Photo: Courtesy of John Lovejoy ’73
‘Our message was: Don’t worry if you haven’t been back in the past. We want you back now”

There are princeton alums who return for Reunions year after year, faithfully coming back for every milestone anniversary to reconnect with old friends and dance the night away. And there are those who don’t.

For some, it is only when they reach the 50th anniversary of their graduation that they finally get back for the celebration.

Photo: Courtesy of John Lovejoy ’73

John Lovejoy ’73 had never made it to Reunions. He spent 22 years in the Army, most of that time in Germany, where he served as liaison to the German military and army attaché at the United States Embassy, among other roles. He and his family returned stateside in the 1990s, but their growing family — they have nine children — meant they had their hands full with parenting responsibilities. 

“We all still had our hair, and we still look good in uniform — if you can call a beer jacket a uniform!”

— John Lovejoy ’73

Lovejoy, who lives in Clifton, Virginia, did stay connected to Princeton, making phone calls to classmates ahead of the 40th reunion and visiting campus when his brother, Charles Lovejoy Jr. *68, who goes by Doug, lived nearby when he worked as a member of Princeton’s staff. 

But as their 50th reunion approached, Jimmy DiOrio ’73, the former class president, reached out to Lovejoy. “He nagged me” about returning, Lovejoy recalls. “I credit Jimmy; he stayed on me.”

DiOrio encouraged those who had never been back for Reunions to think about returning for their 50th: “When we were putting together the 50th reunion book, we sent out multiple communications to classmates encouraging them to update their profile, write a personal essay, and attend the reunion in person,” he says. “Our message was: Don’t worry if you haven’t been back in the past. We want you back now.”

Lovejoy found returning to campus for his 50th to be immensely fun. He especially enjoyed chatting with students who were working at the Reunions tents. And he found the Alumni-Faculty Forums on current events and other topics “stimulating intellectually,” he says.

He connected with former teammates on the football, baseball, and rugby teams, reliving some of their best moments on the field. He hung out with Pat Holmes ’73, a former roommate whom he hadn’t seen in 50 years. The first thing Lovejoy did when he saw Holmes was apologize for an accident that had occurred when he was driving Holmes’ car — a new Avanti — to the church for Holmes’ wedding ceremony. “I felt so bad about the car!” Lovejoy says. 

And he reunited with the two other members of his ROTC class: “We took a picture together and compared it to the photo taken when we were the commissioning class,” he says. “We all still had our hair, and we still look good in uniform — if you can call a beer jacket a uniform!” 

Lovejoy was delighted that his wife had as good a time as he did. “She was reluctant to go, but she really enjoyed herself,” he says. “She came back with more friends than I had!”

For anyone wavering on whether to return, he advises: “Jump in! It’s worth the effort to go back.” He is contemplating a return for his 55th. 

Bill Bikales ’73 lived overseas for most of the last several decades. His career as an international development economist took him to Mongolia, China, Ukraine, the Philippines, and Hong Kong. But after moving back to the States to live in Skillman, New Jersey, a few miles from the University, Bikales — who graduated from Princeton in 1976 — decided to change his Princeton affiliation back to the class with which he began his time at Princeton. (He spent most of his three years away from the University studying in Taiwan.) 

“The class I feel the most ties to is the class I entered with,” he says. As soon as he changed his affiliation, he started hearing from old friends. “Then I thought, ‘Going back will be really fun,’” he says.

At Reunions, he met up with his roommates from freshman year, with whom he had lost touch, and saw some old friends from The Daily Princetonian. He greatly appreciated the discussion at a panel about China and was “blown away by the innovations at the Keller Center.”

He also enjoyed seeing a video about the Class of 1973 that covered the historic events affecting the members, including their status as the first class to experience all four years under coeducation, the increase in the number of Black students, and the protests against the Vietnam War.

While he is “not a big rah-rah person,” preferring conversation to parties, Bikales says he enjoyed the panels about current events and other topics offered at Reunions. “To me, what makes Princeton wonderful is the intellectual atmosphere and exchanges.”

When Judith Perlman ’73 returned for her 50th, it was the second time she had attended Reunions. She had “a horrible time” at her 25th reunion, the first one she attended, because only one of her close friends was there and she “did not feel the atmosphere was conducive to meeting classmates,” she says. But after a friend persuaded her to give the 50th reunion a try, she was heartened and touched by how much she enjoyed it.

Judith Perlman ’73 met up with classmates including Alan Konefsky ’73 at her 50th.
Photo: Courtesy of Judith Perlman ’73

“I had put some of my struggles in my class bio, and many people responded not only with kindness and sympathy, but with many stories of their own difficulties. I no longer feel isolated.”

— Judith Perlman ’73

“People are at a different stage of life at that point,” says Perlman, who lives in Cleveland, Wisconsin. “I felt that we could meet on a much more level, human playing field, and I found that to be true.” 

Perlman arrived at Princeton as a transfer student, and found the University provided little support. She also experienced what she describes as “vicious and lasting antisemitism” at Princeton. 

“I had put some of my struggles in my class bio, and many people responded not only with kindness and sympathy, but with many stories of their own difficulties,” she says. “I no longer feel isolated.”

A highlight of the reunion was the Saturday brunch for the women in the class. Perlman found many of them “warm and embracing. I made some wonderful new friends.” 

She was impressed with the richness of the experiences of her classmates and by their willingness to share their stories with honesty. “Time,” she observes, “is a great equalizer.” 

Jennifer Altmann is a freelance writer and editor.