When the Saints Came Marching Home!
I recently accompanied my hero to his 50 th reunion
at St. Lawrence University. It wasn’t easy getting him there.
When the reservation form came in, he kept tossing it and I kept retrieving
Excuses, excuses, excuses. The classmates who were his true buddies
were not going. The date was rife with conflicts. It was a five-hour
trip. His fraternity was no longer on campus. He wouldn’t know
I believe that a 50 th reunion is an important rite of passage. If
you are walking, talking and breathing, and your alma mater throws
you a party, you should make an effort to show up. It’s a chance
for reflection on past and present and a brief encounter with your
own mortality. Only the well-examined life gives meaning to the journey.
Besides, I love reunions, especially those of other people. To stop
his nagging spouse, he relented and sent back the crumpled, garbage-stained
reservation form. He owes me for my persistence. He had a ball.
St. Lawrence is a university that knows how to get all gussied up
and strut its stuff for its returning alums. He hadn’t been on
campus since his 25 th, and he was in awe of the progress reflected,
not only in stone and mortar, but also in devotion to student-focused
The man who wasn’t going to know anyone knew everyone. The
four-day event, a time span we feared would compel us to dwell too
long in the land of reminiscence, flew by. So has half a century.
He was handed an elaborate reunion packet that included a charming
memory book. I read it cover to cover. My hero never turned a page.
I conducted an informal survey and concluded not paying attention to
packets is a guy thing.
At social events, I would introduce a fact gleaned from the memory
book and women present would recognize my reference point. They had
read the book. Nary a guy had a clue as to the source of my information.
Real men don’t use campus maps either. I never left the room
without it. My hero never knew he had one. The fact that when he graduated
St. Lawrence had 10 campus buildings, and now boasted 69, didn’t
compromise his faith in winging it.
The feminist in me noticed two returning males to every woman. At
first I feared something in the North Country was causing women to
die off quicker, but the reason was less lethal. In his senior year
there were 831 men and 440 women on campus.
The distancing of women showed up in other statistics. Back in 1954,
a male athlete had seven varsity teams for which to vie. Women had
one. Today, men have 16, women 15, with one (riding) that is coed.
In 1954, women constituted 14 percent of the faculty, while today they
represent 45 percent.
The only figures that made comparisons other than celebratory were
those involving tuition. In 1954, tuition, room and board totaled $1,360.
In 2003-2004, it totaled $35,945.
I don’t have the exact statistics, but I can give you the gist
of a comment made by the president, Daniel F. Sullivan, at a talk for
alums. In answer to a question on cost, he explained that while the
greatest percentage of students pay in the middle $20,000 range, even
those paying full tuition are subsidized. The actual cost to the institution
for each student is about $60,000. Wow!
Excerpted and adapted with permission from The Valley News,
Bristol, Conn., June 17, 2004. The writer, longtime author of the paper’s
column “View from my window,” is the wife of “my hero,” Francis
K. “Bud” Kelly ’54.