71 from ’71: Remembering the Good Old Days

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Seventy-one members of the Gonzaga Class of 1971 returned to campus in September for a love-filled fall festival that included golf and bike riding, campus tours and a meal in the COG, a few drinks and many stories. As alumnus Mike Killeen said, “We often tell the same stories we told five years earlier, but each reunion they get better.” Former Gonzaga Alumni Director and class member Marty Pujolar captured the reunion’s essence here.

The second week of September on campus. Spokane’s best weekend. Fall is in the air even though it is technically summer for two more weeks. Cool mornings. Leaves in the maples just turning bright colors allow the morning sun to stream through, beginning to warm for a more than pleasant afternoon. It was pretty much the same 49 years ago.

We are back … again. The Class of ’71. We return every time the five-year clock goes off. Swallows following a strange gravitational-like pull to our home away from home. A tradition borne in 1967. A time filled with change and challenge on campus and across our nation. Almost 50 years ago, perhaps a simpler time, a time of wide-eyed exploration and constant growth. The draw to return is similar for most GU classes:friends/classmates and Gonzaga.

71-ladies

Peggy Fischer, Ann Koegan, Janice Huttula and Janis Parente

As with the Gonzaga campus we have changed and yet much remains the same. Like the AD Building (College Hall, please), friendships have endured and like the new “COG” much has changed, improved and expanded. I’m not just talking pant size. Learning what has transpired in our lives since the last time we were together 5, 10, 20 or even 45 years ago are well-enjoyed journeys. Laughter is long and warm. We recognize everyone with helpful name tags to fill in the gaps. Old songs, pranks, games, concerts, professors and significant/trivial events flash back freely with the help of our ever-increasing long term memories.

Over 60 is really the new 59.

A full slate of activities helps convince us that over 60 is really the new 59. Jack & Dan’s to open the reunion. While schooners are no longer a quarter and Jack is not dispensing brew and wisdom to those in need of both, the familiarity of old friends and an older venue kick things off. Campus and city tours, lunch, golf, bike riding fill the days where we spent four of our most formative years. Barrister Winery on Friday night proves we have discovered adult beverages beyond Oly, Pabst and Rainier. Fines wines and civilized conversation rule the night. Saturday nights in the COG no longer involve food fights or now well wasted money on a DJ. The void is filled with talk of family, careers, adventures, retirement, meds and body parts. Our reunions are not complete without a Sunday mass in the Student Chapel with our classmate, friend, Jesuit, Fr. Pete Neeley S.J. Pete never fails to leave us with words to carry us back home and anticipate our next return to Gonzaga.

Our classmate Tim Maciel who travels from Vermont to our reunions said it best: “I love GU reunions. Sure the golf and food and drinking and reminiscing of crazy and wild and touching times were all fun. It’s also wonderful to see the campus and to see how GU is thriving but, more importantly, our reunions are a time to ensure ourselves that our friendships are still intact. At our age, I think we realize how important these relationships are and what a meaningful part of our lives they have been, even decades later. Most of us, I believe, are pretty well settled personally and professionally in our lives and so these reunions allow us time not only to take stock in our own lives, but to take joy in the accomplishments of our classmates. And how fortunate are we to claim Fr. Pete as a friend and classmate. The Mass he says on Sunday is the perfect culmination of the weekend.”

Goodbyes linger. We look around for the final time this time.  We see an amazing campus and watch young men and women who have taken our places and hope they find the joy, excitement and steadfast friendships we discovered on this same ground.

Yes, we are still as cool a fall morning on campus and our friendship and love are warmer than the sun-drenched afternoons.

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