YAM Notes: July/August 2009

These brief notes are written on deadline in the immediate afterglow of one of the greatest 50th reunions ever. My only regret, which I’m sure is shared by others, is that the gathering was so big, so bubbly, so busy that it was impossible to touch base with everyone. In all other respects it was a wonderful three days (one day of rain notwithstanding), flawlessly designed and executed  from start to finish  — all in all, a tribute to the hard work, creativity and organizational skills of  reunion chairman Ed Greenberg , Ed’s reunion team  (not least wife Sue) and the University itself.

First things first:  we set a new fundraising record. Charley Ellis,  the major gifts chairman, announced during dinner Saturday night that we were still  $200,000 short of the class of 1954’s record. He returned to the microphone a couple of hours later to say that we had made it.

I do not know who put us over the top but I do know this. We raised  north of $120 million, which is not only a 50th reunion record but a record for any Yale class in any year and, so far as we know, a record for any class anywhere in the country.

Steve Adams and his wife, Denise, were largely responsible for this outcome. Their magnificent gift of $100 million  to the  Music  School  got us to the 10 yard line in one play. Charley Ellis directed us into the end zone, with a big assist from Charlie Hoyt and his class agents, who raised $1 million through the Alumni Fund. That, by the way, is also a record.

On Friday, at 11 a.m. in Sprague Hall,  President Levin and the Yale School of Music presented a musical tribute to Steve and Denise, a ceremony at once triumphant and touching that began with Mozart and ended with Johann Strauss, Sr.’s Radetzky March. As befits Yale, there was music everywhere, beginning with a recital by the masterful Contiguglia twins, John and Richard, on Friday afternoon, and including the Whiffs (at various intervals) and Alki Scopelitis, who treated us to a medley of piano standards in Silliman courtyard after the class dinner Friday night.

That dinner represented something of a changing of the guard, with Joe Staley replacing Tom Maxey as Class Secretary. Tom served  with great distinction for 10 years, receiving  a standing O for his efforts. We welcome Mr. Staley and his comely assistant, Linda (Joe spent a good part of his inaugural address recognizing various comely assistants).  There were  awards for service to the class and to Yale,  and a thunderous reception for Sandy Wiener, the editor-in-chief of our magnificent, not to say monumental, reunion book. 

Special thanks also to Dick Rhodes, for his instructive talk on nuclear disarmament; to Doug Banker, who joined Carola Kittredge Lott in a marvelously  elegant,  funny and touching reading of A.R. Gurney’s Love letters (truly one of the weekend’s highlights); to  Bill Cutter  and G. Kent Keller for organizing and presiding over the class memorial service  in Battell Chapel; to Art Kelly, Paul Horne and Mr. Ellis for joining Henry Kissinger (Hon., ’59) and two superstars from the Economics Department on a terrific  Saturday afternoon panel on the economic meltdown; to Cheever Tyler, Don Watson and the other curators of the class art exhibit; and, not least, to the organizers of the Women’s Gathering, a reprise of the 40th-Reunion all-female get-together that  drew nearly 70 participants at an extraordinarily early hour on Friday morning. If I missed anyone, they’ll be in the next notes.

And thanks to Yale, for being there.