Alumni, from class of 1969 to 2018, converge during Carnival
Among the many events hosted this Carnival weekend was the 50th reunion for alumni from the class of 1969. Many had not seen each other or returned to campus since they graduated.
The reunion kicked off on Friday morning with breakfast and a “Then and now” presentation by the university archivist, Julia Corrin. Corrin showed black and white photographs of campus taken from the years from 1966 to 1969, and alumni chimed in when they recognized familiar faces.
The class of 1969 arrived on campus in 1965, when the school was still the Carnegie Institute of Technology. The football field was located where the Donner Ditch is now. When Corrin showed a photograph of the kiltie band spelling out “CIT” on the field during the halftime show, the class of 1969 laughed. Ms. Ramsey joked, “I remember when they used to misspell CIT.” Ramsey explained, sometimes the band would spell out “TIT” instead.
When Warner Hall was built, the entire architecture department picketed the opening, recalled Denis d’Ambrosi. Nearly all the buildings on campus were yellow-brick, and the mostly glass Warner Hall stood out like a sore thumb. Students called it the “flash cube,” referring to a flash mechanism for film cameras.
Margaret Morrison Hall housed the women’s school, Margaret Morrison Carnegie College. Students of the school were called “Maggie Murphs.” In the fall of 1965, when the class of 1969 arrived on campus, there was not enough housing in the women’s dorm, according to Nancy Morris, a Maggie Murph who majored in English. Morris and three other Maggie Murphs were housed in the home economics building, an old Victorian house that stood adjacent to where Donner is today. They had fun throwing hard candies out the window at passersby, and that’s how Nancy Morris met Greg Morris, a chemical engineering major. They started dating in the first week of freshman year, got married as sophomores in 1967, and have been together since then. “People don’t do that these days,” joked Greg.
Indeed, things have changed. In the years that the class of 1969 was studying at Carnegie Mellon, Simon and Garfunkel performed at Carnival, The Beatles played their final performance as a group, Fred Rogers advocated for public broadcasting on the Senate floor, and the United States was embroiled in the Vietnam War.
And campus was smaller back then. Nearly every returning alum was impressed by the size of Carnegie Mellon University today. “There’s definitely a lot more stuff,” said Greg Morris.
“It’s bigger! Much, much, much bigger. But the people are still nice,” said Ramsay, a Maggie Murph art major.
Sixteen members of the 50th reunion toured the Tepper Quad, the 315,000 square foot home of the business school that opened in the Fall of 2018.
Alumni were impressed as Pauline Ting, Coulter Center ambassador, explained the state of the art “audio-visual technology” of the Simmons auditorium. Looking at the new fitness center, Harry Wold, who graduated with an engineering degree, remarked that he felt “envious.”
“Would you guys prefer taking the stairs, or would you guys prefer taking the elevator?” asked Ting. “Let’s do elevator,” she said, after no one indicated a preference. When the elevator stalled, the group didn’t hesitate to walk down the three flights of stairs.
“I used to bring my dog to class, and he’d run around afterwards and stay by my car,” said Mike Colbeck, a graduate of the business school. Colbeck recalled that one day, his dog bit someone walking by his car. That someone happened to be Dean Richard Cyert. “Imagine going to Cyert and apologizing,” said Colbeck.
“This place is unusual,” said Frank Marshall, “the whole building, the round room over there.” Marshall said he’d never been in a building where all the walls were glass. “This was a parking lot when I was here.”
Marshall is an alum of Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE), a group that represented a majority of the 1969 alumni. 15 of their 30 person pledge class were present at the reunion.
Marshall and other alumni of SAE began to recall a booth they once built for Carnival that “won all sorts of awards.” Titled “The Ultimate Machine,” the booth was a silver painted Rube-Goldberg-like contraption with colorful wheels that spun on a motor. An artist in Pittsburgh was impressed when he saw it on display at Carnival, and said he’d like to show it in the Three Rivers Arts Festival, so long as SAE could get it downtown.
“It was very prominently displayed,” said Wayne Pottmeyer. “I still have a rendering of it hanging in my office.”
At 3 p.m. on Friday, the class of 1969 gathered for a swanky reception in the lobby of Purnell. Servers walked around with platters of shrimp, and fruit tarts were stacked on shelves adjacent drink coolers. Most alumni were dressed in button-down shirts, but Thomas Burgess was proudly wearing his track jersey from senior year. On the jersey, “Carnegie Tech” was spelled out in red letters.
Carnegie Tech merged with the Mellon Institute to form Carnegie Mellon University in 1968, just months before the track season started. Burgess got his time in the quarter mile down to 52 seconds, and when the season was over the coach told the team to take their uniforms home. A new set had been ordered.
The reception began with a performance by Catherine Hayman, a junior musical theater major from San Francisco, who sang “What Did I Have That I Don’t Have,” from the musical On A Clear Day You Can See Forever.
After the performance, President Farnam Jahanian was welcomed with applause. He quipped, “Who’s idea was it that I follow her?” Jahanian highlighted that Carnegie Mellon has become a world leader in STEM-related fields, and that both the diversity and quality of the student body have greatly increased. 50 percent of undergraduates are women, and last year, Carnegie Mellon saw a 13 percent increase in the number of applicants. “Aren’t you glad you aren’t being admitted now?” joked Jahanian. At the conclusion of his speech, glasses of champagne were served, and Jahanian led the class of 1969 in a toast.
On Saturday morning, Mitchell Koster, Executive Director of the Office of Gift Planning, gave a presentation about the legacy of Andrew Carnegie and the importance of philanthropy. Koster emphasized how Carnegie planted “apple trees,” planning long term investments, and referred to the alumni of Carnegie Mellon as Carnegie’s heirs.
Harry Wold recognized the subtle, underlying message in the presentation — “give some money to CMU” — but was not troubled by it. He continued, “from my perspective, my education at CMU is what brought me to where I am today.” Wold explained that it wasn’t so much how his degree pushed his career, “it taught me problem solving skills and invited the confidence that I could deal with a situation in which there were a lot of unknowns.”
“I agree with everything Harry just said,” added Jack Stephenson, who roomed with Wold in Donner, room 114, for three years. He continued, “it’s the philosophy of how the education was done. I tell ya, that’s really what it was.”