More than 32,000 Stony Brook University alumni have been invited to return to campus for an April 28 reunion that will celebrate the school’s first generation of graduates, those who attended from 1961 to 1981. The Generation One reunion will take place in the University’s Pritchard Gym (previously known as “the Gym”) and will feature cocktails, dining and dancing along with sights and sounds of life on the campus during Stony Brook’s first 20 years.
The reunion came about as a result of conversations between two Stony Brook alumni who had not spoken to each other or been involved with the University in more that four decades.
In late November 2010 Ken Marcus (’71), a corporate lawyer now living in Detroit, was dining at a restaurant in Paris. Coincidentally at the next table was the current Dean of International Academic Programs and Services at Stony Brook, William E. Arens. Both men ruminated fondly about their time at Stony Brook and exchanged addresses. Arens followed up by mailing Marcus a book detailing the history of Stony Brook.
As he read about Stony Brook’s evolution from humble beginnings to one of the nation’s finest universities, Marcus observed that the earliest generation of students was all but forgotten. Although he lives 600 miles away from Stony Brook, Marcus said he felt, “it is time for these pioneering alumni to return to the campus to reassert their place in Stony Brook University history.”
He then reconnected via email with schoolmate Ed Berenhaus (‘74), a New Yorker, whose professional career in television and online media marketing includes entertainment event production and promotion. Marcus presented his idea via email to Berenhaus.
“It was simply mind boggling to hear from Ken after being out of touch for more than 40 years!” Berenhaus said.
The two, who have had minimal contact with Stony Brook University during the decades since their respective graduation, reminisced by telephone about the University’s constant construction at that time and how work boots were part of the standard campus uniform to navigate the mud path walkways. They also recalled that despite the turbulent political times their generation faced during their college years, many students found their lifelong vocations at Stony Brook and went on to successful careers.
During their first phone call Marcus and Berenhaus thought that a large-scale event would be a great way to honor and celebrate Stony Brook’s pioneering first generation of graduates and soon reached out to the staff in the Alumni Office.
After discussions with Ed Testa, associate vice president for advancement services, and Russell Malbrough, associate director of alumni relations, the Alumni Office conducted a poll with Generation One grads about their interest in a reunion. The response overwhelmed them.
”This type of interest in a reunion was very encouraging and gratifying,” said Testa.
In addition to more than 32,000 Generation One invitations mailed, the organizers are counting on word-of-mouth communications to generate interest in the reunion, and the University will provide contact information for alums who wish to reconnect with their college-era friends.
“All of the information is on the Gen One web site,” he said, “and we are more than happy to help alumni reconnect.”
The Gym, which was the focal point of most major events during the Generation One era, will be transformed for the celebration, with a one night only dramatic makeover by “Big Wave,” a professional event-planning firm. State-of-the-art multimedia will immerse alumni in the sounds and sights of the era that will complement their renewal of friendships and acquaintances. A nostalgic video presentation is planned, featuring personal photos and film clips, designed, as Berenhaus puts it, “to take Generation One back to their Stony Brook days.”
A number of professors from the Generation One era, including faculty selected “most favorite” by Stony Brook alums, have been invited to participate.
In addition to Marcus and Berenhaus, those involved in planning the Generation One Reunion include co-chairs Gloria Snyder (’72), a past president of the Alumni Association, and Rob Stafford (’72, ’82), treasurer of the Alumni Association.