Juliet Kostritsky '72

Year of Graduation: 
Juliet Kostritsky believes enthusiasm for attending reunions lies in the pleasures of the Harkness experience.

"It's a really eye-opening experience to be with people who have a shared purpose who can teach you."

After being peppered with questions about how she managed to get record-breaking attendance for the class of 1972’s 40th reunion — and her goal to exceed those numbers for the upcoming 45th — Juliet Kostritsky ’72; P’09 concluded her telephone interview with, “But I’d love to know more about you.”

If you want to know the secret in her sauce, there you have it. Kostritsky, a contract law professor at Case Western Reserve School of Law in Cleveland, and current president of the class of 1972, is legitimately, earnestly interested in people. That caring curiosity leads her and her fellow Reunion Committee members to pull out all the stops to reach alumni — emails, phone calls, and a very active Facebook page — and to make it clear to each classmate that everyone else from those shared days at Exeter is interested, too.

“Why do we return?” Kostritsky mused in her invitation to her classmates for the 45th reunion. “What draws us back? Why, the last time all of us met, did Iris Gowen travel all the way from Bangkok, and Nelson Graves from Paris? Not all of us need to cross an ocean — Gussie Wilson welcomed us into her home on Pine Street five years ago, and for her it was a different kind of journey, as it always is for each one of us. For me, ‘Why return?’ is a question that begs no answer — it’s all of you.”

From a class of approximately 330 alumni (one of whom is Kostritsky’s husband, Edward Gellert ’72), 26 percent attended their 40th reunion in 2012. The turnout was roughly triple that of other, more typical class reunions. “The role of Facebook was huge,” says Kostritsky, also a former class correspondent. We have maybe 115 members who are on it.” She and Frank McPhillips (class vice president and her attendance co-chair for the 40th) used old photos to inspire reunion-inducing nostalgia, calling up everything from Exeter’s production of Romeo and Juliet to the “moving of the books.”

During Kostritsky’s senior year, the Louis Kahn designed Class of 1945 Library opened. Classes were cancelled one November day so that students, teachers and staff could move 60,000 books from the old library to their new home. The class of ’72 is also notable as the first class with female boarders. Forty women, including Kostritsky, were enrolled that year. When it is suggested that her class is more connected — and perhaps more likely to return — as a result of this integration, Kostritsky does not speculate. She does say, however, that regardless of social media and amusing memories, the enthusiasm for attending reunions lies in the pleasure of the Harkness experience.

“People definitely want to go to a Harkness class when they come back,” she says. “[Harkness is] probably not something we experience very often in our everyday lives anymore. In work, often you’re really working alone. Everyone knows you can do your job, and so you do it. You don’t have a reason to come together. It’s really an eye-opening experience to be with people who have a shared purpose and who all teach you.”

The class will hold its 45th reunion May 18-21, 2017, but Kostritsky says she doesn’t have any hard-number goal — though she admits her competitive nature makes her want to give record-breaking another try. Still, she says, “I think our goal is just to reach out to everyone and encourage as many people to come back as possible. We want to see people come back.”

– Jennifer Simmons Kaleba

Editor's note: This article first appeared in the winter 2017 issue of The Exeter Bulletin.