You will have already savored George’s brilliant recap of our 60th Reunion in the last issue. He vividly captured the grand themes and many closely observed small details of that memorable event. His was truly a “you are there” essay, almost a Bach cantata, mirroring George’s passion for the great music master. George’s multi-generational family ties to Wesleyan are deep and lasting. It is an honor to serve as co-class secretary with him during these years of fond recall.
Nevertheless, I will try here to recapitulate a few other stirring moments and memories from that significant six-decade milestone in our Wesleyan journey.
Relax, Reminisce, Reunite: These were the three R’s of our days on campus during the 60th Reunion. Twenty-two stalwart ’56ers (with some more frosty than frisky) were on hand, along with spouses, to trip the life fantastic.
We formed a resilient coterie of WESeniors from 1935 to 1965. Old friendships were renewed and new ones formed. President Michael Roth ’78 reported on dynamite enrollment data: Twelve thousand applications for 740 seats, a rate far exceeding Amherst and Williams with less than 8,000 applications each. He also waxed eloquent, witty, and visionary on several occasions. His commitment to liberal arts education resounds with the same strong passion that drove former president Vic Butterfield. Roth has moved on from Vic’s “well-rounded man” mantra to new themes of diversity and multi-culturalism. With allusions taken from Thomas Jefferson and other historic figures, he portrayed Wesleyan’s goals as active verbs: assimilate, animate, cooperate, and instigate.
On each of these themes, he gave illustrations and examples of the process on campus, often with the names of prominent achievers. Notable among these was Lin-Manuel Miranda ’02. Lin-Manuel, along with Thomas Kail ’99, have taken Broadway by storm. With the blockbuster, hip-hop musical Hamilton, they have opened creative new streams of American ethnicity and creativity. President Roth had doubtless imbibed some of the hip-hop Kool-Aid as he bopped up and down and all around the Art Center auditorium during his animated presentation.
He followed this energetic performance later on during the traditional class luncheon in the ’92 Theater. His personal story and reflections on the life and death of Carl Schorske, who passed away at 100, were special since he was Carl’s last doctoral student at Princeton. These allusions rang the strong bells of Wesleyana memories in this rapt observer. President Roth reflected about the identification and passion for student learning and discovery that was the hallmark of Vic Butterfield’s leadership.
With the special THIS IS WHY issue of the magazine, you will have noted the results of the latest Wesleyan fundraising campaign—$482 million! President Roth’s commitment to Wesleyan leadership is seen in this important area as in so many others. In this volatile economy, with changing workforce and job structures, there are factors that push students toward vocational, technical, and job-specific university programs. Wesleyan’s emphasis on lifelong learning is counter to those national trends. To glean the enrollment and financial challenges facing small liberal arts colleges in this era, you should check out Roth’s Beyond the University: Why Liberal Education Matters (2015).
We have received a note from Sue Van Voorhees, that our classmate, Peter Van Voorhees, has died of natural causes. “Our family lived in Middletown and was the seventh family to move into Wesleyan Hills—a new concept in planned community living. Our children went to Wesley School (elementary). Harold Kaplan was the principal. We have fond memories of its safe, simple, lifestyle—walking to school, skating on the pond, parties and Scouts in the barn, and kids roaming free from one cul-de-sac to another.
“Peter was employed at Wesleyan from 1969-1970 under Colin Campbell. He was an assistant development officer. When administrations changed, he moved into banking as a trust officer in Meriden. This became his major career that ended in Philadelphia with First Pennsylvania Bank.
“While in Middletown, he was instrumental in helping Oddfellows Playhouse obtain nonprofit status from the IRS. This was the year they were founded and held performances in the old Oddfellows Hall on Main Street. Our children became part of the troupe from the first performance of Middletown Fantasia by Nat Needle ’76, until we moved away when they were teenagers.
“Peter was an avid fan of Wesleyan football, and our family did not miss many games. We attended with Joe Lynch ’47, who was your most loyal fan for many years. Peter loved Wesleyan as a student. He talked many times about the lifelong value of required Freshman English. It taught him basics he applied and quoted for years. He needed to leave Wesleyan for financial reasons. He worked odd jobs for two years, then transferred to the University of Vermont, where he earned a B.A. in geology.”
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