Alumni reunite on Homecoming

Alumni+reunite+on+Homecoming

Neeva Patel, Staff Writer

“Reunions across the country might initiate anxiety and bring back feelings of being 17 again, but when people go and just connect with people they’ve grown up with, it’s always a really fun experience,” Director of Development Melissa Parento ‘90 said.  

Every year the school hosts class reunions on the evening of Homecoming for past classes to reunite, Director of Alumni Relations Kristin Lax P’22 ‘26 said. The reunions also encourage alumni to attend Homecoming, since they are already in the area for reunions, Lax said.

This Saturday, 13 classes will reunite: the Class of 1957 and every multiple of five onwards until 2017. The reunions will all take place at the Harmonie Club in Manhattan, with different spaces reserved for each of the different classes. The reunions are managed by the Alumni and Development Office, and Parento and Lax plan most of the events, she said. 

Robert Owens ‘67 P’18, P’21 loves to attend reunions because they allow him to once again share a space with the intelligent people he grew up with, he said. “The nicest thing was the camaraderie,” he said. “You share your school career with some incredibly interesting and smart kids, and then you all go on your own way.”

Although Owens does not attend every reunion, he was keen on attending his 50th reunion five years ago because of how special and important of a year it was —  in total, around 25 alumni attended. “Everyone was sitting around big tables over dinner and either saying, ‘do you remember that weird thing that happened in 7th grade?’ or just catching up on what people have been doing with their lives,” he said. Since several of Owens’ classmates had passed away, the class held a moment of silence to remember these individuals.

Andrew Peck ‘87 P’24, P’26 also enjoyed reconnecting with various members of his class during reunions, the vast majority of which he had not seen since graduating from the school. The last reunion Peck attended was 15 years ago. “It was interesting to learn where various people had ended up not only personally, but also professionally and geographically,” he said. 

For Head of Middle Division Javaid Khan ‘92, reunions remind him of how his classmates’ faces really haven’t changed, he said. “If you haven’t seen someone for five to ten years, you expect not to recognize them, but the minute you see them, you feel like you are back in the cafeteria again,” he said. Khan has attended almost all of his class reunions and will be attending his 30th this weekend. “In the five-year reunion, everyone is saying ‘we should hang out more or exchange numbers,’ but by the 30th it’s just good to see everyone, there is no promise beyond that,” he said.

 Reunions differ depending on the class’ age, Parento said. “The older classes might have a seated dinner and cocktail hour or something more conducive to what a 65-year-old would enjoy, while the younger classes have a cocktail reception with hors d’oeuvres,” she said. 

In the Class of ’87’s room, Parento and Lax will play an 80s-themed playlist; for the Class of ’92, they made a playlist from that generation. “Kristin has good taste in music, so she’ll put popular modern songs in and mix it with songs from the class’ generation,” Parento said.

 In past years, Lax would personally design a playlist based on the music a class listened to in high school, she said. However, she now plays a Spotify pre-made selection for each party.

 Ticket prices are also carefully picked so that a wide range of alumni can attend the reunions. Older classes typically pay $100 while younger classes pay anywhere from $50 to $75, Parento said.

The school subsidizes the budgets for reunions depending on the number of alumni attending. Hotel venues in New York City can cost up to $295 per person for cocktails and dinner, but the school only charges a maximum of $100 per person and covers the rest, Lax said. “If anyone has difficulty paying for their ticket, we always are flexible, because we don’t want cost to prevent anyone from attending,” she said.

 Parento and Lax select the venue, pick out invitations, curate the menu, and engage with different members of the class, she said. Alumni on the volunteer committee are only responsible for helping with outreach.“It always works best when you have reunion chairs who can be the champions to send emails and motivate their classmates to come, so Kristin and I work with these members of the class to help others get excited and to attend,” Parento said. 

The directors book a venue and send a “save the date” once the Athletics Department decides a Homecoming date over the summer, Lax said.

It was difficult to find a venue for Homecoming this year because there are a large number of weddings in Manhattan this weekend, Parento said. Luckily, the Harmonie Club had a last-minute cancellation and enough individual spaces to host all of the classes in one place.

Working with the alumni volunteers is always easy, Parento said. “The thing people find out over time is that everyone always has fun at the reunions,” she said. “Often alumni say, ‘should I go, should I not go, are you going?’ We always say ‘just trust us.’” Year after year, alumni express how glad they are that they attended, and many say that the reunions were much more fun than they expected, she said.

 “It’s very interesting that there is still peer pressure at our age — if you are on an email chain with 15 people and a lot of people are saying ‘come on let’s go,’ it’s hard to turn that down,” Owens said.

The classes that graduated five or ten years ago tend to have a higher attendance rate than older classes, Parento said. Milestone years such as a 25th or 50th-year reunion always garner more attendance than usual. “It really has to do with the class — you can even feel now that certain classes are really close, and that carries through to the reunions as well,” she said.

 Lax has also noticed that classes have distinct personalities. “Some classes are extremely enthusiastic about coming together while others are not,” she said. For the 50th Golden Anniversary Reunion, alumni wear name tags featuring photos of their senior portraits and their names, and guests get a kick out of seeing how their classmates have changed over the years, she said. 

“The pins they gave us at the 50th were so interesting to look at because we all looked so different back then — I mean we were wearing suit jackets,” Owens said.

 Although reunions have existed for a long time, the current format — where they host Homecoming in one venue with different individual spaces — has only been around for the last 15 years, Parento said. When alumni walk into the venue there is one main check-in area, but each class is led into their own separate rooms. “In each room there is buzz and excitement and music and laughing and food. It’s a really nice environment to be in,” she said.

 For Khan, the only downside of reunions is that you can really only connect with your class, he said. “You are sometimes closer with people in the class above or below you, but since you can’t see them at the reunions, that is what Homecoming is for,” he said.

 The check-in area of the venue buzzes with excitement as alumni arrive, and becomes so busy that it can be challenging to coax the guests into their respective rooms. The highlight of reunions is glimpsing the joy on the faces of classmates who haven’t seen each other in a very long time or who are surprised to run into one of their former teachers, Lax said. 

This weekend, Khan is excited to see how his classmates are progressing in their life, career, and family, but most of all, he wants to be around friends again, he said. “Even if you don’t keep in touch with people after graduation, your high school career still matters tremendously to who you are now and for that, I am very grateful.”