Sunday, January 01, 2006

Lost Photos of James Fourth Floor

Ben Ojserkis has uncovered some lost pics from the early days of freshman year. You can see them on at Amherst-James Lost Photos. But you will need to be invited to view.

Flipping Freshmen

Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Conversation -- Still More to Do?

The following post is excerpted from my final batch of Class Notes, reporting the inspiring goings-on at the 30th reunion. The Conversation segment on Sunday morning under the tent at TD did not disappoint, as you'll see. Thanks to all who made it a highlight. And let's stay in touch.

Here's my report:

It took a little prodding, but once the coffee and artery-clogging donuts arrived shortly after 9 a.m., fifty or so classmates, spouses and friends settled in for a final hour of reflection. My purpose, as the master of these (now-traditional) ceremonies, was to challenge the group to give themselves a hard look. I set the premise by noting that we had been trained as “supermen” in the heavier gravity of Amherst 30 years ago, only to live lives more suited to Clark Kent in our middle age. Shouldn’t we be trying to do more to make the world a more livable place?

It was an unfair poke, of course, but a sure-fire conversation starter.

Opinion seemed divided on how far to take the responsibility to do great deeds. Bob McCartney wondered whether we had already peaked with our activism in the 1970s and were now satisfied to settle into a slower, less confrontational pace. John Williams flatly said he was “happy to have that monkey off his back” at this stage of the game. Peter Wise argued, just as emphatically, that it was a “critical time” for us to make our contributions, to make a distinction “between what is evolution and what is intelligent design.”

Rob Carver split the difference, and summoned applause, with his observation that we all “have to play position,” doing what’s right and meaningful for each of us. Andy von Salis drove that point even closer to home, calling complacency “the real enemy” to be overcome, whether our choice was to live large or small.

Carol MacKinnon, a high-powered lawyer turned high-purpose mother, promoted the value of succeeding on a “small scale” with family, though she also joined in McCartney’s lament that the generation needed to restore its political edge, perhaps with a “new political party.” David Kirkpatrick commented that the tension inherent in such divergent dreams seemed to speak most directly to our group’s search for balance between goodness and greatness.

Frank Elllis suggested that little investments – adopting a child through a relief program, for instance – could make a big difference in somebody’s life. Bob Kirkwood, now an empty-nester with his wife at home and a daughter at Amherst, said many of us may be “freer” at this age to make different kinds of contributions and he looked forward to exploring what those could be.

Henry Fishman, the doctor and media personality, said it was “never too late to re-invent yourself.” Ben Ojserkis added that, like some medical discoveries, the best breakthroughs may be accidental – so be prepared to step up to the challenge when it appears.

Ron Bailey, as he does so well, capped the discussion with the Camus-inspired insight that “hope” was “the worst thing that came out of Pandora’s box.” We are bound by it, despite how frequently we may lose it. He told the story of a day he spent while a student at Amherst trying to track down eight dollars (a five and three one-dollar bills) that he dropped in the village on his way to do laundry. A force – hope, perhaps – led him to the police station, where he unburdened himself to a local cop. Amazingly, some very honest soul had left word at the station that a small wad of cash had indeed been recovered, and soon Ron and his “estate” were reunited. Whether it was just a cute story or a turning point in a young Amherst life now devoted to spiritual service, Ron’s personal parable seemed to capture many of the emotions we all had expressed – loss, frustration, hope and, finally, renewal.

It was especially important to remember that cycle as we faced the news about Dave Ferguson upon our return home. With renewed hope, we can honor Dave and redouble our own commitments to life.

Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Sudden, Sad News to Report

On the heels of our reunion, we have just learned of the passing of Dave Ferguson, former class president and trustee candidate, who died Sunday. Many at the reunion had heard of his battle with brain cancer, but the news still comes as a great shock.

Dave was one of the most accomplished and popular members of the class, which makes the loss all the more difficult to take, especially as a sad closing to the 30th reunion weekend.

I will be preparing a remembrance for the next edition of the alumni magazine, which goes to press within the next several days. Bill Rawson and other friends are helping. Please send me any comments you have via e-mail to

A page on Dave, prepared for his run for trustee last year, can be accessed here.

Bill Rawson (e-mail link) knows more family details for those who wish to make contact.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Reunion Enjoyed By All -- Turnout Was Great!

Here's a quick post at the end of the Memorial Day weekend to report that the reunion was a great success, with a surprisingly large turnout. My unofficial count was 78 classmates, and the Saturday night dinner crowd with relatives and friends swelled to around 130 or so.

By 30th reunion standards, that qualifies as huge. And the fun certainly qualified as extraordinary. We had great programs, excellent food (lobster!) and the final Sunday morning Conversation provided enough inspiration to keep everyone going for another five years.

I will have more to say, as I compile my final set of Class Notes later this week. Thanks to Grant Haskell for a great party, and thanks to all who came and communed at TD.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Call Off the Alarm on Attendance

I was guilty of ringing the alarm bell on attendance, but now see the (near) final list and am immensely relieved. We should see somewhere around 60 to 70 classmates, and with spouses, kids and other guests, the Saturday night dinner could swell to 130-plus.

So, not bad for a 30th, the reunion sages say.

I was about to type all the names in here, but that will have to wait until the weekend. Have to prepare for the Conversations by re-reading my own book from five years ago.


Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Time for the Real Conversations -- At Last

A few days from now, we will finally engage in real, face-to-face "Conversations" at the big (we hope) 30th reunion. We have a couple of sessions planned -- one on Friday evening to get things started and a final send-off on Sunday morning.

I have a feeling, after compiling your Class Notes the past five years, that there is a lot left for us to say. The story that first came together in the 25th reunion book has continued to play out in the quarterly Notes installments since. Life changes abound -- career switches, spiritual transformations, divorces, new marriages, relocations, kids to college, new babies (believe or not), and sad passings.

Amid the change, I have been left to wonder -- what has this 30-year investment of ours amounted to? If our diplomas were mortgages, we'd be burning them. And hoping to be "free and clear." But the changes suggest we're nowhere near finished. What have these Amherst-sown "lives of distinction" produced? What more is there to do?

We have pursued our careers in medicine, the law, the media, government and business, while the world has gotten more complicated, less livable, less equitable, less compassionate. Did we take our eye off the ball? Weren't we supposed to save the world? Perhaps we focus on our own little worlds just to find some comfort and running room.

And then the change consumes (distracts) us.

Did the world expect more from us? Did we expect more from ourselves? Let’s talk about it. Are we happy? Are we too hard on ourselves? Which is it?

Have we challenged ourselves enough? Have we pursued our ideals or simply settled for success? Do we have enough left, after a 30-year investment, to challenge ourselves to do something bigger and-or better?

Some topics:

Perspective. How has our view of the world – and our place in it – changed, or not, in 30 years?

Love and marriage.


Work vs. Fun.


Health in middle age. Physical and mental.

Religion in middle age. Reason vs. Faith.

Death. Three stories since the 25th.

Amherst. What did it really mean? Did it propel us, inspire us, or just label us?

Am I being provocative enough? Come prepared to air it out. See you all soon.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

Disappointing Signup So Far -- Let's Go!

If the pace of signups does not accelerate -- significantly -- the 30th reunion may turn out to be a very intimate affair, indeed. The number registered is lower than any 30th reunion class in recent memory, so we are in danger of making history.

Alas, some may not have received any solicitations by mail yet, because the college reports some problems with the snail-mail delivery.

If you did not receive a college or class mailing, below are the vital links to what you need:

The schedule is here: SCHEDULE
General info is here: INFO
The housing form is here: HOUSING

Please make an effort to attend if you can. Five years is a long time to wait for the next go-round.