The Yale Alumni Association cancelled reunions scheduled for this May amid concerns of potential spread of the virus among large groups on campus.
Alumni typically convene every five years for a reunion, set to occur over two three-day intervals in late May. But the alumni will not be able to gather on campus next month, and many classes are delaying their reunions or hosting them virtually through virtual happy hours, virtual classmate cabarets and more.
“We are currently working on plans to help the impacted classes celebrate,” wrote E.J. Crawford, Yale Alumni Association director of communications and marketing, in an email to the News. “We are currently exploring options, working with the class officers, vetting locations, times, etc.”
While no class has yet to decide its alternative, reunion chairs for each of the cohorts have worked to maintain a sense of community, even amid social distancing practices recommended in the COVID-19 outbreak. Both the class of 1990 and the class of 1995, for example, held virtual happy hours over Zoom. Still, Lynn Hepburn ’95, class of 1995 reunion co-chair, said the happy hour and other upcoming virtual events will serve as temporary stand-ins to maintain class cohesion until they can meet in person.
John Jenkins, class of 1990 reunion co-chair, said their happy hour functioned in a similar manner. He added that he hopes the class can get together next year on campus — potentially as early as the fall of 2020. In the meantime, Jenkins mentioned that his class is working on programs such as virtual yoga lessons or a class-wide Peloton bike ride. Even so, they still are planning other events — including an artist talk and author panel — as in-person meet-ups.
Some classes, such as the class of 1970, are hoping to virtually carry out some of the programming that was initially planned for the in-person reunion.
“We had booked Tom Rush for a special concert, and we hope to have him appear when the time is right (we’ve found out that Tom has since tested positive for COVID-19),” wrote Scott Simpson, class of 1970 reunion chair, in an email to the News. “Ditto for the reunion swag, one part of which was a special T-shirt designed by our classmate Garry Trudeau. We’ll revive those things at the appropriate time.”
A representative from the class of 1965 said they will likely coordinate a joint survey with the class of 1970 that will compare the classes and how the two have changed over time in relation to one another. They hope to incorporate the results into a panel in which members of the two classes can discuss the findings, allowing them to form connections while also getting used to the virtual technology.
But online class meet-ups have not been as attractive for more recent classes. Amanda Glassman, class of 2010 reunion co-chair, pointed to a generational divide between the needs of the older classes and the younger ones. Her class, she said, very much wants to be on campus, and they are hoping to make that a possibility next year. Until then, they will host local events to bring small groups of classmates together. But due to the size of the class, and the fact that most will likely soon tire of Zoom, Glassman said they will largely refrain from virtual events.
Even so, all of the class representatives interviewed by the News said they understood and supported the decision to cancel the on-campus reunions. In addition, they each expressed gratitude towards the Yale Alumni Association for working individually with each class to ensure class connections can happen. Many representatives also voiced sympathy for the class of 2020, given the quick end to their senior year. Furthermore, they added their hope that all of the classes, both graduating and those whose reunions were cancelled, can still gather in person soon.
As Scott Simpson, class of 1970 reunion chair wrote, “When the time is right, it will happen … or not. This too shall pass.”
Madison Hahamy | firstname.lastname@example.org