I had never attended a Brown class reunion until this year, my 30th. Sure, I’d come back to Campus Dance a time or two. But I was one of those “seven-year plan” students. I went in class of ’86, graduated in ’88, then waited for my then-partner to graduate in ’89. My friends were spread out over many years, so I never felt a particular connection to the class of ’88. But I live nearby now and was going to be reporting on the weekend anyway—why not go?
As I expected, there were lots of ’88-ers who looked familiar, but not many I knew. Ann Alberino, now a teacher in Providence, was there, and so was Ajuan Mance, now a professor and artist in the Bay Area, and we reprised our graduation day picture (I’m the tall one). We were just acquaintances back then, and it was fun to hang out and get to know them better.
What I didn’t expect was how it would feel to meet classmates I had not known. At the Class of ’88 Friday night dinner, the only familiar face I saw was professor Barrett Hazeltine’s. I slid my tray of sushi next to him and met Amer Al-Muhaisen, who began to regale the table with stories of the “80 Benevolent crew,” reunited for the first time in 30 years at this reunion. It was a party house, Amer explained, with an eclectic mix of guys: “We had a white American, a Jordanian Muslim, two Pakistanis, an Indian Hindu, and a Sikh from Punjab.” Amer’s best story is too long to repeat here, but it involved a mouse, wild boars, a shotgun, and cartoon-hilarious drama. We went on to talk about life and current events, and I realized I felt more connected to these strangers than to anyone I’ve met in recent years.
I had a similar experience meeting another alum I hadn’t known, the next night. We’d both been campus activists, but for different causes. We reminisced about the Swearer years, then found more current things to talk about.
The alums I met were all wildly different, with a wide range of opinions and perspectives. But there was a Brown culture we clearly shared: An orientation toward inquiry, open-mindedness, critical thinking, a desire to make the world a better place, and—the secret ingredient—that thing President Paxson calls “constructive irreverence.” It felt like coming home.
This year, we did Reunion coverage a little differently, using the space to tell alumni stories instead of printing lots of photos of people holding drinks at receptions. Let us know what you think!