Stiles to hold college reunion

In a few weeks, Ezra Stiles will become the first college to hold a reunion event for alumni of a single residential college.
In a few weeks, Ezra Stiles will become the first college to hold a reunion event for alumni of a single residential college. Photo by Zoe Gorman.

A new kind of reunion will happen at Yale this fall.

An estimated 150 to 200 Ezra Stiles alumni are expected to attend Yale’s first residential college reunion Oct. 5-7 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ezra Stiles College. Depending on the success of the event — which will include tours of the recently renovated college, musical performances and panel discussions about Ezra Stiles and Yale — other colleges may follows Stiles’ example in years to come, organizers said.

The reunion is the brainchild of Ezra Stiles Master Stephen Pitti ’91 and Association of Yale Alumni directors Jenny Chavira ’89 and Mark Dollhopf ’77 — all of whom are Stilesians.

“We started talking about how exciting it would be to hold an event to gather Stilesians from across the decades,” Pitti said, adding that the reunion will be held at Yale while school is in session, allowing current Stiles students to participate in the event and Stiles alumni to see their old college in action.

Though Pitti said the idea for a Stiles reunion first arose four years ago, he and the AYA decided to postpone the event until the 50th anniversary of the college.

The Stiles reunion is a “pilot project” for the AYA, said Mark Branch ’86, executive editor of the Yale Alumni Magazine, intended to see whether alumni are enthusiastic about the idea of attending residential college-specific reunions in addition to the traditional class reunions that are held every five years.

Early registration numbers for the event already suggest that there is significant interest. As of Thurday afternoon, the AYA website listed 128 registered participants, and registration does not close until Sept. 28. AYA senior director of strategic initiatives Stephen Blum ’74 said the ideal turnout for the event would be in the “low 100s,” because there is limited space on campus for alumni while the school year is in session, even though the visitors will be arranging their own accommodations in New Haven.

Blum added that that the AYA is already “having discussions” with the masters of Pierson College and three other colleges.

“We have a runway for having this initiative take off, and we’re so excited with the way this first [residential college reunion] seems to be shaping up,” he said.

Pitti said he hopes attendees will leave the event feeling “energized about being Stilesians.”

Margaret Chen ’90, a Stiles alum who served on the reunion planning committee, said she remembers Stiles as having had “a ton of enthusiasm and spirit relative to other residential colleges” while she attended Yale, and said she is looking forward to meeting Stilesians from other eras.
Branch, a Stiles alum, said he thinks the reunion will be “fascinating” because Stiles has changed a lot over the years. For example, Branch said students were initially disappointed to be placed into Ezra Stiles in his day because of its modern architecture. Nowadays, he said he is pleased to overhear students say to each other, “You’re in Stiles? Oh, you’re so lucky!”

As of now, students will participate in the reunion by serving on panels, leading tours and giving performances, among other activies. Still, the role for current students in the Stiles reunion is not yet completely set, said Lee Kennedy-Shaffer ’13, Ezra Stiles College Council president and one of the student panelists involved with planning the event.

Kennedy-Shaffer said ideally the reunion could provide mentoring and networking opportunities for students. Though Stiles students are all aware of the upcoming reunion thanks to Pitti’s emails, Kennedy-Shaffer said he thinks many Stiles students expect to be largely unaffected by the reunion. Others, however, are looking forward to seeing recent graduates such as their old freshman counselors return, he said.

2012 also marks the 50th anniversary of Morse College, but Pitti said Morse is not hosting a reunion this fall because of the demands associated with transitioning to a new master. English and American Studies professor Amy Hungerford assumed the post July 1.

“Planning for this reunion has been pretty intensive for the past nine months,” Pitti said, “so it was difficult for Morse College to consider participation, given the change in leadership.”

Renovations of Stiles, which opened in 1962, were completed in fall 2011.

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