Montclair State has gone through tremendous growth over the past five decades: the campus has expanded to over 250 acres of land; residence halls, parking decks and a recreation center; the addition of schools and colleges and new academic programs. What hasn’t changed, though, are the memories.
“My fondest memories were the times that my Delta Alpha Chi sisters and I spent together. We had our table in the Student Center cafeteria where we would gather together between classes to gossip and just have fun,” says Myra Sesko ’69, while reminiscing about her years as a student. “All the times we shared – Greek Sing, Homecoming float, Jersey Shore weekends and pledging new sisters made for a wonderful college experience.”
In May, members of the Class of 1969 had the opportunity to return to the campus that enabled them to fulfill their dreams. The 50th reunion celebration provided alumni the opportunity to reconnect with each other and with their alma mater. Returning to campus was memorable for this group. Some have been back to visit or attend events and activities, while others experienced 50 years of growth and change when they returned for reunion.
Performances at the Alexander Kasser Theater have brought Sesko back to campus many times. However, she is always amazed by the continuous growth and changes made to the campus. As she puts it, “it really is amazing how far the University has come from my time there. The buildings are beautiful and the landscaping is magnificent.”
The festivities began with a Welcome Back Reception at Kasser Theater. Members of the Class of 1969 had the opportunity to hear from University and student leaders about the progress being made at Montclair State. Tamara Lucas, dean of the College of Education and Human Services, gave the group an update on the University’s R2 designation from the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.
“It was a pleasure to meet the 1969 graduates and to hear about their fond memories of their time at Montclair State as well as their inspiring stories about their careers as educators,” says Dean Lucas. “They were amazed at the changes to Montclair State and proud to see that their alma mater is growing and thriving.”
Alumni also had the chance to hear from Serafina Genise, president of the Student Government Association and a Class of 2019 graduate. For Genise, it was a special moment as she shared her Montclair State journey with the group and her academic plans after graduation.
“When I was asked to come and speak, I was so excited to share my story and get to hear the stories of the Class of 1969,” says Genise. “Hearing about their experiences and what Montclair was like 50 years ago made my love and appreciation for Montclair State grow even more.”
The reception was followed by a campus tour where alumni were able to relive their college days. As they toured through campus, they were in complete awe of all the new and unfamiliar buildings. Although campus looks different from 1969, the memories and lifelong friendships forged from their time at Montclair State never changed.
For Janet Caruso Morrow, returning to campus was nostalgic and bittersweet. “Passing by Life Hall brought back so many memories of my time at The Montclarion,” she says. “Although campus looks completely different from 1969, I still got that same feeling. It put me back 50 years to when I was a student walking through campus, trying to get from class to class.”
Following the tours, alumni came back to the Kasser Theater for a wine and cheese reception where they had the chance to view memorabilia and yearbooks from their time on campus. For committee member Jack Pignatello, it was a chance to relive some memories from his undergraduate days.
“In the spring of 1966, I became a member of The Dirdy Birdies Jug Band. This was an authentic jug band made up entirely of MSC students,” says Pignatello. “The long and glorious history of the band continues to this day, and we are still playing together as a band, with four of the original members still remaining active.”
The next morning, members of the class lead the procession at Undergraduate Commencement in front of a rousing crowd at Prudential Center. Following, alumni, including the classes of 1969 and prior, celebrated their reunion on campus at a casual coffee gathering and luncheon.
“The whole experience of the reunion was wonderful. Leading the graduates at Commencement was truly an honor,” says Morrow. “I am grateful to have been a part of such a memorable event for students.”
Attending their reunion also allowed this group to reflect on the reasons why they are grateful for their journey at Montclair State.
Sesko is appreciative of the quality of education that she received from the University. “After graduation, I received offers from four schools to teach math and soon after was offered a job at Bell Laboratories, a company that only did on-campus recruiting at the top engineering schools,” she says. Her degree also helped her pursue an MS in Computer Science/Operations research at New York University’s School of Engineering.
At the luncheon, alumni heard remarks from Colleen Coppla, vice president for Development; Jeanne Marano, assistant vice president for Annual Giving and Alumni Engagement; and reunion committee member, Joetta Di Bella Sautter.
Without a doubt, reunion is a special time to pause and reflect on the past and those special memories of time spent at Montclair State. This milestone year has given this group the opportunity to reflect on their legacy and plan how that can make an impact on the lives of current and future students.
The reunion experience inspired Joetta Di Bella Sautter, a member of the reunion volunteer committee, to give back to the University. “I am going to give back to my alma mater because of my experience as an undergraduate,” she says. “I would like to urge my classmates to visit campus, see what Montclair State looks like today and contribute generously to our University.”
Special thanks to the Class of 1969 Reunion Committee. This group spent months preparing, planning and reaching out to classmates to encourage participation. Their commitment to making this a successful reunion was evident by the turnout and the enthusiasm shown by all during the two-day event.
- Mariana Marchese
- Janet Caruso Morrow
- Jack Pignatello
- Joetta DiBella Sautter
If you have not yet done so, we encourage you to make your gift in support of your 50th reunion. Your generosity will support the ambitious, determined students at Montclair State University as they work toward achieving their dreams, just as you once did. For more information, contact Karen Hackett, associate director of Alumni Engagement at 973-655-4207 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
We invite you to view photos from the reunion celebrations.