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YAM Notes: July/August 2011

By Gregory A. Weiss

Attendance records and glorious weather—an unbeatable combination that led to a terrific reunion! With 225 classmates representing almost 25 percent of living alums and a total attendance (including guests) of 395 under the tents in TD, we blew away the records long held by the Classes of ’44 and ’50. The weekend started on a high note with an informative presentation to a joint audience of ’66ers and ’56ers on Thursday afternoon by David Swensen, Yale’s incredibly successful chief investment officer. His reward was a coveted Yale ’66 blue-and-white-striped reunion jacket, which he enthusiastically accepted. John Bockstoce followed with a fascinating talk based upon his new book about the history of the Alaskan fur trade.

After lunch on Friday almost 150 of us met for what is becoming a hallmark and highlight of our reunions: an “open mike” session, which invites all classmates to speak and make us laugh. The topic this time was “My most embarrassing moment.” We heard stories from a couple dozen classmates and at least one spouse. Most of them had the crowd roaring, including Guy Moss’s tale, which ended improbably with his then–ten-year-old son in a tug-of-war with Chief Justice William Rehnquist over a cheap towel. Our Friday afternoon memorial service, honoring all our deceased classmates—including the 28 who have died since our last reunion—and led by Steve Clement, Jed Mannis, Tom Porter, and Ben Liptzin, was dignified and moving. The tent sparkled on Friday night for the class dinner with an excellent steak meal and wines produced and donated by Josh Jensen, Ted Elliott, and Mike Parry. We were visited just before dinner by President and Mrs. Levin and treated them to a surprise, the world premiere of an anthem to our class, “Our Time, Our Yale,” recently written by Damon Baker and sung by Terry Mullin. Our class officers were reelected (some say “resentenced”); Fred Berg was given a Distinguished Service Award for his commitment to Yale ’66; and our class gift and Alumni Fund leaders, Tom Barry, Biff Folberth, Tim Wollaeger, and Bob Brundige, reported on our $19,500,000 (to date) class gift. Eleven first-time attendees were recognized, as were the 15 classmates who have come to all nine class reunions. Denis Gray (Bangkok), J. K. Singh (Bombay), and George Semler (Barcelona) were noted as traveling the farthest. After dinner we were entertained by our Whiffs, still in excellent voice.

On Saturday, after lunch in the tent with bright blue skies, a big crowd walked up to the Law School auditorium for a discussion led by our two Emmy Award–winning writers, Jeff Lewis and David Milch. Framed by their careers in TV but ranging way beyond and moving from serious and thoughtful to hilarious and almost manic, most of us came away amazed. This was David’s first reunion, and his effort to fly in and out from the West Coast for the day was much appreciated. Later in the afternoon, at the university-wide “Celebration of Song,” a packed house of 2,700 in Woolsey Hall heard Baker and Mullin perform (at the special request of the AYA) Damon’s song, which brought the house down. Many of us spent the late afternoon walking around the campus; with all the college renovations almost completed, it has never looked better. Dinner Saturday night, with more Yale ’66 wine, featured perfect ambiance and conversations between old friends as we were serenaded by the Bales-Gitlin Band, which by 10 p.m. had almost everyone on the dance floor, many with replacement parts moving like new!

It was a terrific three-and-a-half days. And credit must be given to Cary Koplin, reunion cochairman, for whom no detail is too small and who, after chairing nine consecutive reunions, has become the “dean” of Yale College reunions. Yours truly, as the other cochairman, hopes he was able to make some meaningful contribution. Cary always says, “good people make the party,” and we had a heckofa good one this time. Now the challenge is to make the 50th even better!