Class of 1958 return to celebrate 50th anniversary

By Silver Damsen

ecause Homecoming and reunions share a love of tradition, community and friends, every year alumni celebrate their 50th reunion during Homecoming week.

Reunion events include a reception, brunch at the University President B. Joseph White’s house, and a post-game party, according to the University Web site.

“I think the education I received at the University is second to none,” said William Keel, a member of the class of ’58. “I enjoyed my stay on campus. There were always plenty of activities, facilities were great, and I formed life long friendships.”

For others, attachment to the University is linked to family. For example, Robert Stiven and Gabi Lachmann, two 1958 graduates, met at the University, married and had one daughter and two grandchildren that would later become Illini.

“There is always an attachment to memories and nostalgia for the time spent here, but, in my case, there’s a little more since we are also fifth generation alumni,” said Robert Stiven, class ’58.

The Stivens’ grandchildren said they agree.

Tom Seewald, sophomore in Engineering, said he always knew he would attend the University in his family’s tradition.

“When I graduated high school, my mother took out essays that I wrote in third grade about going to the University,” he said.

Tom’s younger sister has just begun classes at Illinois.

“The University was not my top choice originally,” said Natalie Seewald, freshman in LAS. “But my brother who is ahead of me in school brought me down, and I had wonderful time. Also my parents and grandparents went here. It felt right. It was the right thing to do. I am very happy with my decision.”

Lynn Chaney, event administrator for the University Alumni Association, believes it is important for current students to understand that they are part of the University community as soon as they enroll in classes.

“I want alumni to feel inspired and show their gratitude for whatever the University gave them by coming back and by sharing their experiences with others,” Chaney said.

Chaney admitted that not all students appreciate their connection with the University until long after they have graduated, and the experiences of some might suggest that she is right.

“When I graduated, I thought happiness was the University in my rear view mirror,” said Merle Mulvaney, class of 1958.

“Only years later did I reconnect. Now, I go back three to five times a year; it is such dynamic university.”

Mulvaney said that in addition to the formal reunions, there are 68 University of Illinois clubs around the country.

In Washington D.C., near Mulvaney’s home, there are about 8,000 Illini from all three Illinois campuses, with the largest number, 5,700, coming from the Urbana campus, he added.

“We get together and go down to the sports bar, watch TV,” he said. “It is a combination of connection with the past and going into the future. Once you graduate, these things become more important.”

However, some students are able to appreciate what they have at the University in the present and could have in the future.

“I like the balance of social life and academic opportunities,” said Natalie Seewald. “I wouldn’t be surprised if I came back to see friends 50 years from now.”