Photos from throughout the Reunion weekend can be found here.
The Wesleyan University community gathered together May 19–22 for Reunion and Commencement Weekend 2022. As is Wesleyan’s tradition, the classes ending in 2 and 7 returned to campus to celebrate their reunions with a weekend of lectures, performances, dinners, and ceremonies.
With generations of Wesleyans assembled together, the weekend was a celebration of the University’s past and its future.
Alumni started returning to campus in earnest Friday morning, gathering under a tent outside Russell House for lunch and to look for familiar faces.
David Lakein ’92, Juan Luque ’92, and Scott Shapiro ’92 and a group of guys have come together at every Class of 1992 reunion since their graduation. They were not friends during their time at Wes – in fact many did not know each other at all. Through all the reunions, the friendships grew.
“The thing about reunion, if you are a Wesleyan aficionado, is that anyone you see who is your year, there is an immediate connection,” Lakein said.
Lakein and Luque spoke of old rivalries between Alpha Delta Phi and Eclectic (water balloons may have been involved – the specifics are lost to history.) Luque described meeting New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick ’75, Hon. ’05, P’07 at a previous reunion and gently chiding him about signing talented but difficult wide receiver Randy Moss, another example of the friendly, open environment found around campus.
David Perryman ’87 joined the trio for lunch and immediately locked into the friendly banter. He just met Lakein yesterday: “And now he’s the godfather of my three children,” Perryman joked.
Cheryl Green ’80, P’22, will always remember her first day of freshman orientation – August 28, 1976. She was hanging out in her dorm, Foss 7, and she and her roommate decided to go downstairs because they’d heard someone had come back from being abroad.
That was the first time she met James Green ’80, P’22, who would become her future husband. “He always said he never heard anyone speak the way I did,” said Green, a Massachusetts native.
The two became friends and occasionally dated. They always stayed in touch but life took them in different directions – James to medical school, Cheryl to law school. Still, 15 years after meeting, they got married.
Thirty-two years after their own graduation, they are back to celebrate another milestone – their son Mitchell, a chemistry and Earth and environmental science double major, is graduating on Sunday.
“This is really hard for me. I am very excited because he’s graduating. It’s the end of another era, ”Cheryl Green said. “It has been such a great fit (for Mitchell.) Seeing it through his eyes is great. It brings back so many memories for me. ”
Marvin Cabrera ’92 plans to run the campus at some point over the weekend. A New York City native, he ran cross country and indoor track his senior year at Wesleyan (and, for the record, says he’s in better shape now than he was back then.)
Cabrera always wants to come back to campus, not just to reconnect with friends, but also to re-engage with the intellectual life of the community. He plans on attending a WESeminar presented by the Center for Prison Education, the senior thesis art exhibition at Zilkha Gallery, and the talkback with Lin Manuel Miranda ’02, Hon. ’15 after the screening of his film tick, tick… BOOM!
“Wesleyan changed my life. It laid the foundation for the way I think about the world, whether it is about race, gender, or class, ”Cabrera said. “I have not found another place like this in my life.”
Later that afternoon, as Holly Bennet ’94 stood in front of the recently unveiled portrait of her father, former Wesleyan President Douglas Bennet ’59, Hon. ’94, P’87, ’94, now on display on the second floor of Olin Library, her first words were about working with the artist, David Baker ’91.
“He went through thousands of family photographs and lore. He went back and forth with me about the size of Dad’s hands. I wanted him to be painted at the helm of his boat and David said it was totally inappropriate, ”Bennet said, prompting a laugh from the crowd.
When her brothers James, a noted journalist, and Michael, the United States Senator from Colorado, uncovered the portrait, the crowd reacted with a gasp and a loud round of applause. The dignified portrait showed Douglas Bennet standing in a study, small portraits of politicians Ed Muskie and Hubert Humphrey in the background and a copy of the Federalist Papers on the table next to him.
“I want to point out that he has the start of a smile, which usually came right at the start of a line of inquiry,” she said, prompting another laugh.
President Michael S. Roth ’78 said that each day throughout his tenure he has benefited from President Bennet’s previous good work. He described the former president as “someone whose love for Wesleyan was as deep as anyone I’ve ever met.” Douglas Bennet served as president from 1995 to 2007 and died in 2018.
“I started on a very firm foundation. I started with a beautiful campus, with dorms that had been rejuvenated, with a confident organization that had been renewed, with plans for becoming an ever-greater liberal arts institution, ”Roth said. “Every year I’ve been in the job I realize how lucky I am to follow — or to try to follow — in Doug’s footsteps.”
Corin Cort ’17, Selena Gonzalez ’17, Naomi Wright ’17, and Taylor Dauphin ’15 enjoyed a midafternoon bit of champagne and watched the soon-to-be-graduating seniors and their families celebrate under the tent on Andrus Field. The friends do not see each other as much as they did back in the day, but they were excited to be back on campus.
“I feel like it’s difficult to process,” Cort said. “It has not felt like five years — it has felt longer.”
“It’s nice to be back and see things that are still the same,” Wright said.
The past five years, while difficult because of the pandemic, have been a fruitful period for the group. Cort works for a media advertising agency and is getting her MBA from New York University. Gonzalez attends Harvard Medical School. Wright lives in Los Angeles and works for LeBron James’s production company. Dauphin attends Arizona State University for a masters in organizational leadership.
“It’s amazing to think about what has transpired in five years, all the things we accomplished that we did not see coming,” Gonzalez said.
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ’02, Hon. ’15, first acting role at Wesleyan was the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar. He performed with the Wesleyan sketch comedy troupe Desperate Measures. He sang with the Mazeltones— and worked on a senior thesis musical he claims will never see the light of day. (He also did the first version of In the Heights.) While at Wesleyan Miranda wrote, well, like he was running out of time.
“I felt like I needed to leave (Wesleyan) with stuff — I’m a playwright and here are my plays,” Miranda recalled at a talkback Friday night. Miranda spoke about his creative process working on the Oscar-nominated film tick, tick… BOOM! to a full house in the Goldsmith Family Cinema who had just seen a screening. Alex Horwitz ’02, a director (and Miranda’s former roommate at Wes) led the discussion.
Miranda joked with his friends backstage before the event, reminiscing about his time at Wes, and then popped out for the post-screening conversation to a standing ovation.
He said that it was during this period of creative learning and upheaval that he first experienced Jonathan Larson’s unfinished musical tick, tick… BOOM! As a young man, he was floored by Larson’s work. “I was exactly where you were when I first saw tick, tick… BOOM!”Miranda said to the Class of 2022 members in the audience.
He had no way to anticipate that he would end up directing the film adaptation of Larson’s musical, a project that ended up being a love letter to Larson’s work.
But that initial inspiration came at Wesleyan. He remembered considering Wesleyan for school and on his visit attending a film class taught by Jeanine Basinger, Corwin-Fuller Professor of Film Studies, Emerita, that ran a couple of hours over. “I wanted to go to a place where people are so passionate about what they are talking about that the classes go two hours longer. To me, that’s heaven, ”he said.
Story to be updated throughout the weekend.