivors" adding that she would represent '44 at a next day's "Service of Remembrance" in Sage Chapel for our deceased classmates. Your Reunion Chair then asked all present to observe a moment of silence to remember their longtime classmate, '44 mentor, and close friend of many years, Joe Driscoll. He then introduced dinner guest Deanna Quvus, an Alumni House dynamo who had responded professionally to '44's constant needs and demands for ten months. Lots of applause!

     TIME FOR FUN: Our in house guest speaker was Bob Gallagher who added much levity to the occasion in comparing his childhood days to those now experienced by today's seatbelt-protected, Nintendo-loving, cell phone-carrying, SAT-prepped children. Not following the script, Dan Morris and Peg Addicks, representing the Class Officers, then surprised the two of us in presenting us with a beautifully engraved silver tray and accompanying stipend, the latter muddying our pro bono status. Knowing how these things work from our own experience, few of the attending Class Officers and, of course, NONE of the few Class Officers who did not attend this year's reunion, ever saw the tray or its engraving, so with "War, heartfelt thanks to each of you!" we pass along the tray's inscription to you: "To Art and Dotty Kesten -- Since the beginning, the Soul and Spirit of the Cornell Class of 1944. From their grateful classmates at Reunion 60, Ithaca, 10 June 2004." A delightful evening for many -- and an unforgettable evening for the two of us.

Saturday morning, we had to transport 100 or so '44's from Hurlburt and about an equal number from the Statler Hotel UPHILL to Newman Arena to the 10 a.m. "STATE OF THE UNIVERSITY ADDRESS" by President Lehman . . With the two chartered buses carrying a maximum of 48 on each round trip, we begin the lifts early in the morning and many classmates arrived at Bartels Hall well before the President's address . . This was a most fortunate happening for it gave many of our "early birds" access to our Class of 1944 Memorial Room in Bartels Hall, many of them viewing the room's displays for the very first time. We won't preempt the President's remarks here - check your "Alumni News" or Cornell's website for a full report. Suffice it to say, Cornell University is in good hands: It has top administrators, top faculty, and top staffers!

     Barton Hall was less than 200 yards away and virtually all present strolled downhill from Bartels to the rear entrance of Barton and were seated in their bleacher seats BEFORE noon for their CLASS PHOTO. Happy day for us for we had a 12-minute program on tap before the photo was to be taken, one that introduced 13 of our 20 living CLASS HONORARY MEMBERS to all in attendance. The response of our classmates to our plea to "Please be prompt!" did NOT fall on deaf ears - they were prompt and it was "On with the show!" MC's Andy Capi and Dan Morris did a Huntley-Brinkley routine in introducing each Honorary Member and his or her spouse as well as their Parade escorts who were pre-selected '44 officers and their spouses. It was an exercise that had a high "Disaster!" potential, but everything seemed to go off on time. Passing grade for this activity? It simply can't be a good one - we've never seen so many people scrunched into so few seats. Good sports all - Yes! .. But IF you'll view the 2004 Class Photo shown above and note the many pained expressions on those in the two front rows, you'll see what we mean.

Anxious to stretch - and looking forward to their Saturday luncheon in Barton, our '44 assemblage, augmented by five to ten of our Greater Ithaca Area walk-in classmates, descended from their bleacher seats CAREFULLY (We are octogenarians, remember!) and formed up behind our three majorettes and Johnny Russo's four-piece New Orleans Marching Band. Our 2004 Honorary Parade Marshals, President and Mrs. Rhodes, and their escorts, Jim and Ruth Clark, stepped out quite smartly on hearing "When the Saints Come Marching In!" Carrying out our TRADITIONAL CLASS PARADE, a one-time loop of Barton Hall with music, - banners, pennants, smiles and waves - was quite easy and with that earlier walk downhill from Bartels and our shuffling up and down in the bleachers, it was a great way for all to work up an appetite!

     The ALL-ALUMNI LUNCHEON in Barton is Cornell Catering's annual "mass" effort and this informal sit-down provided yet another opportunity for many '44's to mix and mingle with those classmates they'd missed seeing on both Thursday and Friday. Alumni House had set aside some eighteen 12-seat tables for '44's and their families in one section of Barton Hall and this made table-hopping quite easy for all of our 2004 Paraders ..... Thanks again, Deanna! ... The full afternoon was FREE and OPEN for all to attend any of the CU- sponsored lectures, presentations, etc. We have little doubt that many did just that. We also have little doubt that many "went horizontal" Saturday afternoon.

Our final bash was just that! , , A bash! . . Khaki-clad once again, we took part in the 2004 LOBSTER-BAKE that was held in a humongous tent behind Roberts Hall on the Ag campus. The weather remained beautiful: Warm, cloudless, no threat of a Saturday night precipitation that marred our 55th. . Our ARAMARK caterer's Mark kept his open bar open throughout while the remainder of his 10-man crew steamed the clams and then the mussels and then did the lobsters and the fried chicken . . Johnny Russo's trio kept us all entertained and finger=tapping during the clam-mussel-appetizer period with their solid Dixieland jazz and then MC Dick Evans gave the call, "Gentlemen, start your lobster lines!" At this point, everyone loaded up their trays and busied themselves with their bibs, claw crackers, and Tidy Wipes . . (The Dry Cleaner's Delight? Thy name is Lobster-Bake) . . . Forgot to mention: Dick opened the evening with the Alma Mater and closed the tent down with the Evening Song. We sang louder doing the former. My guess is that we all probably ate too much and didn't have any ummpff left for the latter.

     From our tent at Roberts, we took the ten minute walk over to the Newman Arena to join with the other '4 and '9 Reunion classes at CORNELLIANA NIGHT, the traditional closing gathering on Reunion Weekend . . That's not entirely true for the young and hearty - and the old and foolish - still headed down to the Arts Quad tents after CORNELLIANA NIGHT for what had to be their final "Mix and Mingles." Good music in each tent and open beer spigots! Quick anecdote: We overnighted in Ithaca with our children in 1960 while we were en route to Rochester and brought them to the Reunion tents (A decided "No! No!" at today's Cornell Reunions) . . As an eight- and a ten-year old, they viewed the jitterbugging couples, heard the singing and the harmonizing, saw the many happy smiles on the faces of all in the tents, and must have wondered "This is college? If it is, it seems to be great fun." As later Cornellians, they found out that it really wasn't all fun, but somehow I believe that their early exposure to those Reunion tents had something to do with their choosing Cornell.

     That comprises our "Report Card" on Reunion 2004's day-by-day activities as experienced by your classmates and this Reunion Chair . . There were many highs and, happily, very few lows. Socially, we mixed well and appeared to enjoy ourselves 100% at all but a function or two. Financially, we think we're close to staying in the black but won't know until all of our bills are in and paid. We started with a plus-$6,000 Reunion nest egg that we'd accumulated over the past two Reunions and part or all of this cushion may or may not have to be used this time around.

     What's ahead for '44? . . Our May, 2004 duespayer total of 349 doesn't cover the remaining 300-odd living '44's whom we can't seem to entice into joining our solid circle of old friends . . The two of us are determined to ignore the presence of the Grim Reaper and the actuarial tables and will try our very best to keep our Class at or near the 350 total in the years just ahead.

A hefty 400-page website is one way to get some of the 300-plus outsiders to join us. Continued Class activities -- in the Ithaca area and occasional Class activities elsewhere in the U.S. - and later CLUB 44 cruises in each instance may interest a few more to join our Class as active members.

A third group might just find that our 2004 Reunion slogan, "Share the moment while you are still in the moment!" has some pertinent late-in-life meaning at this point and knowing it really is late in the game they may also opt to re-establish their links with their former Cornell friends. Let's see what happens.

Art Kesten, '44
Reunion Chair, 60th Reunion
 
 
 

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