YAM Notes: July/August 2018

By Scott G. Sullivan

60th Reunion

The Superlative Sixtieth is history.

And what history! We made or broke records for attendance, size of class gift, and pure delight. Total attendance—no doubt thanks in part to Georges St. Laurent’s spectacular $100,000 gift—was 282: 165 class members plus 117 wives, widows, and significant others. That amounted to exactly one quarter of those of us still standing. Sherman Bull and his gang of arm-twisters raised an incredible $13.3 million smackers for Old Eli, almost triple our original target. And Linus Travers, by now a semi-professional master of the revels, gave us three and a half days of non-stop celebration, education, nostalgia, and camaraderie.

Jonathan Edwards’s Gothic courtyard was the main venue, scene of Thursday dinner and all our copious breakfasts. Feasting, drinking, and dancing on Friday and Saturday took place at Yale on York, a convenient if not exactly glamorous facility across the street.

On arrival, we received a handsomely printed book entitled Personal Stories of Commitment from 130 Octogenarians, compiled and edited by Joel Schiavone and five other classmates. Many of the entries are extremely moving, some astonishing (Ted Achilles, Harvey Sloane), a few very amusing (my favorite being Linden Blue’s). All in all, a worthy exercise, documenting the enormous services our class has rendered over the years.

All play and no work make for a dull reunion. So, on Friday and Saturday mornings, we attended a smorgasbord of lectures and tours provided by the university for all reunion classes. The choices ranged from American musical comedies to innovation in engineering. Almost all of us attended a summary version of the most popular course in Yale history (1,200 students!), Professor Laurie Santos’s Psychology and the Good Life. Santos analyzes and seeks to ameliorate the stress that all current Yalies seem to suffer from; among her tips for a happy life: get enough sleep; speak to strangers; get off Facebook.

In the afternoons, we entertained and instructed one another. Joel presented his book. Linus recruited five undergraduates to tell us about life at Yale today (stress, stress, stress). Victor Kovner and I, together with three outside experts, led a discussion on free speech and the controversies surrounding it on many campuses. Casey Bensinger, longtime head of the Drug Enforcement Agency, described the nation’s alarming opioid and heroin crisis. On the sidelines, Amy Kwei, Tom Kwei’s wife, presented her new book Under the Red Moon: a Chinese Family in the Diaspora.

Evenings saw us eating well and dancing a lot. Friday’s music was made by Bob Morgan and his Eli’s Chosen Six, with Cecilia (Cecie) Morgan vocalizing—all of it tuneful and danceable, including a magnificent rendering of “Do You Know Want it Means to Miss New Orleans?” Saturday night, Peter Duchin, tinkling the ivories along with his famous society band, kept the dance floor full of fox-trotting octogenarians. Then came our very own Whiffs with a good sampling of their classics and a heart-clutching rendition of “To the tables down at Mory’s”—not a dry eye in the house. To top it off, Dick Cavett regaled us with one-liners about Yale and Groucho Marx.

We all signed a hearty thank-you letter to St. Laurent (who, with real style, failed to attend the party he paid for). Class Secretary Tim Hogen received a thunderous round of applause for seven years of flawless leadership. The class presented Linus with an appropriate gift in appreciation of this and all the other reunions he has masterminded. Plaques for “distinguished service” to the class were presented, alphabetically, to Bill Becklean, Casey Bensinger, David Ehrlich, Harvey Sloan, and (blush-blush) Scott Sullivan; what we had in common was the staging of our wonderful mini-reunions, in Chicago, New Orleans, Washington, and Boston. There will surely be others before the 65th.

Possibly the most intense moment of all came Sunday morning, when we met in the JE dining hall to commemorate the 100 comrades who have passed away since 2013. Under the leadership of Mark Feinknopf, we recited the names of the departed with roommates and friends providing anecdotes on each—mostly reverential, some hilarious. (“He slept with every girl in New Haven.”)


And so we departed, refreshed, stimulated, nostalgic—and looking forward to 2023.