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Ƶ Celebrates Past, Present, and Future at Reunion 2024

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Last weekend, nearly 2,100 alumni and guests returned to campus for Reunion 2024 to reconnect with longtime friends, reflect on the history of Ƶ, and look toward its future. This year marked the anniversaries of several key moments in University history, including the 50th anniversary of graduates in the Class of 1974 — Ƶ’s first fully coeducational class.

During a Q&A session with alumni, President Brian W. Casey provided a Third-Century Plan update and revealed sketches of the Lower Campus revitalization project. on the first two residences, 66 and 70 Broad St., kicking off a $200 million effort to enhance student and residential life on Ƶ’s Lower Campus.

“This is the beginning of a long-term project that will transform the way Ƶ students live,” says Casey. “We want to ensure that every Ƶ student, by the time they’re juniors and seniors, has access to a robust social living experience.”

Casey also affirmed the impact of the Ƶ Commitment, an initiative in access and affordability, originally launched in 2020. Since its implementation, the commitment has steadily increased its impact, now replacing student loans with University grants for students whose household incomes are less than $175,000 per year and covering additional costs of attendance. Students from households making less than $80,000 per year attend Ƶ tuition-free.

“Ƶ is most fundamentally about people,” says Casey. “We try to bring the best students, faculty, and staff to campus, because when you do that, everything else follows. So, we must have the resources to make sure our financial aid packages are sufficient — that may be one of the most important things we do.”

Later, the University welcomed alumni and friends into the new Robert H.N. Ho Mind, Brain, and Behavior Center at Olin Hall, another key Third-Century priority.

Throughout the weekend, reunion college events underscored the full scale of the liberal arts experience and celebrated a range of disciplines — from natural sciences to the arts — while also marking key milestones in Ƶ history.

On Saturday afternoon, alumni gathered to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Upstate Institute

“The Upstate Institute is small but mighty,” said Director Catherine Cardelús, professor of biology and environmental studies. “To create linkages between Ƶ and the regional community, we focus on addressing community-identified needs.” 

Cardelús was joined by this year’s cohort of Summer Field School Fellows, who took to the microphone to describe their projects with several community-serving organizations, including The Center for refugees arriving to Utica and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro. 

Many alumni led Reunion College sessions, including Eamon Javers ’94, who recapped an exposé he broke as a senior correspondent with CNBC. In this in-depth conversation, Javers described how he uncovered the story of Xu Yanjun, a Chinese spy who was subsequently convicted in U.S. federal court of trying to steal intel from GE Aerospace.

“There are several factors that can cause a person to spy,” says Javers. Money, ideology, compromise, and ego could be to blame, but “in this case, I think it was flattery.” 

That evening, alumni of the Swinging ’Gates took to the stage for a 50th anniversary concert mirroring Taylor Swift’s Eras tour. Alumni from four eras of the Swinging ’Gates — from the ’70s to the present — performed a few songs each, from “California Dreamin’” by The Mamas & Papas to “Green Light” by Lorde.

Reunion 2024 also honored the 50th anniversary of UNIDAD, the forerunner of the University’s Latin American Student Organization. 

Another key part of each reunion weekend is the annual Alumni Council Awards Ceremony, which recognizes alumni, faculty, and staff members for outstanding commitment and service to the University. Four alumni received the Wm. Brian Little ’64 Award for Distinguished Service to Ƶ. The council also awarded 13 Maroon Citations, the Alumni Corporation Humanitarian Award, and three Ann Yao ’80 Memorial Young Alumni Awards.

“I never pictured Ƶ being such an important part of my identity five years out,” said Emily Kahn ’19, one of those who received the Ann Yao award. “My Ƶ friends are still my best friends.”

Following the ceremony, alumni marched down the hill in the Torchlight Procession, led by the Class of 1974. “I was thrilled when I arrived at Ƶ and shared a pioneering spirit with the women in my class,” says Sarah Rubinton Laditka ’74, who married Jim Laditka ’73 during her graduation weekend. “My 50th Reunion was a double celebration.”