This heartfelt letter was written by Bill Kelly to the Class of ’69, in preparation for their 50th Reunion:
Fifty years! Is it fair to say we got our money’s worth? I suspect so.
I doubt that half a century ago many or any of us cared or dared to imagine what we, as a class, would be like in 2019. We may have been vaguely hopeful about our future selves; but we weren’t quite prepared to imagine the distant future, or whether time would erode or strengthen our friendships.
For the roughly 20 of us who have registered for this reunion, the questions, unasked fifty years ago, have probably been percolating in recent weeks. They are being answered as we gather on this transformed, but poignantly familiar campus. I trust they are being answered with all of the enthusiasm that we were once able to muster at pep rallies, when Ariel crushed a debate opponent, when Platow released a 10 beaner, or when Shannon sent a Choatie flying into the plexiglass. The boys of ‘69 are springing to life again in old men’s bodies. What fun!
Serving on the reunion committee has been a blast! Conference calls with characters like Ken Knowles, Steve Schmid, Em Drayton, and Bill Shannon made the process fun and even productive when we weren’t interrupting each other with stories, imitations of faculty members, and a few memories that perhaps should have been left buried. We all had fun contacting classmates and providing colorful updates about the men we have been able to contact. For me, conversations with several of you were wonderful experiences, and all of them ended with promises to maintain contact in what’s left of the future along with regrets they we haven’t in the past. If these conversations are vectors toward what to expect during our reunion, then a weekend isn’t long enough.
All of us on the committee discovered that the magnitude and variety of changes and accomplishments among our classmates are truly amazing in mostly delightful ways. After having spent all those years at T-P, nearly all of us have defied expectations and have been on paths of self-invention and reinvention. Many of us have lived courageous lives both outwardly and inwardly. Many of us have been crazy catalysts of “creative destruction” in our personal and professional lives and, all but eleven of us, are still alive to talk about it. I suspect that at our ripening stage in life, we will enjoy listening even more than talking. Our stories are captivating, colorful, and funny.
Changes to the campus reflect that the School has grown and transformed as well. New programs, renovated facilities, and fresh approaches to education may be hidden by the shock of familiarity and the flood of memories as we drive up to Cluett at first. The old brick buildings, students still conforming to the coat and tie dress code, their insecure swagger and feigned sophistication may, at first, make it seem like little has changed, but look closely and you’ll be amazed by how much the School has improved. While many traditions remain as valuable sentinels, you may detect that some things are very different. Listen for the fresh optimism and enthusiasm among the faculty when you speak with them. You may also detect a more genuine commitment to principles conceived in freedom and truth across the whole spectrum of Trinity-Pawling residents. Take a drive up past where the barracks once stood — the new faculty housing will tell you things have changed. Look inside the auditorium, and go downstairs to the art studios that have replaced the pool. See what’s going on in the library with its vibrant programs. The locker rooms still stink, but it’s a character-building stench. The improvements are not subtle.
To wrap this up, I want to express how grateful I am to all of you. While my gratitude for many of the truly wonderful teacher-coaches who kicked our butts and put their arms around us will always be strong — it’s the love, encouragement, and laughs that we shared that will always warm my heart’s core when I remember the years from 1965 to1969. I can’t wait to see you!
by Bill Kelly ’69