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My 25th Trinity College Reunion: 8 Lingering Impressions

They say you can’t go home again. But when the intervening years have brought distance, maturity and humility, you can at least visit. 
I loved my alma mater, Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut; especially it’s small classes, intense conversations, and accessible faculty. I left with fond memories, a wider perspective on the world, and a solid group of friends.

25 years ago, “Camp Trin-Trin” was my home away from home for three years, until I graduated early in 1985. (I entered Trinity as a freshman but received a full year’s credit for my gap year studies in Jerusalem; nonetheless, I still consider myself a member of the class of 1986.)  And now, 25 years later, I came back home. Here are 8 lingering impressions:

  1. 25 years later, college-era social separations (cliques!) gave way to almost universal interest to connect with classmates – whether they were close friends or not – to find out who they are now, and how they have grown since college. I found myself talking to as many people I was not close with as I did with my college circle of friends. How the years seem to change people! Why is that?  (Read on)
  2. Most people seem to have gone through difficult times in these intervening years. Whether involving their health, love life, finances or family, few have made it this far unscathed. I sense a healthy dose of humility permeating the crowd, as if each of us has been through enough challenges that we rather focused less on outward looks or status, and more on inner meaning.
  3. Some memorable conversations:
    • One woman, Warden of her Episcopalian Church (a role comparable to a Jewish temple president), shared “trade secrets”, strategies for warming her church community, budgetary challenges, and the central importance of fostering positive relations between clergy and leadership. Listening to her, it struck me that she could have been a temple president. Across religions we share similar concerns, similar priorities.
    • A cancer survivor inspired me with the story of her search – personally and professionally – to find the deeper spiritual meaning in life and to develop the abilities to lead others toward such self-awareness. (This was a conversation I wish had continued).
    • One couple – she from another graduating class – who were ba’alei teshuva (newly orthodox Jews) regaled me with stories of how they became orthodox and how they met (“it was besheret – meant to be,” coming after both had almost given up looking). That this orthodox Jewish woman returned to her reunion at a decidedly non-Jewish school was impressive.
    • Two men talked about how the path to job satisfaction for so many included years of suffering in unhealthy work environments. Like battered women who take so long to leave their batterers, men seem to endure much workplace abuse before moving onto healthy environments. Why is that?
    • A few wondered aloud about whether they had really accomplished anything in the years since college. My sadness upon hearing they felt this deepened as I learned that each had healthy kids, a loving marriage, and a relatively good job.
  4. Working out on the treadmill at the Athletic Center gave me pause for thought. I realized that in my three years at Trinity I never once worked out in the gym. While I did belong to a local Nautilus gym for a year, exercise in general was not on my radar back then. Nothing like a doctor’s insistence and a wife’s persistence to realign priorities.
  5. I visited Trinity’s new Zachs Hillel House, an astoundingly beautiful building which offers a full program of Jewish and multicultural experiences. Ably led by Lisa Kassow, it provides a gathering place to self-identifying Jewish students.
  6. Trinity College is home to one a gorgeous, green campus. As we walked the green fields and enjoyed a Barbecue on the quad, it occurred to us that we never quite appreciated the beauty of this lush space.  
  7. A group of us walked in (and quickly out) of two fraternity house parties. While it was fun to say that we still could go to a frat party, it was more interesting to try to figure out why we even bothered 25 years ago to enter those loud, smelly buildings.
  8. Talking about my family and especially my wife Michelle (and my Congregation Or Ami) reminded me (again and again) about how blessed I am. Beautiful, healthy, and loving, they – more than anything else – provide the foundation upon which everything else rests.

So I return to my real home thankful for the outstanding education I received at Trinity College. Those years challenged me socially, deepened me intellectually, and molded me personally. It was good to return to be so reminded. I look forward to keeping in touch with classmates via email, Twitter (@RabbiKip) and Facebook.

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