Reunions return with renewed energy

A trio of 50-year celebrations will highlight class gatherings through the end of May.

April 22, 2022

A reunion season that boasts added significance and includes a trio of 50-year class celebrations kicks off this week in Exeter.

Canceled for two successive springs for precautionary reasons stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, reunions resume with the overdue golden anniversaries of the classes of 1970 and 1971. The class gatherings continue throughout the month of May for classes ending in 2 and 7 — including the 50th reunion for the class of 1972 on May 19-22.

In all, hundreds of alumni from 18 class years will return to campus to reminisce, reconnect and learn about the Academy of today.

A rich and lengthy celebration program began Thursday when the classes of 1970 and ’71 hold events on campus and at The Exeter Inn, including some jointly.

Robert Bauer ’70, former White House counsel under President Barack Obama and professor at New York University School of Law, delivered an all-school assembly address Friday. Bauer has spent much of his career in partisan politics but now, because of his "deep concern for our democratic institutions," and a breakdown in dialogue, he is trying to find was to close what he sees as a widening divide.

"Americans are talking past each other and yelling at each other," Bauer said, "and it has been my mission, even as someone who has been so involved in partisan politics, to try to find a way to bridge differences at least on that critical question: That we have a democracy, we want to respect it, we want to protect it. What does it mean? How do we go about it?"

Bauer recalled a discussion about the Vietnam War he was part of as a student living in Peabody Hall — a discussion in which Bauer admits to losing his temper and yelling at his dorm mates. "A friend of mine down the hall gave me a piece of advice: 'Don't argue, persuade. Don't argue, persuade.' Now, not many lawyers pay much attention to it, but I'm paying attention to that advice these days."

Bauer told his audience that has come to appreciate the lessons of a productive dialogue that he learned at the Harkness table a half-century ago: Listening, paying attention, refraining from an immediate rebuttal and not arguing, but trying to persuade.

On Saturday, Principal Bill Rawson ’71 — celebrating a milestone reunion himself — will join a panel of current students to speak about today’s Academy and present initiatives.