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30th Reunion

Submitted by Diana L. Ohlbaum on Sunday, 6/15/2014, at 8:24 PM


Class of 1984

30th Reunion

May 28-June 1, 2014


30th Reunion

So much fun - so many memories!  You can see all the photos here, and add your own.

Here are some of the fond remembrances our classmates have shared:

Tributes to Dean Wall

Hey all, 

As I read what you, my classmates, write, I am struck by two things. The first is the very fact that my classmates are all writing. Like the attendance number, the participation in this thread is a significant and powerful indicator of the sort of remarkable spirit of our class. The second is what is being shared in this constant and rather joyous stream of comments, thoughts, anecdotes, photos, and cartoon (Yes, one perfect cartoon). 

I remember feeling this five years ago: the singular experience of (re)connecting with something less mundane with an ease that was surprising considering the number of years that have passed, with friends I'd forgotten I'd missed, and acquaintances who felt more like friends.

As many have expressed in this thread of mutual admiration, you, we, are an impressive lot, full of the intellectual curiosity that brought us together in the first place. It was interesting how many of the talks I went to this year included something about technology - the beauty, the danger, the advantages and disadvantages of information access, immediacy, etc. But I will say that one obvious benefit is that technology has allowed for this class, the members of whom dot the map from coast to coast, to meet in virtual space. And I'm pretty grateful for that.

Perhaps when the dust of this love-fest settles, we might even find a way to tap into this unique, and now connected brain-trust, and use this techno-proximity for a greater purpose; advocacy for a cause, promotion for an idea, a resource for those seeking answers. The possibilities are endless. So again, thank you to our class officers and leaders who have kept this thing going through their collective effort and unified vision of our class. I doubt not that the coming five years will pass quickly for the next crew. And I will be there, even if I register at the last minute again.

Finally, a quick memory snapshot of Dean Wall. 

My third college visit was Amherst, but it was the only application I'd sent in at that time. It was September or maybe early October, pre-license, but by dad (to my mom's dismay) allowed me to drive on route 90 from Boston. We arrived, and i remember exactly what I was wearing in the early autumn of New England. I was wearing stone-colored levi cords, a blue button-down collar oxford, a rust V-neck sweater (which had been my dad's in college), a thrift-shop grey/brown herringbone tweed jacket with patches, and frey boots. As we waited in the small outer office that was his lobby, my dad was telling me about Henry Steele Commager. The door opened, and there was Dean wall, wearing EXACTLY the same outfit with some minor color variations, but the same general palette (the only real difference was that he was wearing loafers). As I stood up, we looked at each other, and I said rather blithely "I like your outfit." He took a moment, realized that we were dressed similarly, smiled, and said, "Come on in. I think this is going to be fun." And it was.

Stay in touch.

I know you all will.


--Geoffrey Cantor


I suggest we offer a moment of silence in memory Dean Ed Wall who assembled our fantastic class amidst great consternation from the administration/faculty regarding his acceptance methodology  .  The result has been a history of blown out reunion attendance, incredible financial support of the school and an amazing list of exceptional people doing extraordinary things for the betterment of society.

I guess the experiment worked!

Great to see all and I’m already looking forward to our 35th.

Thank you, thank you , thank you to all involved in organizing.

-- Sam Tingley


Dear Sam,

What you say about Dean Ed Wall and the consternation of the administration/faculty is intriguing. I, for one, would like to know more about this. I have often heard anecdotal references Dean Wall’s personal-interview approach to admissions. But I wonder if you know of a source that more formally describes his strategy. I ask for personal but also professional reasons since I work in that world and would benefit from his approach.


-- Benigno Trigo


All - For the last few days I have been thinking about Benigno's  question a lot.  Thanks to Sam for "going there" with the reference to Ed Wall - rip.

I am going to venture a partial guess:  I think Dean Wall looked for individuals with active imaginations and the ability to draw their listeners in - storytellers (we have a few of those don't we?).  He had his pick of smart people - really smart. people  How do you pick from a group where smart is a commodity?  The wise dean used a "sit down here and let's chat for a minute" approach. 

Like Geoff Cantor, I was nervous entering his office.  I  remember how he used some small talk to get the conversation going.  He let the conversation just flow.  I forget how the topic got started (maybe he just asked what else I was doing while visiting), but I started to go into great detail about the outstanding piece of cheesecake I had just enjoyed after lunch at the Lord Jeff.   I described the caramel walnut filling  and the graham cracker crust with pressed walnuts in it.  The taste and texture were extraordinary.  That was the best piece of cheesecake I ever had in my life (and I have had a lot).  That cheesecake was so good that I was moved to ask our  server where the restaurant got it.  Apparently the cake had been  made by some home-based baker in the far reaches of Massachusetts that I never was able to find.   

Dean Wall sat there focused and engaged.  He was a very active listener.  He asked questions that allowed me to add detail and context - and helped him go through his own checklist of what he was looking for.  I think we went on for about 90 effortless minutes.  At the end he said that I would be a great addition to the class and he looked forward to seeing me if I chose to apply.  So I did and, as they say, the rest is history (35 years ago). 

It was only later that I heard the cliché of "seeing the world through a single grain of sand."  I think that is one of the key characteristics that Dean wall looked for.  He wanted individuals who could engage, and be engaging with others, to take something  small and build mountains out of it .   

I found the below letter with some autobiographical ramblings from the dean himself.  His low key style shows through.

I suspect others have similar stories to share to help Benign with his quest.  Do tell.

-- Michael Radin


Dear Michael,

Thank you for your message. And for sending me Ed Wall’s short but revealing auto-biography in the world of education.

Your memory is impressive and your story of how you were interviewed by Ed Wall is both moving and compelling. I think you are probably right about his listening-based approach, as was well as about his “personal check list of what he was looking for”.

Certainly, his auto-biography seems to confirm this. It is sparse, just the highlights (nuggets of nuggets at that) of what was a long career in education (43years!). It suggests that he had an ability to synthesize, to concentrate on what was important to him, to choose the individuals to learn from, to tell what was what, to know what he liked, and to describe things as he saw them. He seems to have had a lot of something that, curiously and paradoxically, I was taught to distrust at Amherst, namely common sense. (Something I sorely lack!) He also seems to have had another quality that was out of fashion in our secular century, namely belief, which is not necessarily the same as Faith.  He says ”I have been blessed by having had outstanding mentors everywhere I landed, being in the right place at the right time on many occasions and on every one of those days doing what I like to do best: interviewing 17 year olds en route to four of the most important years of their lives”.

He believed he had a role to play in a larger drama, that he was good at what he did, that chance (but also a vague Providence) had put him there, and that he had to make the most of what life had afforded him: a seat at the front row of a scene that for him was transcendent, the scene of the beginning of a journey for an adolescent during a period when the country was no longer at war (perhaps a somewhat romanticized view of the Pax Americana and its consequences on a generation of late-baby boomers), the journey that prepares the adolescent for maturity, four years that could be spent  trying to find out what’s what, to identify what is important to one, to choose one’s battles, to find out who will be our models (or to realize whom they have been), to finally get a taste for one’s life, for the life we have been afforded that is to come.

I think he liked to hear, and perhaps was looking for, students who were somewhat self-reflective about what was about to happen, about their moment in time, and believed that something “important” was about to happen to them. Perhaps that is what he was so good at hearing in those interviews, regardless of how the students looked on paper. An affect that is difficult to put your finger on but that can be felt, something like an excitment, a nervous energy, a sense of a future, an anticipation, curiosity despite fear in front of something big about to happen. Something in your cheesecake story.  I think he believed in education with a capital “E” and favored students who showed a similar “faith” with a lower case. Students who were invested, one way or another, in the play (the tragedy or the comedy) of a Higher Education.

I was a very mediocre student (and that is putting it very generously). I clearly remember that. But I also came from a family that valued education particularly in the figure of my mother (a writer), and my mother’s mother  (a member of the first class of university students at the UPR).  I also came from a family of privilege with previous ties to Amherst, and from an under-represented minority group (in terms of ethnicity, not in terms of social class, in my case). I always thought that it was the uncanny combination of priviledge and minority status that led to my acceptance (by the tail of either their expensive or tattered coats so to to speak).  But perhaps, as I sat there, at the edge of my seat, talking with Dean Wall, with my mother sitting close by (also listening), I was unwittingly repeating the scene that he had come to value so. I remember he said “Relax...”.  

Ultimately, I believed in my mother, in the value she and her family put in education, and that it was an important moment for me, regardless of where I ended up. Perhaps Dean Wall saw beyond the trappings of privilege and affirmative action, and perhaps he was also able to relax and enjoy the scene that was being played in front of him. The truth is that the next four years were indeed some of the most important years of my life. As for Dean Wall and my mother, they taught me to have a little faith and to relax when big things are about to happen.  Maybe I can put that lesson to good use.


-- Benigno Trigo


Reunion Memories

Wow... more a sound than a word but it describes the wonderful time I had and felt so many others did at our 30th. How does one explain that we pulverized the attendance record for the 30th as we did for pretty much all the others? Perhaps it's because 1984 is such an iconic year with so many resonances. Perhaps it's that we were there for the abolition of the controversial fraternity system and that we represent some kind of fulcrum in the life of the college. On the other hand, maybe it has to do with the indefatigable efforts of our classmates who organized the reunion and encouraged us to overcome apathy, laziness, fear, work and family schedules to come. I will not name our classmates because I know I'll leave someone out as I have no idea how many worked on this, but I am so very thankful to you for giving us such a wonderful time.

I think there must be something about the passage of time that makes one reflective. It is a joy to have people to check in with whom you have known for more than thirty years and find out things you didn't know and hadn't considered. The old things that kept us compartmentalized are now trivial. What remains is an abiding affection, interest and warmth. 

Let's make the 35th the most wonderful it can be. I for one, will be polishing my piano chops so that I can play in impossible piano keys like B major. Then, when I sit in with the amazing house band anchored by Andy and Jeff, I'll be able to take a decent solo. 

If each of us can convince one classmate who couldn't be there to join us for the 35th, the town will have to change the noise curfew because when midnight rolls around there'll be no stoppin' us.

Love and affection,

-- Ezra Barnes


Ezra – well said!  There was not enough time to say hello to everyone.  Shout out to all who helped make it happen. 

The class of “abiding affection, interest and warmth” captures the vibe.  Bill – can you wrap that in a cool cartoon for our 35th

-- Mike Radin


Ezra…thanks for putting into words exactly what I experienced….but don’t have the talent to express as simply and wonderfully as you did.  Thanks to all!

--Ted Porter


My thoughts exactly.  How I wish I could do it all over again with the balance and maturity that comes with adulthood.  I would have enjoyed knowing all of you better and would love doing it now. You/we are a special and inspiring collection of people.


-- Cindy Hecht

Hi Everyone,

My funny story is that Sunday afternoon we were sitting in the parking lot of one of the rest stops on the Jersey Turnpike shoving down some fast food and an older gentleman and his wife went to get in the car next to us.  They saw my husband’s Amherst shirt and told us he was Class of '64.  I leaned over and said I was Class of '84 and asked if he was coming from Reunion.  He said he was, and then he said "Wait - I was staying at the Lord Jeff.  Were you the class that had the Party?"  I kind of sheepishly said we were and he started laughing and said "See you at your tent in five!"

-- Kathy Sarris Shaw


Has anyone see my voice?  

Still hoarse (some say sultry . . . my kids say be quiet!) but so glad to have spent it catching up.  This year, more than any other reunion, I felt like I got to meet classmates I had barely spoken with in our four years together and what cool people they are!

Proud to carry on these next 5 years as THIS class' president!

With abundant love and affection,

--Robin Smith


Ah! That phrase again! Who mentioned it late Saturday night, over by the bar?

1984, the class of abundant love and affection.

Anyway, here's to the next party, and to seeing even more of us!

Another thankful classmate,

-- Max Hall


Like Robin, my voice is still hoarse from so many 2am mornings talking with so many of you.  In spite of that I have what seems like a permanent smile on my face...

Thank you to the committee. They put the best mix of activities together. Just the right combination of mingle, presentation and jam session.  And I love the bag!  Thanks for taking the time to pull it together when you have busy lives.

I have been processing the fabulous weekend and trying to figure out my feelings...

I have come to the idea that I feel overwhelming pride.  Pride in my classmates' diverse accomplishments, and their humble nature.    Whether listening to your presentations, having a late night conversation about life changes, or just enjoying casual conversation... I just feel so proud of everyone!

I then move to gratitude for being at Amherst 1980 - 1984.   The gratitude reaches way back in time to how I came to apply to, and get into Amherst.  So grateful the swim coach with big ears, Hank Dunbar, sent hand typed letters telling me of his fledgling swimming program. Grateful that I made the right decisions at the age of 17 to come to Amherst.  Grateful that you all made the same decision.

And thirdly, you are all so inspiring and it makes me want to do more and be better.  This is a tall order, and apparently this desire never stops.

I suppose it all rolls up to a true love of Amherst and all of you!  It was so great to be with you last week, and until next time....

 Very best regards to all,

-- Mary D’Agostino


Hi All.

Still picking up the bits and pieces from Reunion and it is too quiet now that you’ve all departed the campus.  The tents look lonely, though ours is still reverberating from the weekend.  SO many of our classmates have said so well what we all felt…what a treasure to be in the company of such good people for our 30th!  Thanks to our great chairs, the presenters, and to every person who was here…and everyone who wanted to be but could not.   We’ll get things rolling in advance of our 35th just to be sure we are all ready to descend on the campus in 2019. 

The chatter at the college is all about our class and how connected we remain—I’m happy to be an ’84!!

--Betsy Cannon Smith


I suggest we offer a moment of silence in memory Dean Ed Wall who assembled our fantastic class amidst great consternation from the administration/faculty regarding his acceptance methodology.  The result has been a history of blown out reunion attendance, incredible financial support of the school and an amazing list of exceptional people doing extraordinary things for the betterment of society.

I guess the experiment worked!

Great to see all and I’m already looking forward to our 35th.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to all involved in organizing.

-- Sam Tingley


100% agreed! Not sure which two lines of the graph crossed in 1984 to create our class but there is definitely something a bit magical. I even recall several separate toasts to Ed Wall throughout the evening.

Big smile from the moment Tina and Flash took the stage with all our talented classmates -- blinked my eyes and it was 2:00 in the morning I still did not want to go home (and I didn't) -when was the last time that happened…….     Love you guys - see you in five years

-- Hall Ball


Oh my, what did I miss? I KNEW I should have gone to reunion. Was planning on it and then life got busy (we just got 3 new elephants so felt I had to stay around – not an excuse many could use?) anyhow, I’ve heard bits and pieces and saw some photos. 

So wish I was there,

-- Suzan Murray


I clearly made the wrong call too -- and had nary a pachyderm as an excuse (though my children sometimes do behave like animals).  Thank you, photographers, for sharing your pictures.  Great to hear the magic is still alive.  I look forward to drinking it in and seeing everyone in 2019.

With much fondness, 

-- Susannah Grant


Echoing all of the above it was great to see so many classmates and catch up.  Thank you to the organizers, presenters, performers and the rest of you who made the effort to be there.  I agree, five years seems like a long way out for the next one!

-- Martha Bayliss


Thank you to all who organized such a fabulous reunion!!!!  Too bad we have to wait 5 years . . . And to all in our class who did presentations -- you rock!

-- Michele Abeles


Merci bien! Failsafe, with the optimized audience. Plus... as we know from that hour, then from Saturday night, and from life with Jeff T in general...

"Everything's a picnic as long as you have Chicken!"

-- Max Hall





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