by Jana F. Brown, SPS writer
Flanked by 2003 formmates Ben Cooley and Quentin Reeve, Jordan Katz expressed in simple terms exactly how he feels when he returns to campus.
“I just miss it, mostly,” said Katz, now 28, married, and living in New York. “I really miss being here.”
For the approximately 2,000 alumni who make the pilgrimage back to the place of their formative years, Anniversary Weekend is as much about seeing old friends as it is about visiting old haunts. Stephanie Crocker ’08 expressed a desire to be inside the Chapel, while Xavier Williams ’08 and Eric Jones ’08 hoped to see their former dorm rooms. Reeve was as anxious to connect with formmates as he was to take a swim in Turkey Pond, one of the first items of business for him, Katz, and Cooley upon their June 1 return to the School.
“We were also on the cross country course this morning, reminiscing about the times there,” said Cooley, who also mentioned plans to row with his friends at the afternoon Boat Races.
Fuller Henriques ’11 returned to watch his brother, Lou ’13, graduate. Fuller said being on campus felt as comfortable as it did the day he graduated. While his form was not in a reunion year, Fuller, a student at Bates College, noted that he stays in close contact with many of his SPS friends, whether through social media or other electronic communication or face-to-face. As Lou Henriques lamented the loss of seeing his friends daily, he was buoyed both by his brother’s maintenance of close connections and by witnessing the camaraderie among other alumni as they greeted one another outside the Chapel.
“It gives me a sense of hope that we will stay together,” he said. “But it’s still scary because I am not going to wake up and have my best buddy right there.”
The Form of 1968 provided a strong example of the melting of years. The authors of the famous Sixth Form Letter of 1968 wore matching hats and as much madras clothing as possible in an attempt to mirror the style of their Third Form class photo.
“I am surprised at how close we are,” said Will Whetzel ’68, a member of the 1968 Student Council who helped then-President Rick King write the letter, which appealed to the Rector to alter the monastic existence of St. Paul’s. “I have been to the last three reunions and I find the conversations we have to still be meaningful.”
Whetzel’s formmates, career military men Chip Waters ’68 (Army) and George Marvin ’68 (Navy) spoke of how much the School had evolved since their graduation, with Marvin noting that the uniformity parodied by the form’s madras attire at Anniversary was one of the grievances that pushed members to pen the 1968 letter.
“After that there was a lot more individualism,” he said. “A little bit of that came as the result of our letter. A lot was going to happen anyway, but maybe it happened sooner because of the letter.”
Marvin, a retired U.S. Navy captain, credited the School with “helping me become who I am [today]. The older I get and the further removed from St. Paul’s, the more I realize what an important experience it was.”
Waters, an Army colonel, described himself as a “big fan of SPS,” who sent his two children, Kate ’02 and Charles ’05, to the School. He and the 33 members of the Form of 1968 who attended Anniversary gathered on June 1 in the Chapel of St. Paul, where David Tait ’68 led a service that celebrated the lives of the seven classmates who have died in the intervening years.
“We had a classmate who died, a really wonderful guy named Doug Morin, a year before our 35th, and that really affected me because I realized I would give anything to sit down and talk to him,” said Marvin. “I realized I don’t want that to happen with other classmates, so that is why I have come back every five years for our reunion.”
The sense of community gained at St. Paul’s is hard to duplicate, shared Sophie Hollingsworth ’08, in Concord for the first, five-year reunion of the Form of 2008. And standing nearby with formmate and former faculty brat Nora Tracy Phillips ’78, John Tweedy ’78, a documentary filmmaker from Colorado, spoke of the “enormous sense of place” he feels when he returns to St. Paul’s.
“I don’t think that’s the goal, to recreate what St. Paul’s was,” said Xavier Williams ’08. “We move on, we take our best lessons from here, our great friendships, and keep them going. But I think, to Sophie’s point, you do have that sense of community and you can appreciate thatso you value your friendships and recognize those can carry you through life.”
Watching alumni reconnect with one another was a powerful experience for Miriam Eickhoff ’15, who was in awe after coming off Turkey Pond with the winning first Shattuck girls crew.
“While it’s great to be a part of it now,” said Eickhoff, “I feel like it will be even better when I come back later as an alum and look back at my time here.”