Last night, I went to a local happy hour alumni event. Only three of us who graduated before ~2005 attended, one of those having graduated in 1975 and who left before I even arrived. (Another set of three – only three women.) Most of the people were affiliated with Cornell in some fashion, so I felt doubly (or thrice) stigmatized.
I am never at my element at these events, and I put my foot in my mouth at least twice. Even though it was patently untrue, I felt like I’d met many of the people before. One person reminded me of a hybrid of Allison plus a student, Jeff, I once taught. Another reminded me of an older Jesse, another former student. The woman who organized the event looked just like Dana (a UC alumna I met when living in Salt Lake City) but had a personality just like Jen. It all felt very surreal.
We are having lots of alumni events around the area to create more of a sense of identification with the school (which I’m sure helps with donations), so I wondered if the happy hour originated in the school’s alumni office. Instead, it was something that one of the UC alumns in the area wanted to do. As much as I love the UC experience now (and cannot imagine having gone to school anywhere else), it took me several years to appreciate the experience. I’m not sure if I would have wanted to connect with alumni (besides my dearest friends) the first five years after I graduated.
While I was at UC, we were famously dead last on the survey of “Funnest Schools.” One entrepreneurial student made t-shirts, and during our time, the phrase, “the place where fun came to die” was oft used. I remember during one prospective students’ weekend, someone had nailed a sign “DON’T COME HERE” to a tree in the quads, and a friend one told me the campus tour guides were trained what to do if they were heckled by disgruntled students since it happened so frequently. After that period, the school gave much more attention to the undergraduate experience, and the folks I met at happy hour were the beneficiaries of the initiatives. At times, our shared sense of misery and beleaguerment enhanced our cohesiveness.
Not to say we never had fun. Here’s one of the good times! The quads were full of people during the 1994 solar eclipse. Jo and I made viewers out of pop-tart wrappers. Such a lovely day outside, with a feeling of community and purpose.