There were sentimental tears, laughs and plenty of joy for the alumni who returned to campus to celebrate their 50th reunion on May 20 and May 21.
“I’m so glad I came… it was terrific seeing old classmates and reminiscing about ‘the good old days.’ It was also nice seeing how the campus has changed since we were there,” says Kathy McGinnis ’70 ’72 MA.
In celebration of the milestone anniversary, members of the classes of 1970, 1971 and 1972 were invited to the University’s 2022 Commencement Ceremony held at MetLife Stadium on Friday, May 20 and to a day of activities on campus on Saturday, May 21 to reconnect with former classmates, fellow alumni and their alma mater. The reunion spanned the three class years because a reunion hadn’t been held since 2019 due to the pandemic.
Reunion celebrants had the honor of leading the procession during the Commencement Ceremony and were seated among the rows of graduating Red Hawks on the MetLife Stadium football field, talking across the aisles with the students nearby, now the newest alumni as the Class of 2022.
“Reunion was an over-the-top memorable event,” says James Thomas, III ’70 ’72 MA, who drove from Virginia to attend. “I think all the alumni there on Friday at MetLife Stadium felt like rock stars,” noting the special lunch reception, private photo shoot with the University mascot Rocky, time to meet Montclair State University President Jonathan Koppell, and the ceremonial entrance to the stadium robed in caps, gowns and sashes to represent the 50th reunion classes in the procession.
This year marks the first time the ceremony took place at MetLife Stadium, the largest venue ever for Commencement, which allowed both undergraduate and graduate students to gather in one large combined outdoor ceremony with enough space for unlimited numbers of guests to attend safely.
The combined graduate and undergraduate ceremonies “underscore what this University is: a living, breathing monument to learning, not just learning on an individual basis, but on a collective basis,” President Koppell said at the event.
The University anticipated awarding 3,804 bachelor’s, 1,521 master’s and 43 doctoral degrees this year. In 114 years, Montclair has granted 177,689 degrees. There were just 45 students in the first graduating class, and now more than 5,300 in the Class of 2022, nearly the same number of graduates from the combined classes of 1970, 1971 and 1972 celebrating their 50th-plus anniversary.
Reflecting on change
The reunion festivities were sponsored by the Office of Alumni Engagement, and participants enjoyed a number of activities, including a reunion luncheon, a class photo on the steps in the Feliciano School of Business and a shuttle tour of campus.
“We were thrilled to welcome the classes back to campus to share this very special celebration and to provide the opportunity to reconnect in person with each other and the university,” says Jeanne Marano, assistant vice president for Annual Giving and Alumni Engagement. “Alumni got to see the amazing changes at their alma mater, and it was wonderful to hear their stories of their time at Montclair.”
The Saturday itinerary included alumni gathering on the Montclair campus for coffee and conversation, hosted by the Office of Gift Planning, where they reflected on Montclair’s past and its transformation and heard about the University’s future.
Joe Macaluso ’70, who spoke at the reunion luncheon, conveyed the scope of change with his fellow alumni: “You will be hearing and seeing how much our Montclair State College has been transformed into an outstanding university. In many ways, such a change might come as no surprise,” he said, in citing the many changes underway during their college years.
Macaluso referenced that plans to reorganize the college into five undergraduate schools and several graduate schools, along with talk of eventually becoming a university, were taking place while they were undergraduates. “Over one quarter of the students and faculty were engaged in committees to plan these changes,” he said.
In wishing all a day of celebration and reflection, Macaluso shared, “In retrospect, our final year at Montclair truly was a preparatory one for our lives ahead. The turmoil in our nation shaped much of the events on campus. We had speakers who and events which reflected many of the social and political concerns of the day… Over fifty years later, we must acknowledge what potentials have been realized and what work lies ahead.”
As part of the program, guests shared a memory from their time as students. Many talked about how Montclair changed their lives and made an impact that lasted a lifetime.
“I felt honored and delighted to be among alumni who share my deep appreciation for Montclair State,” says Audrey (Korsak) Roberts Gregg ’71 MA, who traveled from Florida. “I just cannot say enough in praise. Thank you for yet another memorable experience of my alma mater.”
Barbara (Fischer) Erickson ’70, traveled from San Francisco to be part of the milestone event. “I so enjoyed the celebration… and appreciated renewing old acquaintances and meeting classmates unknown to me,” she says.
“The Saturday luncheon and campus tour brought back a lot of fond memories…and what was most enjoyable were the conversations I had with other alumni,” says Thomas. “As I got in my car and all the way home, I realized again how special it is to be a MSU graduate. For those of my class of 1970 who were not able to attend this 50th class reunion, please know it was truly special and we should all be so proud to be graduates of this great university.”
“Thank you so much for a wonderful reunion,” says Robert Walton ’70 ’77 MA. “It was worth waiting the extra two years. You really made me feel special … everything was done first class.”
And with a new set of memories to treasure from their time at Montclair, the alumni left the weekend with parting good-byes of, “See you at our 60th.”
Special thanks to the Reunion Committee:
Class of 1970 Reunion Committee
- Irene Trzepacz Buckley ’70
- Barbara Fischer Erickson ’70
- Lois Schneider Farese ’70
- Marybeth Connolly Henry ’70, ’72 MA
- Joseph Macaluso ’70
- Thomas Puryear ’70, ’71 MA
- Frances Hovanec Sabaliauskas ’70
- James Thomas ’70, ’72 MA
Class of 1971 Reunion Committee
- Audrey Korsak Gregg ’71 MA
- Giacomo Oliva ’71, ’75 MA
Class of 1972 50th Reunion Committee
- Peter Balsamo ’72, ’74 MA
- Cynthia Lepre Barnes ’72
- Jesse Branson ’72 MA
- Joanne Dausen Clifford ’72, ’82 MA
- Patrick McGuinness ’72
- Maria Ceres Schmidt ’72, ’76 MA