Rhodes Class of 1966 – 50th Reunion in Oxford

September 14, 2016

View photos of 1966 Class Reunion

In fine fall English weather, 16 American members of the Class of 1966, joined by spouses, and even some children and grandchildren, convened in Oxford for a gala 50th Reunion, September 14-17, 2016. Five Canadian 1966 colleagues joined us. Americans present were Steve Bergman (MA and Balliol), Wes (AR and Magdalen) and Gert Clark, Jonathan Culler (CT and St. John’s), Stewart (PA and Brasenose) and Trish Early, Chip (IL and Merton) and Joan Filson, Jerry Hillman (MA and Balliol), Richard (NY and New College) and Jennifer Joseph, David (IN and Worcester) and Anne Kendall, David (WI and Oriel) and Dedi Knox, Dick (ME and Balliol) and Jeri Marston, David Howlett (MT and Corpus Christi), Mike (IA and New College) and Ellen Martin, Steve Munzer (KS and Corpus Christi) and Cynthia Trangsrud, Jim (CA and Hertford) and Marilyn O’Toole, Bob (OH and New College) and Judy Rawson, Dick Tsien (NJ and Wadham) and Frank White (MA and New College). Canadians present were Andrew (Alberta & Queen’s) and Christine Brook, John (Quebec and Worcester) and Kathleen Bergeron, Ken (New Brunswick and Jesus) and Elaine Carty, Ian (British Columbia and Magdalen) and Marjory Clark and Wilson (Manitoba and St. John’s) and Wilma Parasiuk.

Warden Charles Conn, assisted by his able Rhodes House staff, were our hosts throughout the festivities. The Warden welcomed us on Wednesday, 14 September with a reception on the Rhodes House lawn followed by a sumptuous buffet supper. After the usual group photograph (which may be found below), the Warden officially welcomed us and our colleague Stew Early, who was the principal quarterback of this event, described the delights that would follow. The evening began a process of catching up on the passage of 50 years among long-time friends, and the beginning of the forging of new friendships.

The morning of Thursday, 15 September, featured a meeting of classmates facilitated by colleagues Steve Bergman and Jim O’Toole. The conversation was open and candid and covered a range of subjects: memories of our Oxford days, the role that the Rhodes experience has played in our lives and an assessment of how we have progressed as a consequence. Simultaneously, our spouses met separately and discussed family and life experiences.

Following lunch at Rhodes House, we had a behind-the-scenes tour of the Bodleian Library. For dinner we were on our own, and small groups made their way to some old haunts and new; for example, several of us made the march we used to do regularly to the Perch, and the peaceful hike back under a beautiful full moon.

On Friday, 16 September, the Warden gave us an update on the current activities at Rhodes House and the state of the Rhodes Trust. Suffice to say that Rhodes House has become a center of activity for current Rhodes Scholars who enjoy a much different experience from our day. Rhodes House hosts numerous conferences and educational activities designed to encourage Rhodes Scholars to convene with their collegaues and others within the Oxford community.

Later that morning we experienced an example of the kind of involvement Rhodes House now encourages. Dr. Nadiya Figueroa (Jamaica & St. Catherine’s 2007), who is the Dean of Scholarships and Director of Leadership and Change, led us through a Service and Leadership Programme. We divided into small groups and for an hour discussed the meaning of Friendship: Who are most valued friends? How do we create and sustain meaningful friendships? How does friendship change over the course of our lives? In short, current Rhodes Scholars have the benefit of training programs to prepare them to be the leaders that the Founder hoped we all would become. After lunch at one of the Oxford pubs, we were hosted by Warden Miles Young of New College at a reception in the Warden’s lodgings followed by a tour of New College.

On Friday evening, we retraced old footsteps to the Trout for a gala dinner. We discovered that, as we have changed, so has the Trout. The site continues to be spectacular, but the more commercial Trout has not retained all of its former charm (at least as our aging memories recall it!).

On Saturday, 17 September, the Warden hosted a 25th and 50th Global Anniversary Luncheon at Rhodes House, a gracious close to our gala 50th.

Consensus among attendees has been an enthusiastic support for a return engagement. All relished the opportunity to relive old memories and, more importantly, to reinvest in the friendships which we forged all those years ago. All unanimously support another reunion, sooner, not later. We will consider organizing another in a three-to-five-year time frame, perhaps on this side of the ocean. Ideas are welcome.