(Image left to right: Henry "Hank" Pearsall '56 and Peter "Tiger" Weiller '56)
(Image left to right: Henry "Hank" Pearsall '56 and Peter "Tiger" Weiller '56)

When it comes to support of the Amherst Fund, no other class has done what the Class of 1956 has: 100% participation for the past three years in a row (and nine times total) and an 18-year streak of over 90% participation.

These numbers are stunning—and have other classes wondering about the secret of the Class of 1956’s success.

“When I started this, I said I’d take the job but never ask anyone for a specific amount of money,” says Henry “Hank” Pearsall, class agent since the mid-1990s. “I’d focus instead on participation. That’s been my mantra all along.

Add to that a tremendous amount of hard work on the part of Pearsall and his classmates Peter “Tiger” Weiller and Peter Levison. “Peter Weiller is the most dedicated, the most indefatigable class president ever,” says Pearsall. “No one could guess at the hours he has spent working with the class—phone calls, letters, thousands of photos—in his 37 years in this role. Peter Levison, our class secretary since 2016, is a gifted communicator and author of a comprehensive supplemental email newsletter, complete with photos and attachments. Together, these two do an extraordinary job of keeping our class members interested and connected.”

The class began its journey in 1952 as freshmen and experienced Amherst’s legendary core curriculum together. This created a solid foundation on which to build years later. In the fall of 1980, with their 25th Reunion on the horizon, Weiller, then class secretary, invited members of the Class of 1956 to reflect on their lives since leaving Amherst. From those reflections, he compiled a 220-page book that captured the insights, observations, joys and losses of two and a half decades. It galvanized the class and set the stage for a meaningful and memorable Reunion.

From that point forward, an emphasis on loyalty to the class and classmates has been key to generating support for the Amherst Fund. “We’re a class that’s stayed together,” says Levison. “And thanks to Hank, we’re at a place where it’s no longer a question of ‘Will you give?’ but ‘When will you give?’”

Tenacity has played its part as well. Over the years, Pearsall and Weiller have each gone the extra mile to track down long-lost classmates, from the wilds of Maine to the suburbs of Paris. “It took a lot of effort to get the ball rolling,” says Weiller, “but the more successful we are, the easier it is to continue the work.”

The enthusiasm and dedication they’ve inspired is as strong as ever as the Class of 1956 approaches its 65th Reunion next year. Together, they look forward to celebrating, in person or remotely.

As for the past, it’s been just plain fun to be in touch with one another through the years and to break records in the process: With a laugh, Pearsall says, “I think we all get a charge out of what we’ve done.”

The College couldn’t be more grateful. “They’re amazing,” says Stephanie Flaherty, director of the Amherst Fund. “This class sets the bar extremely high and is a catalyst for us all.”

For a complete list of other classes that led the way in funds raised and participation in the Amherst Fund in fiscal year 2020, see below. Congratulations to all this year's Trophy Race winners!  

Trophy Race Results

Chairs Trophy
Largest Gift (1-15 years out)
First Place: 2006 ($59,593)
Second Place: 2005 ($36,573)
Third Place: 2008 ($31,757)

Irradient Trophy
Highest Participation (1-15 years out)
First Place: 2007 (38.6%)
Second Place: 2006 (38.5%)
Third Place: 2008 (37.8%)

Class of 1958 Trophy
Largest Gift (16-25 years out)
First Place: 1995 ($271,305)
Second Place: 1996 ($245,925)
Third Place: 1997 ($124,643)

Class of 1956 Trophy

Highest Participation (16-25 years out)
First Place: 1995 (52%)
Second Place: 1996 (45.7%)
Third Place: 2003 (44%)

Memorial Hill Trophy
Largest Gift (26 years out or more)
First Place: 1991 ($652,533)
Second Place: 1989 ($508,487)
Third Place: 1970 ($373,250)

President's Trophy
Highest Participation (26 years out or more)
First Place: 1956 (100%)
Second Place: 1943 (91.7%)
Third Place: 1960 (76.9%)

Trustees Trophy
Greatest Increase in Dollars (1-25 years out, non-reunion)
First Place: 1996 ($133,822)
Second Place: 2001 ($22,025)
Third Place: 2006 ($10,404)

Founders Trophy
Greatest Increase in Participation (1-25 years out, non-reunion)
First Place: 2003
Second Place: 2011
Third Place: 2012

Eugene S. Wilson Award
Greatest Increase in Dollars (26 years out or more, non-reunion)
First Place: 1987 ($150,472)
Second Place: 1991 ($87,933)
Third Place: 1989 ($84,076)
 
J. Alfred Guest Award
Greatest Increase in Participation (26 years out or more, non-reunion)
First Place: 1943 (21.1%)
Second Place: 1949 (6.2%)
Third Place: 1951 (4.2%)