Amherst alum attending a talk by Biddy Martin
President Biddy Martin spoke to alumni in Johnson Chapel. Photo by Maria Stenzel

The numbers tell the story of Reunion 2017.

For five days, Amherst College welcomed 2,300 alumni, their family members and friends. They came to represent 60 classes with graduations from five to 70 years before. The oldest alumnus graduated in 1943, while the youngest attendee (tentative class of 2040) was one month old.

The alumni came for a vibrant schedule—some 130 programs in total, with 200 presenters—that included everything from poker tournaments and trivia nights to live concerts, political discussions and improv workshops.

“This was an amazing Reunion with excellent programs,” said Director of Alumni Engagement Carol Allman-Morton. Two talks—“Trump and Putin in Historical Perspective,” with Professor Emeritus William Taubman, and an expert panel on “Resistance and Opposition During World War II”—were live streamed, while some 18 others were recorded and posted to the College’s website.

Reunion kicked off on May 24 with a reception at the Beneski Museum of Natural History, where alumni toasted the newly crowned mascot under the storied bones of a mammoth that students have dubbed “Bebu.”

On Saturday, May 26, as some 340 visiting children enjoyed a bounce house and magic show on the quad, the Advancement staff spent an hour giving away 1,000 mammoth shirts. The purple tees were emblazoned with the words “Lean, Mean and Pleistocene” and “Amherst Mammoths. Est. 2017.”

“Being on the quad and seeing people excited about getting Mammoth swag was really cool,” Allman-Morton said. “That was the nicest moment at Reunion for me.”

Grandparents snagged quite a few shirts for their potentially Amherst-bound grandchildren, she said, and at one point a bus pulled up.

“The driver said, ‘I’ve got some really young alumni in here who want some shirts.’ It was guys from 1952,” Allman-Morton said with a laugh, describing it as her drive-through shirt giveaway. “It’s good to see happy alumni.”


A Conversation with President Biddy Martin

June 6, 2017

(Length 1:00:11) President Biddy Martin’s remarks, preceded by the annual meeting of the Society of the Alumni, presided over by Betsy Cannon Smith '84, Alumni Secretary.

Session Highlights

Susan Daniels, the College’s associate in public speaking, described standing before an audience and speaking as the “most vulnerable position in the world.” Recounting Amherst’s long history of rhetoric—it was a required subject for freshmen in 1827, its own department in 1900 and disappeared from the curriculum in the 1960s--Daniels said she appreciates that for almost two centuries at Amherst, it’s been both “valued and rewarded to be able to take your thoughts off the page.” Watch “Rhetoric at Amherst College: 19th Century and Today.”

Wendy Bergoffen, lecturer in American studies, talked to alumni about the Jewish experience at Amherst through the lens of a class she taught last semester. In that class, her four students examined different aspects of Jewish life at the College throughout history. She noted that alumni comments and letters helped students delve more deeply into historical accounts. “Your contributions and those of your peers truly enlivened our course and our work,” she said.

In their packed talk, Michael Boxer, George McNeil and Paul Bunn, all members of the class of 1967, talked candidly about aging and medicine. When a large number of people raised their hands after Dr. Boxer asked, “How many people in the audience have had cancer?” He offered a toast to cancer survivors and said of ongoing immunotherapy developments, “Cancer is a bad thing, but treating cancer is a good thing.”

As one of three speakers, Dean of the Faculty Catherine Epstein kicked off a discussion about World War II by noting that ordinary German citizens had not formed a coherent opposition to the Nazi regime. “By and large, this was a popular regime,” she said. “While some Germans fanatically supported the regime, most Germans just accepted it.” Watch “Resistance and Opposition During World War II: Germany, France and the United States."

Links to Reunion 2017 photos and videos

Reunion Videos & Photos

Watch your favorite session again, or see the presentations you couldn't attend. Browse through our photos taken throughout the weekend and download your favorites.