Reliving Memories and Renewing Friendships with the Class of 1963
By Fr. Charles H. Allen, S.J., Alumni Chaplain
In just a few weeks, more than a thousand Fairfield alumni will gather here on campus during Reunion Weekend to see how their friends and former classmates have fared over the years, catching up with each other and reconnecting with their alma mater.
Commencement Weekend, however, is always a special time set aside for the 50th Reunion class. And this past weekend, the Fairfield University Class of 1963 proudly celebrated, processing in with the Class of 2013. I was thrilled to be there and cheer them on.
In fact, I spent much of the weekend with this group of accomplished men. This Reunion in particular had special meaning for me. Had I been fortunate enough to live a normal life, I would have been a member of this Class of 1963, from “that Jesuit institution which is not a college and is not in Boston.” Realizing, however, that I could receive a degree from Boston College without paying a penny of tuition, I joined the Jesuits and, because of my two-year novitiate at Shadowbrook, I graduated in 1965. (Little did I realize that I would be paying for that decision for the rest of my life.)
And so, though technically a member of the Boston College Class of 1965, I feel much closer to the members of the Fairfield University Class of 1963. This is partly due to the fact that this class is of my age cohort, but more especially because I am their chaplain and have spent some 28 years on the same campus where they lived, studied, and prepared themselves to take on the obligations of their future lives.
Like most 50th Reunion Weekends, I led a tour of the campus. It is always a delight to hear alumni, especially those who have come from a great distance and not seen the campus in many years, comment on how many new buildings there are and how much has changed. (When I first visited Fairfield University in the summer of 1966, as a very narrow-minded Bostonian my first reaction was “this is a great forest primeval, but where is the university?” There is no question as to where the University is in 2013!)
My major problem in leading these tours is discouraging the alumni from visiting each building. I keep telling them to come back later when they have more time. A brief visit to the DiMenna- Nyselius Library takes at least a half hour, as does a visit to the Barone Campus Center, the Jesuit Community Center, any one of the new apartment buildings—including the former Julie Hall (the Dolan campus), where I now live—and the Quick Center.
As per usual, following the tour there was the wonderful Commencement Mass in Alumni Hall where the 50th Reunion Class was joined by this year’s graduates—both seniors and graduate students, their friends and families, and members of the faculty and staff. As chaplain to the Glee Club, I am always especially proud of how their music makes even Alumni Hall become a place of beauty and reverence.
Most poignant, however, was that moment during the Mass when deceased members of the Class of 1963 were noted in the Prayers of the Faithful, and the sadness of friendships now ended by death were remembered.
Mass was followed by dinner in the Dolan School of Business—another building not in existence in 1963. The disc jockey—who happened to be the son of Joe Kelly '63—had a list of trivia questions for those who came of age in the 1960s, and plenty of music by Elvis and the Beatles.
The Commencement Exercises began under overcast, misty skies, but by midway through the ceremony, the rain on Bellarmine Lawn had become steady. Umbrellas in hand, the members of the 50th class sat in the front rows right in front of the stage where some 861 students—for the most part 50 years younger than they—received the same diploma that they received in May 1963.
The graduating class seemed undisturbed by the imperfect skies, but many were grateful when Fr. von Arx sent them off with a simple “God bless you.”
By 2:00 p.m. a bittersweet sadness settled upon the campus. The Class of 2013 were either celebrating or helping their parents stuff all of their items into the trunk of a much-undersized car. Members of the Class of 1963 had a last bite to eat and said a fond farewell to their classmates, with many promises to stay in touch.
As chaplain, I fervently pray that our graduates from the Class of 2013 will take on the challenges before them and continue to grow and find their path. And for those members of the Class of 1963, that God will continue to bless them with happiness, good health, prosperity, and a deep sense of the Jesuit vision that they received at Fairfield University some 50 years ago.
And my prayer for the rest of us: May we all take good care of one another and have a peaceful, safe, and enjoyable summer. God bless.
Fr. Allen pictured with three members of the Class of 1963 (l-r): Richard DeAngelis, Don Cook, and Brian Dunn.