Seventy years stretch between the classes of 1940 and 2010, but the decades melted away amid smiles and hugs at the Spirit of ’31: Passing It Forward celebration that kicked off Reunion Weekend 2015 June 4.
“The classes of 1940 and 2010 were really at the precipice for radical change in the country and the world,” said Darin Lamar Jones ’10, class co-president and an associate pastor at the Greater Allen A.M.E. Cathedral of New York. “There’s a phenomenal bridge. The elder classes that are present were here and were taught at a time when America was radically changing. They were here during World War II, during Pearl Harbor. … They were taught and prepared to enter a changing world.”
As the Class of 2010 entered Cornell, social media was still a new entity, Jones continued. “We had the advent of Twitter, the advent of Instagram, the upshoot of social media, various social, political, economic paradigm shifts in our country and world,” he said. “Both classes share their preparation to be change-agents in this world – as the bridge that we all walk across.”
Through its history, the Class of 1931 promoted the idea of “paying it forward” to future generations. So this ceremony – a tradition begun in 2011 at 1931’s 80th reunion – celebrates Cornell classes across the generations. The oldest returning class presents a banner to the youngest class, who will hang it when the class gathers over the next eight decades. Clarence Padgham ’40 and Edward Richman ’40 gave the banner to reunion chairs Alison Elizabeth Ewing ’10, Alana Mildner ’10, Katherine Houng ’10 and Eric Zember ’10. Along with Jones, Stephanie Antoinette Rigione ’10 serves co-president of the class.
Among the members of the Class of ’31 known for their spirit were the late Bill Vanneman ’31 and Sy Katz ’31. Vanneman’s son, William Vanneman Jr. ’65, and Katz’s daughter, Alice Katz Berglas ’66, attended the celebration.
At the celebration, Cornell President David Skorton reminded the Classes of 1940, 1945 and 1950 of their vitality, loyalty to Cornell and how their generation shaped this nation.
Prior to the ceremony, Padgham recalled his college experience as “working for his meals,” as he washed dishes in Sage Hall, then a women’s dormitory. “That’s where I met my wife,” he said, smiling.
Mildner, who now attends New York University School of Law, absorbed the elder classes and the younger ones mixing and talking, and said, “It makes you realize just how timeless the Cornell experience is. It is really inspiring.”