Coming Home, Again

Fall and spring reunions offter alumni opportunites to celebrate, remember and rediscover Northwestern.

For some alumni, returning to the Evanston campus for the Northwestern Alumni Association’s spring and fall reunion weekends means reliving a first kiss on the moonlit shore of Lake Michigan. Others will remember the passion they felt about personal friendships, national politics or Wildcat football.

Alumni from the class of 1956 celebrate their 50th reunion June 16–18, and throughout the summer months those from the classes of 1961, 1966, 1971, 1976, 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996 and 2001 will make plans for their parties during the NAA’s Fall Reunions weekend Oct. 20–22.

At this year’s Spring Reunions weekend, members of the class of 1956 will wear caps, gowns and colorful graduate hoods as they march in Northwestern’s 2006 Commencement ceremony at Ryan Field and reminisce at the 50th reunion party at the Westmoreland Country Club in Wilmette, Ill. They’ll also be inducted into the Half Century Club and join alumni from earlier classes at the Norris University Center for a luncheon, President Henry S. Bienen’s talk on Iraq and the Middle East, and a panel discussion, “50 Years of Change: Views from Various Professions,” with PBS’s The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer executive producer Les Crystal (J56, GJ57), syndicated columnist Georgie Anne Geyer (J56), Tulane University adjunct law professor Max Nathan (WCAS56) and energy technology expert Jerry Petersen (McC56).

“Many in our class have had outstanding careers and have seen lots of changes,” said 50th reunion co-chair and panel discussion moderator Phyllis Elliott Oakley (WCAS56), herself a former U.S. assistant secretary of state. “It will be interesting to hear from some of them and take advantage of a lot of acquired wisdom.” Other Spring Reunions weekend events include campus tours and a Chicago River architectural cruise.

Touring favorite hot spots in Evanston and Chicago will also be a part of the NAA’s Fall Reunions weekend in October. This year, Fall Reunions events will be held during Northwestern’s Homecoming weekend, so alumni can enjoy the parade, pep rally and football game against the Michigan State Spartans along with such NAA reunion weekend favorites as the Classes Without Quizzes, Meadow Madness tent bash on Deering Meadow, the Wildcat Alley pregame tailgate party at Rocky Miller Park and individual class parties in Evanston and Chicago.

While Fall Reunions committee chairs and members are contacting classmates to plan their class parties, alumni from those classes are also keeping in touch with each other online through the NAA web site’s reunion class book pages. In addition to the reunion weekend schedule and photo galleries from each class’s years at Northwestern, the site also includes searchable class book pages for each reunion alumnus that he or she can customize with personal photos, updates and messages.

Memories of Wildcat football games and anticipation of a winning 2006 season will likely bring many reunion alumni back to campus this October. Susan Snider Osterberg (C66), co-chair of her 40th reunion, met her husband, Edward Osterberg (WCAS63, L66), at the Northwestern-Wisconsin game during her first year. Valerie Conn Kahn (WCAS86) remembers students “laking the goal posts” after the team broke its 34-game losing streak in 1982, and of course, the class of 1996 will never forget the frenzy surrounding the ’96 Rose Bowl game.

“Seeing the sea of purple at the Rose Bowl is the enduring memory I have of my time at Northwestern,” says Ryann Plinska (J96, KSM03), who keeps a purple pompom from that game in her office at the Harley-Davidson Motor Co. in Milwaukee. “The Rose Bowl was the culmination of the football team’s friendships, hard work, sacrifices, good times and lessons learned, and for the class of ’96, that serves as a metaphor for our own experiences at Northwestern.”

Others, like Christine Olson Robb (WCAS66), another 40th-reunion co-chair, will return to see the physical changes on campus and remember world events that shaped their undergraduate years.

“When we arrived, Vietnam was not a household word, and we did not know where it was in the world. When we left in 1966, much had changed and our classmates were looking at being drafted or going to graduate school. Our sophomore year, President Kennedy was shot and killed. We were all stunned and spent much of our time that weekend glued to the few televisions on campus. In February of our sophomore year, the Beatles came to the United States. Our class was definitely aware of the world outside of Northwestern.”

To find out more about the NAA’s 2006 spring and fall reunions, visit