Very late Friday evening, more than 20 pizzas arrived in the Jonathan Edwards buttery as 400 JE spiders — the customary nickname for JE members — spanning several generations of alumni played pool and pingpong.
This weekend marked Jonathan Edwards’s first college-wide reunion, making JE the fourth college to follow in a new tradition of college-specific reunions organized by the Association of Yale Alumni. The JE reunion hosted events including a panel discussion, a PowerPoint presentation of the college through the years, a dinner in Commons and a swing dance. Reunion cochair Jonathan Dach ’08 LAW ’13 said attending the reunion enabled alums to remember what made Yale both grand and familial.
“The class reunions echo the heady, happy days of convocation and commencement: thrilling in their way, but removed from the memory of daily life at Yale. The homelike residential college reunions perfectly balance them,” Dach said. AYA Senior Director of Strategic Initiatives Stephen Blum ’74 said the purpose of having college-wide reunions is three-fold. The reunions, Blum said, enable alums to reunite with college friends who were not in their class year, see campus while classes are in session and reexperience residential college life.
Both Donald Werner ’55 and Kem Edwards ’49 said one of the highlights of the weekend was the singing performance that took place on Saturday night. The group who sang, Werner said, was made up of a “mixed bag of young and old, male and female.” A former Whiffenpoof from the Class of 1972 led the singers. Their performance included the JE anthem and the Yale classic, “Bright College Years.”
Other alumni said they most enjoyed how the reunion served as a time capsule to their days in JE. John Bowes ’95 said his favorite part of the reunion was after Sunday brunch, when he sat in the courtyard talking with Jonathan Edward Master Penelope Laurans and about 20 of his former classmates.
“It simply felt like we had traveled back 20 years and it was the average Sunday after brunch when we were all undergrads,” Bowes said in an email to the News. “It was the exact kind of community experience that I cherished during the four years I had the good fortune to be in JE.”
Current members of the JE community had generally positive responses to the reunion as well.
Prior to the event, Laurans sent an email to JE students informing them about the opportunities for student involvement in the event. All the events were open to JE students, except for the women’s breakfast and Commons dinner, for which students were required to sign-up in advance.
Stephanie Addenbrooke ’17, a staff reporter for the News who participated in the Commons dinner on Saturday night, said she enjoyed sharing a dinner with JE alumni and witnessing the strong loyalty former spiders feel towards the college.
“Seeing all the alums this weekend made me even prouder to be a spider,” Eliza Dach ’17, whose brother and parents also attended the reunion, said. “The JE family clearly doesn’t end after graduation, and seeing so many alumni come back to campus, hearing them cheering for their masters and deans, and listening to stories from the first class of JE women solidified that feeling for me.”
Cindy Xue ’17, who participated in the Saturday afternoon musical performance, said she enjoyed performing alongside renowned alumni and fellow students. She said her favorite event of the weekend, however, was the women’s breakfast on Saturday morning since she learned about a time at Yale — not too long ago — when women did not have their own varsity sports or extracurricular organizations and were almost always a minority in classes.
But Xue also said one suggestion to improve future reunions would be to further encourage interaction between classes. She cited the Saturday night dance as an example of when some people self-organized into cliques based on graduation year.
Catherine Jameson ’16, who performed in both the musical performance and the Commons dinner, said her favorite part of the performance was two father-son duos and a sister-brother duo performing together, which demonstrated generations of JE alumni coming together over shared passions.
Despite the influx of visitors to JE, which doubled the college’s size from 439 to over 800, students said logistics for the event were very well organized.
“The administration and alumni association did a wonderful job in organizing and executing a flawless weekend,” Angela Chen ’16 said. “Everything from the 500 JE handkerchiefs ordered for dinner to the unlocked entryway doors for JE tours was accounted for.”
Kathryn Khalvati ’18 said she enjoyed each of the events she attended including the breakfast and dinner. To improve the event further, Khalvati said the organizers could have personalized the reunion with such events as networking fairs based on students’ career interests
There are approximately 5,800 living Jonathan Edwards alums, all of whom were invited to last weekend’s reunion.