Class of 1962 celebrates & raises the largest gift in Fairfield’s 50th Reunion history

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.

Exceeding Expectations

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.)

Trail Blazers

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.”

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