by Virginia Weir
More than 63 of the 274 members of the Class of 1962 came back to campus over Commencement Weekend this May to celebrate their 50th Reunion. They came from up and down the East Coast, and as far away as California and Washington.
“The 50th presented a great opportunity to get together and really catch up with each other and as many of our classmates as we could,” said Bob Berchem ’62. “The Reunion was superb. Our attendance was extraordinary. I saw people for the first time since our graduation and it seemed as though we had never separated.”
Rich Badolato ’62, concurred. “It was incredible to see so many friends I had not seen in 50 years and rekindle a relationship in seconds.”
“We always believed the Class of ’62 was a great group — extremely active during our school years — and many have remained friends over the years. Many of us dated and married the ladies we met at college, and it all came together at this Reunion,” said Tony McCall ’62.
Like any major event, the task of planning and reconnecting with classmates scattered across the country was a big one. The 50th Reunion Planning Committee, co-chaired by Jay Behr, Ed Fitzgerald, Steve Jakab, and Tony McCall, began working on the event last summer. “We wanted to create the best possible network — to connect, inform, invite, and follow up with as many classmates as possible,” said Behr.
Hundreds of calls were made. “The chemistry of this committee was terrific and it spread to the larger group,” noted Steve Jakab.
A separate committee worked on fundraising. Bob Berchem ’62 called upon George Mihalik, Rod Dowling, and Rich Badolato to assist as Giving Committee co-chairs. Each had long histories of giving to Fairfield. Dowling and Badolato reached out to classmates who had lived on campus, while Berchem or Mihalik contacted the “day hops.”
The fundraising team got together in Manhattan last fall to decide who would be the best to contact specific classmates. “Richie pointed out that our class, though small, had set a very high bar for school spirit,” Berchem said, “so we set a new bar for ourselves: to have the largest gift total of any 50th Reunion class to date.”
The Class exceeded their own expectations, raising $1,361,218. At least as impressive was a stellar participation rate of more than 63 percent of the class. All of the contributions help ensure a strong future for Fairfield. (See the Class of 1962 50th Reunion Honor Roll of Donors below.)
A full weekend of activities included an all-inclusive bus tour of campus and a visit to the new Fairfield University bookstore downtown. Attendees had an opportunity to meet Head Basketball Coaches Sydney Johnson (men) and Joe Frager (women) and tour the Walsh Athletic Center. Others enjoyed a discussion with Dr. Kurt Schlichting ’70, professor of sociology and author of the book Grand Central’s Engineer: William J. Wilgus and the Planning of Modern Manhattan.
Classmates’ personal histories of the past 50 years since graduation were commemorated in a Class of 1962 Fairfield Memories book created especially for the Reunion. Many class members earned advanced degrees, entering a variety of careers — as lawyers, teachers, salesmen, scientists, doctors, priests, and bankers. Some pursued careers in the then-new arenas of aerospace and computer science. Several served in the armed forces.
At a special luncheon with University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., the Class was inducted into the “Golden Stags,” Fairfield alumni who graduated 50 or more years ago. Fr. von Arx congratulated them all and invited the Class to process proudly with the 883 new graduates of the Class of 2012. “You have been instrumental in blazing a trail for today’s students. We all thank you for that.”
After the traditional Baccalaureate Mass in Alumni Hall on Saturday afternoon, the Class celebrated with a cocktail reception and dinner dance. “The weekend was a ‘happy fest’ of shaking hands, hugging, and having more fun than we deserved,” said Steve Jakab ’62. “What made it even more special was that our spouses also caught the spirit of the weekend and enjoyed themselves immensely.”
For almost everyone, the Commencement ceremony on Sunday with the Class of 2012 was the most memorable time of their weekend. “As we processed on an absolutely beautiful morning, our class received an ovation that brought tears to my eyes,” said Ed Fitzgerald ’62.
“I found it incredibly emotional to reflect on 50 years of my own life, and Fairfield’s growth,” Berchem added, “and poignantly recognizing that this was probably the last chance that we would ever have to be together as a group. Fairfield gave all of us lives and careers; for me it provided the foundation for all that I’ve been able to accomplish. I couldn’t think of a better way to say thank you than by giving back.”
The Class of 1962 has already issued a challenge to next year’s 50th Reunion Class of 1963 — to beat this year’s participation and giving level. Stay tuned!
Class of 1962 50th Reunion Honor Roll of Donors
Thanks to the following members of the class of 1962 for their generosity.
Andrew Jay Behr
Bonnie Gleason, widow of Edward
F. Joseph McCrosson
C. William Schumann
*Leadership gifts, including planned gifts
Senior Class Gift
The class of 2012 steps up
Above: Members of the Senior Class Gift Committee (l-r): Megan Protas ’12, Samantha Krivensky ’14, Megan Boenning ’14, Sarah Birney ’15, Michele Noviello ’12, Jessica Caputo ’15, Marie Claire Najjar ’12, Emily O’Connor ’13. Not pictured: Elisabeth Downey ’12, Barbara Kaplan ’12, Meghan Healy ’12, Joseph Perkowski ’12, Alyssa Accomando ’12, Gregg Pizzi ’14, Joseph Wik ’15, Alexandra Pace ’15.
Another group of “seniors” also set a new bar for philanthropy at Fairfield this year. The Class of 2012 generated the largest participation rate ever in the Senior Class Gift: 24 percent of all seniors contributed — up from only 6 percent two years ago.
“Slowly, we’ve been creating a culture of giving on campus,” said Kimberly LoPiano ’04, manager of young alumni giving. “Most students really care about Fairfield. There’s a good sense of community, and students see that.”
Throughout the year, the Senior Class Gift committee planned and hosted a number of events to engage students, including a Happy Hour at the Levee, a Dunk Tank fundraiser, a Free Coffee Day, and an informational panel. Involving underclassmen — especially juniors — is important in promoting philanthropy, noted LoPiano. This year, committee members Megan Protas ’12, Liz Downey ’12, and Joseph Perkowski ’12 spoke to rising juniors at several special dinners with President von Arx.
Donations for the Senior Class Gift are solicited throughout the year by committee members. Most contributions are small — such as the suggested amount of $20.12 to represent “2012” — but they add up. Seniors have the opportunity to vote on how the gift will be used. This year, the class voted online to contribute some funds to a scholarship for a rising senior with need, as well as student career services. Paver stones outside the library commemorate each Senior Class gift.
“The students know they’ve gained a lot through the University,” said LoPiano. “It takes awhile, but once they learn about giving back, they understand why it is so important.”
Read more about how seniors support Fairfield at www.fairfield.edu/seniorsupport.
You can also view “What I Learned at Fairfield,” a YouTube video created by the Class of 2012 Senior Class Gift Committee by visiting www.fairfield.edu/whatilearned.