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(HOST) Class reunions offer many surprises and sometimes reassuring consistencies. Commentator Madeline Kunin recently attended her 50th college reunion and she joins us today with some thoughts.

(KUNIN) Their names were “Trigger,” “Buzz,” “Squeaky,’ and “Babs.”

That was fifty years ago ~ fifty ~ when my class of 1956 graduated from the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

What a different world it was.

Dwight D. Eisenhower was in the White House, finishing his first term, the cold war was on, and the only television sets were located in bars.

The expectation for women was to get married right out of college, stay home and have babies.

In our school, the ratio of men to women was two to one. In today’s classes, women outnumber men.

Almost all of us were first generation college students in our families.

None of us had much money and most of us had to work to get through. There were no student loans, and no grants. A few of us were lucky enough to get full scholarships to cover tuition – we laughed when we recalled the amount – fifty dollars per semester.

For me, it was the first time away from home. I proudly wore my freshman beany and relished my new independence.

The greatest adventure though was being exposed to new ideas.

College was a revelation – I loved history, English literature, discussing religion, and working on the college newspaper.

Some professors made a lasting impact on my thinking – most significantly – on how I saw my own potential. For the first time, I thought I could do something important with my life, although I had no idea what it would be.

Colleg reunions can be overly sentimental, romanticizing a past that didn’t exist.

Or reunions can be a discovery of who you were, and who you are today.

Maybe only the people who are satisfied with how their lives turned out attend reunions, and I confess, I am one of those.

Yet, I found there was an extraordinary bond in reconnecting with people I knew fifty years ago – not all that much needs to be said, because the common ground has already been laid through memory. Even though few of us would be recognizable from our yearbook photos attached to our name tags, we knew one another.

It was fun to introduce spouses and to talk about children, grand children, jobs, volunteer work, and retirement.

We were eager to talk, to listen, to compare notes. That’s what friends do.

Old friends are increasingly rare. Fifty years is a long time ~ my only question was, how did it go by so fast?

Madeleine May Kunin is a former governor of Vermont.

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