Monday, February 8, 2010

Reunion Reflections

Oh, my – I realized that I never told you about my college reunion this last summer. It was six months ago today and I’ve been thinking about it today and remembering the dear friends from long ago who shared that day with me. I shared our vacation in San Francisco here and here and here, but I didn’t tell you about the highlight of our week - my college reunion on the former campus of my alma mater. It was my home for nearly four years. I attended a small Christian College in the heart of the city. When I was there, the school looked like this:

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And I looked like this (from public relations photos for the school catalog):

Adrienne - Simpson Catalog

Twenty years ago the college sold the San Francisco campus, bought property in Redding, California – in north California - and built a beautiful new campus. The new campus is beautiful but it has never felt like ‘home’ and I often longed to see the place where I spent those important years of my life. Once, while on vacation, we drove by the 'old' campus – but it just wasn’t the same. Even more than walking those halls again, I longed to renew friendships from those days – friendships that were so dear to my heart. It was just a dream – an impossible dream - until one day over a year ago when a notice of the reunion on the ‘old’ campus arrived in my mailbox.

Simpson SF Reunion Ad

I couldn’t believe it! I was determined to be there – whatever it took, I was going to be there. My sweetheart and I began to plan. And then last August that dream came true! For one day I walked those familiar halls again with friends from long ago. Come with me and share that day as I reminisce and reflect on it again.

This is what the campus looks like today. The front lawn is gone and all the gorgeous trees had to go to make way for parking. A church and Christian school bought the property. They have kept the personality of the historic buildings and the updates they have done are wonderful. The new building at the far end is a gorgeous school and cafeteria/meeting facility.

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When I attended college there were women’s dorms behind the far end of the main building. Two five-story ‘wings’ off the central building were home to many of my girlfriends and me. When my sweetheart drove me by the campus earlier in the week I was dismayed to find that the women’s dorms had been torn down and replaced with this.

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I was disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to walk into the dorm rooms that had been my home – I wanted to walk into them, see them again and show my sweetheart the place I had lived throughout those important years of my life. During a tour of the campus on the day of the reunion we learned why the women’s dorm buildings had been demolished and it made made sense - it was alright! The buildings had been severely damaged during the nineteen eighty nine San Francisco earthquake. They were unsafe – could no longer be used – so they had to be torn down. Their demise made way for this gorgeous, new school building.

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Reunion day arrived and within minutes of our arrival hugs and smiles were the order of the day. I often heard my name across the room and as I turned I would find someone I had so hoped to see! Many parts of the building were familiar – and some were different. I always loved the old brick hallways with the arched windows.

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There was one place where I spent a lot of time during those years. The ‘Ladies Lounge’ connected the two women’s dorm ‘wings’ – it’s all that's left from that part of the building. I spent many hours seated near this fireplace. There were windows on either side that looked out between the dorm buildings. This was the public place where we often spent time together on campus. It was the ‘living room’ for our dorm rooms - a central gathering place where our family and friends could meet. And I remember several pajama ‘parties’ here after hours. Time for the ‘girls’ to come in pj’s and have a fun time together. Now it’s part of the front office waiting area for the school. The office at the end of the room has been added since the new school bought the campus.

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The highlight of the day, for me, was the chapel service we shared together in the campus chapel where we had spent many hours during our college days. Chapel was a daily requirement and those of us who were musicians often participated in the music. I often played the nine-foot grand piano during chapel services. Many evenings, just after our dinner in the college dining room, it wasn't unusual to find several of us in the chapel enjoying time together as we took turns playing the piano and the huge pipe organ. During my first two years I was part of the concert choir. We had a close bond with each other as a result of time spent together during rehearsals, performances, weekend concerts around the Bay area and our several-state concert tours during our Spring Break each year. Hours spent on a bus together made for solid friendships. Imagine my delight when I was invited to join the Reunion Choir that would sing during the Reunion Chapel Service. It was an experience I will never forget! We met at the host hotel for rehearsal. Walking into the rehearsal room was such a fantastic experience because immediately the hugs and smiles and chatter began to draw us together. At the beginning of the chapel service we gathered on risers on the platform – the very platform where we had performed so many times before. We sang together with the ‘congregation’ as we lifted our voices together. It was a very emotional experience and I had trouble keeping the tears from pouring down my face! Here we were again – singing together – in the very place that had been such an important part of our lives then. And ever after. It was there, on that platform, in that chapel, with the students, faculty and professors in the ‘congregation’ that it had all started. Our adult lives were molded and influenced in this place. And here we were again so many years later. The melody and the harmonies poured from our hearts as we sang together again.

Choir - Me

The chapel service was filled with happy memories and laughter as a panel of our professors reminisced with lots of humor and joy. Our main speaker was a dearly loved former president, now in his eighties. He shared many memories and challenged us to continue to hold to the things we learned in this place as we face the future. Following the chapel service there was time for tours and visits with former classmates and class photos. The time went too fast and soon it was time to gather in the new cafeteria for a wonderful dinner together. After the meal a few speakers shared about the college, now a university. Thoughts of the past and the present – and a challenge for the future. And then it was over. Time to say goodbye. Some of us would meet again the next day for fun together but, as we left the campus we knew there would never be another day like this. It was a once-in-a-lifetime day together in a special place where we once were young and eager to change the world.

I couldn’t leave the campus – this place so dear to my heart – without getting a few more photos. One more look at the ‘rotunda’ and entrance into the chapel.

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And one last look back - to seal it forever in my heart - as we left this place in San Francisco, the place 'high on a hill that calls to me'.

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It was a day that will never happen again but it will live in the hearts of each of us who shared time together in this special place. There was no doubt about it – we all left a bit of our hearts in San Francisco!

2 comments:

  1. Amazing! I have walked those halls and at one time considered attending there. When did you attend there? My cousin met her husband there. She may be about your age. Were you from a CM&A church?

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  2. I am glad you were able to revisit your alma mater. I know what you mean though, we long for things that are dear to us to stay the same but they never do. My youngest goes to the college I attended but there have been changes and when we go there it isn't the same. Still, it has many fond memories, it is where I met me darling husband!

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