What an amazing class!

Till hill and valley gaily, gaily ring…

Editor’s note goes here: Here’s what we’ve received so far from classmates wanting to share their memories and impressions of our 50th. We will leave room in our next update for more accounts and reflections so there will be more coming. Care to share your own impressions adn/or those of your companion/spouse? Click here to get started

We lead with our accomplished journalist friend, Mr. John Stickney.

John Stickney –Your Goal the Sky

Reunion weekend unfolded with a kind of narrative power, culminating in that number that rocked the gym when John Oppenheimer announced it.

The number loomed all the larger because Oppy saved the best for last, after a charming, disarmingly wry introduction. Without overplaying the sentiment of it all, he told the story of a college that stood by him as a freshman when his father died.

I myself couldn’t help thinking about two other of our class reunion leaders who first met as scholarship students on kitchen duty in one of the houses.

The number also astonished me because we were a Vietnam-haunted class of doctors and lawyers, not Wall Streeters (or so it seems from Paul Neely’s excellent “Long & Winding Roads”).

Of course we had heavy hitters. But the class leaders, including the house representatives, tirelessly gentled the rest of us into attending — and giving. Meanwhile Alexander Caskey’s class website raised the echoes of who we were, and who taught us.

In this era of absence of belief, the number showed that we believed in the college.

I was moved to learn about the visits that many of our classmates paid during the reunion to our emeritus professors, including Curt Tauber. And of course there was John Hyde at Oppy’s side right after the Saturday annual meeting.

The reunion focused on the college’s academic legacy to us all. The panels that perhaps made the most impact were “The Future of Liberal Arts Education” and the conversation with President-Elect Maud S. Mandel. (I’d also cite the class of 1968 private tour of the Clark Art Institute — which opened in 1955 and lent another dimension altogether to our quirky, backwoods college.)

At the “In Their Own Write” panel on Thursday, Tony Kronman spoke affectingly about his debt to, among others, his philosophy professor Dan O’Connor. The panel met in Griffin 3 (where O’Connor had lectured), which Tony called “the most beautiful classroom in the United States.”

Forgetting about faculty and legacy, we gathered for the “come as you were” dinner on Saturday night. How lucky we were that Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley graced us! Debby and Bart embodied the spirit of celebration that prevailed throughout the weekend.

Collectively we had experienced a singular gathering, a kind of revival meeting, on that reunion weekend, for which the number served as a kind of exclamation point.

After the Sunday breakfast among the emeriti at Faculty House I returned to Griffin 3 to retrieve a keyboard. Outside I met a woman member of the class of 1993 who had just attended a memorial service there for classmates who had died — her husband among them. She asked me to take a photo of her in front of Griffin, and then by the Civil War monument on the lawn. That was her husband’s favorite spot on campus, she said.

May we cherish what we have while we have it.

And now I’m trying to clear my mind of a tune that’s now stuck there: “Yard by Yard.”

G50 — Gurgle turns 50

Pat O’Grady,Dick Eide, Bart Phelps, Bill Untereker, Robin Norris, David Sipress, Willie Williams, Curt Waugh

Editor’s note: Bill (previously known as Rock) Untereker composed and presented these very special words about the vital role this socially conscious organization played during our years. Photo below shows additionally recruited members and t-shirts.

The meeting was called to order more or less around 6:15 PM
The first order of business was the decision to have a meeting which seemed unanimous.
Next on the agenda was the addition of new members during the open enrollment period.   Ed Weeks had been proposed, but had already declared himself a new member so this was moot. An apology was offered to Brother Norris for the injustice he suffered 51 years ago.  It is incomprehensible and inexcusable  that he was not tapped – unless a ’67 Gurgle invested in his fire truck Ponzi scheme.
Other hands were raised and they too were granted admission, by what seemed like unanimous agreement.   (Our government should run so smoothly and amicably).
Next it seemed fitting to have an inspirational message, which I was honored to deliver:
Out off the darkness of 2018 life for men who have reached their 3 score and ten
Out of the darkness of incompetent political leadership, indeed now vulnerable democracies,
Out of the darkness of racism, poverty and partisanship
Out of the darkness of mind-numbing reality TV and group-think reporting,
Out of the darkness of illness and bureaucratic healthcare
Comes a burst of light from the past – G50 – bringing with it:
A reminder that it’s ok to ignore it all for a while and get blotto
A  reminder not to take life to seriously – especially your own
A reminder that this very reunion may be the convening of a Vonnegut granfalloon,
A reminder that we may be the only “normal” ones in this absurd world,
A reminder that we once were young and foolish and maybe that was our finest hour.
G50 – the rebirth of Gurgle
The next unanimous decision was to call Brother Thompson in Virginia.
Pictures were taken of those who had paid for T shirts, and some who had not – front and back.  There was a brief consideration of mooning for the rear shot but one of the physician brothers had heard of something called occult incontinence.
At this point the meeting was adjourned, after about 15 minutes.  Members  with shorter attention spans  already showed signs of boredom and some were wandering back to the bar.  A few went inside to hear the fundraisers congratulate each other for raising 41 million dollars.
 The  phone call to Brother Thompson was slowed by the use of a number in North Carolina provided by Brother Norris – (why did I rely on him for a phone number?)  Eventually I found the right number in an email from Mary.   Brother Phelps, Brother Weeks and Brother Norris spoke to him.   The conversations I overheard were similar in depth to  those heard on Saturday nights 50 years ago.
I was honored to organize this meeting, perhaps my most meaningful  “responsibility” since retirement 3 years ago – certainly among the most pleasurable.
Be well, and don’t take yourselves too seriously.

Rock

Robert Herzog

Editor’s note:
Robert provided us, post-reunion, with an excerpt from his work in progress. Appropriately it recalls the mood and moment of 50 years ago as we prepared to leave the Purple Valley, not without some sadness.

Barton Phelps

Editor’s note: Although an earlier version of these richly and invitingly rhymed verses appears in our classbook; we’ve found the definitive version that graces shown here to be clearly superior. 

An Embarrassment of Riches (or Too Many Options?)

First, a quick prayer to Mnemosyne,
To certify these memories as genuine.
And then her lovely daughter, Thalia,
Muse of buildings and gardens people like using,
A free-flowing river that I still love cruising.
Read on, I’ll spare you the inter alia.

My work’s little changed since I was just five,
It’s the making of places that makes me thrive.
Transforming toil to play is my most pleasant reward,
How useful I’ll have been, we may never know,
At least I’ve got some large objects to show,
Plus a nod from the high road (or is that untoward?).

Plenty of honors but for Starchitect status unfit,
Too many pursuits to corner just one “This is IT!”
Liberal arts education, maybe old Williams to blame –
A pre-med art major taking Roman History?
For “Zeus” Harper, this posed no great mystery,
And, after all, wasn’t this the much advertised aim?

Architecture’s partly guessing what matters the most,
Of real possibilities, there’s rarely a host.
Clients all different, all sites tell a story,
I begin with difference, leave self-expression alone,
Allowing facts to instruct in an ever-sharpening cone,
When grown from the landscape, form earns quiet glory.

After a quarter century of architectural professing,
My academic titles sound wishfully prepossessing,
As wondrous machines eclipsed drawing by hand,
A pioneering scholar lured me partly away,
To landscape history – a semi-autodidactical sort of play,
Considering dynamics of people’s use of the land.

I’m not quite pagan, more amateur animist,
If road spirits track admirers, I’m on their list.
But landscape studies can turn vexing passion,
(Try herding sixty big city architects on a year-long sally,
Tracing 20th century change in the Mississippi’s great valley,
Preaching about touring in more meaningful fashion.)

My father liked noting making Karen Simonson my wife,
Was the smartest thing I had done in my life,
Eph and Cliffie, refugees in L.A.’s chaparral fringe,
Battle building requirements that to them seem extreme,
To build a house on a stairway that bridges a stream,
In a city so hard to know it makes most tourists cringe.

Arroyo House, when published world-wide,
Drew risk-taking clients, talented help to my side.
Once a destination, last house up a steep canyon lane,
Now a portal to gardens, vineyard, hilltops beyond,
Of the summer récolte, friends have grown so fond,
There’s even a barefoot grape crushing refrain.

With daughter, Charlotte, we’ve often journeyed afar,
Pursuing views other than L. A. as seen from the car.
World travel reveals oddity in the look of America’s communities,
But, if geographical distinctions help us to feel secure,
Crude tinkering with this grand experiment leaves me deeply unsure,
Like most aging Boomers, I rue our era’s missed opportunities.

Happiness doesn’t elude me, why not is easy to say,
But at some point, I expect, sadness stops going away.
Love’s key to optimism: friendship, kindness, generosity,
It’s right the Williams we knew should no longer exist,
But, memory of its high spirits seems to persist,
And that I wouldn’t be accepted now arouses no animosity.

Bob Lux

Amazing stuff and yet I don’t think about it much. Seeing some classmates after 50 years, e.g., frosh roommate Bill Gardner.

Williams F had a party sponsored by Guy Horsely & wife at Williams Inn. Skip Edmonds was there – last saw him in Seattle, 1980.

And there are those who have never written or come to reunions that I can tell, e.g., Jim Love. I remember him at the library all the time. Premed, from one of the Carolinas, I think, became a neurologist but never a word. Quite a few did not write essays. Met Teschke’s widow and son Max from Portland, ME. Son in Newton. Maybe we’ll have a cup of coffee in Newton Center someday.

I never crossed paths with Spencer Beebe on the campus but had a nice talk with him after the Clark lecture. He was sitting by the large pool behind with Stone Hill green under blue sky for backdrop. We talked about Punta Arenas, CR, Peace Corps, Isla del Coco & eastern South Pacific Islands & then he was gone, who knows maybe forever. I think Trav Auburn said he’d been to every reunion. Clint Wilkins’s dad was there for his 75th! It goes on and on, doesn’t it? When we return to the campus “sporadically” in the future as in the past, recollections of the 50 will enhance those visits. We might actually go to a Williams-Amherst football game, who knows.

I went to my high school 50th. There was one prior reunion, in 2000, the 36th. Didn’t go.  So all those kids I saw there at the 50th, were unheard from for 50 yrs. it was a more tender age, too. I wrote a poem about it. I’ll find it & send. It doesn’t apply to Williams so much tho since there have been so many opportunities to keep abreast of classmates thru notes & reunions – but still, spooky to me (shy type) to see faces after so long. Maynard came with his daughter Jane ‘95 for Saturday PM only. And a long list I saw but did not get to even say hi. Saw Chris Dornin from afar – he’s a sailor who actually lives in Concord. I’ll have to chase him down. I could go on…but I’d have to pause to reflect.

Dick Heller and Bob McCloud reflect on their Cap and Bells reunion, one of several reunions inside our main reunion

A group of ’68 classmates who had been active in Cap and Bells had lunch at the home of Rita Watson on the Saturday of our reunion.
Rita had been the costume designer during our entire time at Williams and still lives in town. Her late husband Jack had been the technical director. Jack passed away of heart disease in 1999.
Present were Dick Heller, Bob McCloud, David Earle, Mike Morfit and Bob Herzog and our accompanying spouse or companion.
Rita made a wonderful lunch and we all had some fine reminiscences of the active and creative Adams Memorial Theater in our day.
Rita surprised us all by inviting Kathy Toohey to join us. Kathy had been at Mt. Greylock High School at the time and was the leading lady in “Carousel” opposite David Earle and “Under Gaslight” opposite Dick Heller. She is a voice teacher in North Adams today.

Also visiting, but known only to me, were Steve Hardy and Marta Rudolph, both ’73, who had been active in the theater after our time. They both felt that the theater was more active and creative in our day, before it became a major and lost its student driven spontaneity.

Bob adds:
It was Friday, I think, although the weekend melds together in a blur. As an undergraduate, I was so intimidated by Rita’s coolness that I did not realize how close in age she actually is to us. Also, missing was one of our absolutely most talented members, the late John DeMarco.

Michael Yogman reports on the status of Wall Ball at Spencer House 50 years later

After lunch Sat at the reunion,Jeff Palmer, FaST Eddie weeks,
Bill Untereker and I played a reunion game of wall ball at Spencer house.
I am sending 3 pix. We could not remember the rules but were disappointed
that the college had removed the bushes which were a critical part of the game.

Wall Ball is alive and well: Michael Yogman, Bill Untereker, Jeff Palmer at Spencer House
Jeff Palmer is willing to give lessons to anyone who cares to re-learn Wall Ball