More than 1,200 alums answered the call to return to Geneva for a landmark Reunion, the final for President Mark D. Gearan L.H.D. ’17 and Mary Herlihy Gearan L.H.D. ’17 following 18 years of visionary leadership. Alums from 58 class years and 35 states and countries also set records for giving, with the Classes of 1952 earning the Founder’s Cup for having the highest percentage of donors this year.
“I find myself touched this weekend by gratitude for these Colleges…for you all,” Rev. Alden Flanders ’67 told classmates during his sermon at Sunday’s service of remembrance. “For many of us, we haven’t seen each other in 50 years, but have picked up like it is yesterday. I have deep, deep gratitude.”
To begin the weekend, alums connected with new and old friends at a variety of events including the HWS Classic golf tournament, tours of campus and Geneva’s downtown, Reunion College courses, the Tour De Finger Lakes Bike Ride and the Distinguished Faculty Awards.
“While buildings change, while demographics change, while students come from all over the country and all around the world, still hopefully what is maintained is the culture, the spirit and the feel of Hobart and William Smith,” said Gearan during the Classes of 1967 50th Reunion dinner at his home on Friday. During the dinner, the 50th Reunion Committee presented the Gearan family with a bronze model of Gearan Center for the Performing Arts, created with the help of Toby Pugh ’67 and Professor of Art and Architecture Ted Aub.
On Saturday morning, President Gearan delivered his final “State of the Colleges” address in a standing-room-only Vandervort Room, reflecting on the Colleges’ progress, outcomes of recent graduates, advancements made on campus, connections forged with Geneva and a look to the future of HWS, including recognizing HWS President-Elect Gregory J. Vincent ’83. President Gearan’s “Bucket List” video also was shown to kick off the event.
“I’ve been reconnecting with many of the individuals in my life,” said Rafael Rodriguez ’07, of Burlington, Vt. “Being at HWS allowed me to be the kind of leader and agent of change I wanted to be. They really prepared me to lead a life of consequence.”
Saturday also included a Book Corner with alum authors, open houses at academic departments and offices across campus such as Intercultural Affairs, Hillel and fraternities. Following the Finger Lakes wine tasting and Family Fun Fest on the Quad, alums gathered for a celebration in honor of the Gearans’ service to the Colleges at the Robert A. Bristol ’31 Field House, where graduates reflected on strides made in the past 18 years.
Led by Gail Quintos ’17 and Josiah Bramble ’19, members of the “Red Shirts” team of students who assist with Reunion, the evening included well-wishes from conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt, previous Commencement speakers like CNN’s John King L.H.D. ’06 and the Today show’s Savannah Guthrie L.H.D. ’12 and Honorary Trustee Maureen Collins Zupan ’72, P’09, L.H.D. ’16. Watch King’s special farewell message.
Following his last public address to the HWS community and accompanied by students, President Gearan played a piano rendition of “Stand By Me.” The President’s Garage Band followed with its final performance, a set including “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Sweet Caroline,” the later in honor of the Gearans’ move to Boston and their love of the Red Sox.
Fireworks on the Quad and dancing into the night led into a Sunday morning brunch in the Vandervort Room. Alums also gathered at St. John’s Chapel for remembrance services in honor of late classmates, led by Chaplain Maurice Charles. “May this be a time of peace and blessing as we pause to remember them,” said Charles on Sunday. “We thank you for giving them to us as family and friends to love and to hold. Be swift to love and take haste to be kind.”
The Classes of 1972 also gathered on Sunday for the weekend’s final class discussion, which revisited a reading from the Western Civilization syllabus. Led by Distinguished Faculty Award recipient and Professor Emeritus of English James Crenner, alums discussed modern applications of Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince.
“Challenging preconceptions and critical thinking – that was a game-changer here. You gain perspective and engagement,” said John Baron ’72, P’06, a panelist during the forum. “You get it when you’re surrounded by amazing faculty and students. And it changes your life.”