Ah, Reunions! That late-spring nostalgia fest in which otherwise sober and mature Princetonians regress to somewhere around late adolescence. We appear in goofy getups (otherwise known as Reunions outfits), march for hours in a parade that boasts no shade and seemingly no end (the P-rade), and endlessly chant “Rah rah rah! Tiger, tiger, tiger! Sis, sis, sis, boom, boom, boom, ah!” (the locomotive) — which I just discovered, by reading Carmina Princetoniana, dates back to before 1894, making it a very respectable, century-plus bit of inanity. And all of this culminates in the Saturday night extravaganza of high-decibel guitars, muddy courtyards, and — for us esteemed older classes — a question increasingly on my mind: Is it OK to leave now and get to bed?
Looking back, I’ve discovered that my husband Mark Stevens ’73 and I have clocked 15 reunions out of 50 — more than I thought, but nothing compared to some Class of ’73 stalwarts. Legend has it that ’73’s Dave Alter has not only attended every reunion, he has also stayed in the dorms every reunion. (Locomotive cheer for Dave.) Not only that: In 2021, during COVID, Alter and a handful of other impossibly devoted classmates managed to get the class banner, gather at Nassau Hall, and walk the P-rade route in deference to the Reunions weekend that wasn’t, a tribute to their … (supply your own word here). Somebody has to keep it going, after all.
So: Is there any wisdom to be had after a half century of going back to Old Nassau (other than a general consensus that the more serious component, the panels, are great)? To explore this weighty question, I convened a group of ’73ers over Zoom — Dick Walker, Anne Smagorinsky, and Jerry Raymond, bon vivants all. Bourbon, wine, and Jerry the mixologist’s “clarified milk punch” — “based on something that Benjamin Franklin used to make: looks like urine” — accompanied our rousing discussion.
Swan: What are some of your earliest Reunions memories?
Raymond: I tended bar in 1972 for the Class of 1912, and it was a very easy job: All they drank was bourbon. They would sit around and reminisce about how their fathers were really happy to get Woodrow Wilson  out of Princeton. So, they supported him for governor. (Laughter) It made a real impression on me: For the first time in my life, I got my arms around the scale of time that was part of the Reunions experience.
Walker: I can beat Jerry’s memory in terms of the year. I went to my father’s 15th reunion in 1961. I was 9 years old. My brother and I stayed at the American Boychoir School [since closed], and I went to the P-rade. At that point I decided that I was going to go to Princeton. And speaking of history, my father [Richard ’46] worked the Class of 1905 Reunions with Norman Thomas [the famed socialist and presidential candidate]. He did indeed talk politics. And my father remembered that he was quite the drinker.
Smagorinsky: I enjoyed the earlier Reunions. But in more recent years, I’ve made it a little bit of my mission to talk with some classmates I’d never met. What’s the point of coming here and talking to your friends? I know what they’re doing. So, I began insinuating myself into groups that were not unwelcoming, but, ‘Who the heck is this?’ (Laughter) I’ve met a number of classmates that way who I just wish I had met earlier.
Raymond: That’s one of the great things about the way that Princeton was structured — and to a certain extent Reunions as well. There are plenty of ways to meet and engage with people of different backgrounds. There are very few silos.
Walker: I feel the same way about the women in our class: I’ve gotten to know them better through Reunions than I did at Princeton. I don’t remember as an undergrad thinking the first class of women was all that special. But now I’m so proud of the fact. I’ve been lucky enough since to meet women in the later classes, and when they ask, ‘What class are you, Mr. Walker?’ and I tell them ‘’73,’ they say, ‘’73? Oh my God. Wow. That’s the coolest class.’
Smagorinsky: I don’t know whether you’ve ever marched in the P-rade near the “Coeducation Begins” banner. The younger the classes get — of course they’re drunk by the time you get down there (laughter) — but they just go bananas when they see that banner.
Swan: Apropos drinking, my least favorite memory is when my roommate Betsy Freeman ’73 and I stayed at our 10th with Mark and her husband, Bob, in our former Little Hall suite. The yahooing didn’t die out until 2:30 a.m. — and then the garbage trucks arrived at 5.
Raymond: I stayed on campus for the fifth and the 10th, and after the 10th, Marisabel [Jerry’s wife] swore that she would never stay on campus again. I tried to convince her that having all these people throwing up in the bathroom was an authentic undergrad experience. She didn’t buy it. (Laughter)
Swan: But then there are the Reunions with all the kids, which are terrific. My absolute favorite was the 20th, when our daughters Emmy and Pippa [then 6 and almost 3] attended with us and had the time of their young lives. [A Tiger postscript: Emmy later became a member of the Class of ’09 and Pippa the Class of ’13.]
Raymond: I was chairman of that reunion. And Marisabel and Dick were in charge of the kids’ activities. They wrote quite an impressive curriculum.
Swan: It was great! Kudos to both.
Walker: My children loved Reunions. Especially when they hit their late teens. I’d bring them, and all of a sudden, they weren’t there. They’d show up three hours later and clearly weren’t behaving normally … . (Smirk) Now I’m bringing a party of 10 to the 50th, [including] my granddaughters Lucy and Mae, and my grandson Walker, [ages] 9, 5, and 6 months. I refer to them as the Class of ’36, the Class of ’39, and Class of ’44.
Smagorinsky: (Deadpan) I knew that some classmates were diehards, and I guess you captured two of them, Swan. (Laughter)
Swan: So what are we looking forward to most for our 50th?
Walker: We’re going to have a special bourbon this year, you guys. Ed O’Lear [’73] and Jerry organized it.
Raymond: Ed did actually. We arranged for tastings from four barrel types. We had a scoring rubric. And we’re having special old-fashioned etched glasses made. (Applause all round)
So there you have it, dear reader. A half century after members of the Class of 1912 celebrated their 60th with bourbon, the Class of ’73 will be doing the same for our 50th. Only this time, the women of ’73 will be raising a glass as well.