I write this sitting in a small dormitory room at Haverford College, which I entered in 1963, but from which I did not finally graduate until 1973. This weekend is the 45th reunion of my original class.
I could, as this is Saturday morning, be writing my usual Saturday morning reflection on teaching. This will serve in its stead, because Haverford College played a significant role in my becoming a teacher, and in how I have always been drawn to my a life of service.
This is a reflection on a remarkable group of men whom I have now known for almost half a century.
I have not been in as close contact with some of the classmates as with others, but I suppose that is par for the course.
I always delight in reconnecting, on the occasions where I lives interconnect, and at these get-togethers every five years, of which I have missed only 2.
Let me tell a bit about some of my classmates.
Some have served in public office, either elective, appointive, or both. One was on Arlington Virginia County Board at the time I moved to the county in 1982, and later held state-wide appointed office in Virginia. Another has held appointive and elective office statewide in a Western state. Both of these tried unsuccessfully for Congress against incumbent Republicans, neither regretting the attempt.
Another who has served in important appointed positions in a Northeastern State thought he had retired but is finishing a one-year service as the interim president of a state college as they transition to a new permanent hire. Like me, he has in the past been asked about running for public office, but declined.
I am not alone in being involved in education. One classmate who cannot join us is one of the most eminent anthropologists around, and is off at a conference in Berlin. Another is one of the more eminent figures in philosophy with an endowed chair at one of this nation's most eminent universities, and has just been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Science.
Others teach subjects like Anthropology and Chemistry, some at highly prestigious universities, others at lesser known institutions where they have brought the standards of scholarship, research and teaching that we experienced at Haverford to those institutions.
One of our classmates is infamous, barred from every casino in North America and probably most in the world, because he was one of the best card counters ever, at a time before most people knew what card counting was. He became the youngest vice president of a major Wall Street firm in its history when he was in his 20s, but his salary in that position was only about twice what he could make in a weekend playing cards. He is a superb investor, and has used his skill (in investment, not card playing) to assist the College in growing its endowment.
We have others who have taught public schools.
We have many doctors and lawyers.
Several are clergy, including one who did racial reconciliation work in Africa.
Some ran their own businesses - in construction, in plumbing, selling mattresses . . .
I am not alone in having served in the Marines - there were four of us, with several serving in Vietnam. A number of others had their professional lives postponed or interrupted by service in the Army.
Others did service in VISTA or the Peace Corps.
I have been blessed or cursed with a memory for details about the past. We were as freshman a wild group. We have over the decades been as passionate about our individual interests as we were then - about Bryn Mawr girls, the sports we played, life in general.
We realize how fortunate we were to attend an institution of the quality of Haverford.
Our original class was 130. Some left quickly, some over time (including me). There are those who graduated with this class that did not start with it, transferring in or deferring from earlier classes.
As noted, I did not graduate with them, but with almost all of us having lived in the same dormitory as freshmen, I am bound far more closely with this group of men than with the class I joined as a junior.
Today we will have gatherings with our equivalent class at Bryn Mawr. Several of my classmates married women from that class, a few married women from other classes. I know that two of the women with whom I was close in that class will not be here this weekend. There are others I hope to see.
We will also get together with a number of professors who were important in our lives. This has been a regular part of our gatherings over the past three decades. They may be retired but they remain connected to the College.
We are the class of 1967. Most turn 67 this year. There are a few older, and a few like me a bit younger.
An increasing number of us have already retired or do so imminently, as this academic year winds down (someone teaching at Dartmouth) or because they are ready to move on. Most of us plan to stay active in other ways.
We share our lives in our conversations. We hear about children and grandchildren.
There are joys.
There are real sorrows - one classmate shared with two of us yesterday something he has not really been willing to talk about, his son being murdered a few years ago. More than a few have lost spouses along the way. One of my former roommates has been hit very hard by a debilitating disease and for a number of years has basically lost all mobility below his neck. He is rarely able to travel, but another person with whom I roomed has now for several of this gatherings been able to include him via computer conferencing.
There are three institutions that have had profound influences on me. My brief time in the Marines taught me a great deal, about myself and about this country.
What was then National Music Camp in Interlochen Michigan is where I found that I could be not a freak because of my passion for music and also connect with other parts of myself - it is where I first learned about soccer, about the outdoors and nature, and how to cook over an open fire.
Then there is Haverford College. It is here, on this verdant campus, that I began to experience what I could do with my mind.
I first learned about real thinking here.
I first began to learn how to write, although that is a skill that developed much more later in life, in large part because of my participation at Daily Kos.
I learned a great deal about integrity. We saw it in our professors. I saw it in classmates who did alternative service because they were opposed to Vietnam. I saw it in a then very small (less than 500 students, now more than twice that size) college in which each individual was valued.
I really learned about soccer here, even though I played only one varsity game in my three years of intercollegiate sports. We had a legendary coach in Jimmy Mills, in the Soccer Hall of Fame as player and coach, and coach of the 1956 US Olympic Team.
It was because of a conversation at the reunion 25 years ago that I came to leave my career with computers and train to become a teacher.
And eventually, because of what started I first encountered here, I found my spiritual home in the Religious Society of Friends.
I heard of the death of a former administrator at the College, I read a piece he had written about why he was still a pacifist even after 9-11. I began attending Meeting for Worship on a regular basis.
Finally, in the Fall of 2002, I told an acquaintance of many years I was going to apply for Membership. And he, my freshman year roommate from Haverford, said that maybe after 39 years I was finally ready.
It is hard to imagine looking at us that we both ran cross-country as freshmen (until I switched to soccer).
Now, almost half a century later, we sit five feet apart on the same bench at Meeting for Worship.
Much of what I value in myself, much of what I offer to the rest of the world, is a direct product of my years at Haverford, beginning in September of 1963 when I entered this august (founded in 1833) academic institution.
Some of the buildings I knew have disappeared. Many have been changed.
People whose influence on my was profound have in many cases passed on.
I would come back for the occasional retirement, and for memorials for a music professor who was a close friend from when he was my freshman year advisor.
One of those who will join us this afternoon is an eminent (Bancroft prize winning) historian.
When I interviewed at Haverford in October of 1962, I had brought down some papers I had done in AP US History in high school. The Dean of Admissions at that time was also Vice President of the College. He asked if he could borrow those papers.
I later found out that Roger Lane, that Bancroft Prize winner, was interviewed using in part my papers. His first official duty at Haverford was to read my AP materials to decide how much credit to give me - my 5 on the AP exam was not a guarantee of a full year's credit.
When I returned to the college to finish in the fall of 1971, there were times Roger and I double-dated. I was at 25 as close in age to him than I was to the freshmen whose resident upperclassman I was in the same dormitory where I had 8 years before been a freshman.
I am 66. I have been connected with this college, this campus, this community, for almost half a century.
Some who could not join us this time have promised to come 5 years from now.
My wife only came here once, on my 25th. She has promised to come with me in five years, noting that means I am committing to still being alive 5 years from now.
We have only lost a few of us. We hope we will lose few more in the next five years.
This may be my final weeks at the school at which i teach, but I left school early yesterday to beat the holiday traffic to get here.
Coming together again.
Remembering how this place and these people helped shape me in ways that have made me a more effective teacher and a far better human being.
I am glad I came - in 1963 as a student, and this weekend as an alumnus.