Alumni return home to campus for Reunion 2016
By Emily Evans
Alumni from across the globe returned home to Brandeis for Reunion 2016, joyously reconnecting with friends both old and new, and reminiscing about their glory days as students.
More than 1,250 guests, some of whom traveled from as far away as Paris, Tokyo and Cairo, packed the Brandeis campus on June 3-5 for three days of pride- and nostalgia-inducing activities and programs. Events included academic lectures, food trucks, a kickball game, the Ralph Norman Barbecue, a s’mores bar and even social media selfie stations (follow the Alumni Association on Instagram: @brandeisualumni).
-- Watch the Reunion video.
-- Read about Alumni College.
-- View a Reunion photo slideshow.
-- Catch up with what alumni are saying about #DeisReunion16 on social.
The 12 Reunion classes – 1956, 1961, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006 and 2011 – also raised more than $3.5 million in gifts and pledges (through May 31) to support the University.
The weekend began with Alumni College, a series of faculty-led classes designed to re-create the Brandeis academic experience for members of the extended University community. As part of the centennial celebration of Louis D. Brandeis’ appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court, several lectures focused on the legacy of the University’s namesake.
Then, while some alumni ventured off campus for duck boat tours or an evening Boston Pops concert, others stuck around for a brand new Reunion event: Trucks, Trivia and Tunes. Popular Boston food trucks – including Bon Me (Vietnamese cuisine) and the Chubby Chickpea (falafel and shawarma) – lined the Great Lawn, while alumni mingled or played Brandeis-themed trivia under a tent. Desserts abounded with an ice cream sundae bar and a make-your-own s’mores station.
At Friday evening’s Alumni of Color Reception, Christian Yemga ’11, IBS MA’13 (pictured below right, with Napoleon Lherisson '11), said he enjoyed catching up with classmates and recapturing the strong sense of community he felt as a Brandeis student. “I really miss the atmosphere of campus,” he said.
Yemga, a star forward on the Brandeis men’s basketball team, reminisced about a victory over perennial power Amherst during his freshman year that drew 2,500 fans to the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center. “Everything was clicking for us in that game,” he remembered.
Yemga also recalled when his mother traveled from his native Cameroon to attend his graduation in May 2011. He had not seen her since he enrolled as a freshman. “Graduation was a big moment for us,” he said. “She was very proud.”
With his own family so far away, Yemga felt grateful to his Brandeis friends, particularly teammates Napoleon Lherisson ’11 and Tyrone Hughes ’12, for welcoming him into their lives. “My Brandeis friends and their families have been there for me all the way,” he said. “I still go to church with a friend’s mom or just go to their house when I’m hungry. I’ve become like a second son. Without my Brandeis family, the obstacles I’ve overcome would have been much harder.”
Saturday’s schedule kicked off with a volunteer appreciation breakfast and a conversation with Interim President Lisa M. Lynch.
At noon, the much-awaited Ralph Norman Barbecue commenced on the Great Lawn under sunny skies and featured food, balloon artists, stilt walkers and a bean bag toss. Vic Ney ’81 and his daughter, Rebecca ’11 (pictured below), celebrated their Reunion years together over burgers and watermelon.
Vic has attended every Reunion since graduation, chairing all of them except his first (and even then, he had a leadership role on a sub-committee). Rebecca is just beginning to follow in her dad’s footsteps: she serves as a class agent for the Class of 2011.
In their family, “Louie Love” abounds: Vic’s wife, Karen Binder ’82, is an alumna, and Rebecca’s fiancé, Stephen Robinson ’11, is an alumnus. Robinson’s sister, Emily ’07, and her husband, Brandon Grimes ’05, are also graduates. Oh, and for good measure, the Robinson children’s father, Jeffrey ’71, is an alumnus, too.
Rebecca was glad to share in the Reunion festivities with her dad, who waxed poetic about the previous night’s Class of 1981 gathering at the Stein: “The room was filled with an incredible amount of warmth. Everyone was so excited to be with each other. That warmth was even stronger than it has been in years past, and I think it will continue to build at future Reunions.”
When asked what Reunion activity the family was most looking forward to, Rebecca was excited for Kegs and Kickball, while dad lovingly responded: “Just seeing my daughter here.”
Many alumni took an afternoon ride in the Convo-Kart – a roving golf cart outfitted with banners, colorful streamers and a GoPro camera – to talk about their adventures as students. Some alumni selected questions from the Convo-Kart’s mystery bag (including queries like “What were the fashion trends when you were a student?” and “Who was your favorite professor/class?”), while others felt inspired to relay their own amusing stories.
One rider, Walter Klores ’61, recalled that a Brandeis admissions counselor convinced him to attend the University by saying: “You could go to another school like Harvard or Yale, where there are traditions already, or you could come to Brandeis, and create traditions.” Klores and Ron Carner ’61, his Brandeis roommate then and business partner now, said they did just that.
"No matter how far we travel from this place and how much time passes, the ties that bind us began at Brandeis." -- Marge Housen '56
Saturday afternoon events included tours of the Rose Art Museum; Ollie’s Family Fun on Chapels Field; and the Ice Cream Social, featuring Sax Appeal, the alumni saxophone quartet. Saturday night offered alumni a chance to reconnect at class dinners.
“We’ve gone our separate ways since graduation, but our ideas and our futures were formed during our four years here at Brandeis,” reflected Marge Housen ’56, a former trustee and co-chair of the 60th Reunion. “It’s important to remember how special those campus days were. No matter how far we travel from this place and how much time passes, the ties that bind us began at Brandeis.”