I have to begin by saying that I have no idea what a “normal” college reunion is like. I picture football games, halftime bands, sorority and fraternity parties and a good deal of alcohol consumption. That last may be the one thing that a homecoming reunion at St. John’s College has in common with other homecomings.
My husband (who was in my class at St. John’s) and I hadn’t been to a reunion since the 25th, but we had been tapped as co-chairs for the 45th. The first thing you have to understand is that St. John’s is a tiny school. I think that there are around 400 current students on the Annapolis campus and an equal number on the Santa Fe one. In the mid to late 1960s the student bodies were smaller. I believe that the graduation rates have increased since my time, also. Our freshman class was around 100 and if memory serves me, about 50 or 60 of us finally graduated. This is my long-winded way of explaining why when 11 us (plus one spouse who is also the mother of a graduate) showed up, it was a pretty good number.
But what is a reunion all about? You go to the place where you were x number of years ago and you hang-out with people you haven’t seen for years (and maybe didn’t know so well to start). A reunion/homecoming at St. John’s is different. What makes a St. John’s reunion for me is several things. First, the school is small enough that one knows people from other classes. Second, because we all had pretty much the same curriculum and read the same books we could talk to friends (some old and some new) from the Classes of 1984, 1967, 1956 and 1965 with no problem. And, third, the experience is intellectually stimulating. Even the Friday night lecture, which wasn’t very good, sparked a breakfast discussion at our B & B about Dostoevsky and “The Brothers Karamazov”. We came home and researched translations and will order and read the book again.
Our class had a seminar on Moliere’s “Misanthrope” led by two tutors that many of us had studied with back when we were students. The College also mixed in some current students. It was a lively event with discussion on comedy, tragedy and what it means to be a misanthrope. The play came up several times in other discussions over the weekend and my husband and I talked about it on the drive home to Vermont. That is a powerful experience. Seminars are the heart of any reunion at St. John’s but are not the only shared experience that is re-experienced. There was also Freshman chorus (think of a bunch of mostly non musicians singing Mozart and rounds as we were once required to do. ) That was fun!
This was the anniversary of the writing of the “Star-Spangled Banner” by Francis Scott Key who is an alumni of what we fondly refer to as the Old Program. (St. John’s is the third oldest college in the United States after Harvard and William and Mary.) In his honor we all toddled out to back campus after drinking much wine at dinner (and the pre-dinner reception) to watch the fireworks over College Creek after this year’s Freshmen sang the “Star-Spangled Banner” It was a great Homecoming and Reunion.
Photograph: Tia Pausic