Friends and Memories Bring 5,000 Back to Campus
BU alums recall their past and glimpse the future
Thousands of alums returned to BU this weekend to reconnect with the University, celebrate a changing campus, and honor former classmates. And while many Alumni Weekend events drew well over 100 people, it was a quiet tour of Marsh Chapel that brought 3 alums closer to their alma mater.
Marsha Spellman (CGS’71, SED’73), Fran Lockett-Hofstetter (CGS’71, SED’73), and Pamela Souza (CGS’71, MET’75) met as freshmen and have been friends ever since, returning to campus for Alumni Weekend every 10 years. They had just completed the Marsh Chapel art and architecture tour on Saturday afternoon when they paused to reflect on their weekend together, and their student years.
“I’m so glad I came to Marsh Chapel,” said Souza, who traveled from Indiana. “I love the history, and learning this history has made me feel more proud of BU.”
“We came from the generation of the revolution,” said Spellman, who’d flown in from Oregon. “For us, it was all about protesting the war in Vietnam. We spent much of our years, especially our freshman year, on strike in Marsh Chapel, having demonstrations, moratoriums against the war. I came here now because I feel connected to BU.”
But mostly, said Lockett-Hofstetter, who lives in New York, the weekend gave the friends a chance to meet up again. “The three of us never get together,” she said. “It’s a good excuse to have a weekend together.”
For many alums, it was an opportunity to glimpse where the University is headed. Former Terrier football players still rue the cancellation of their beloved program, but they heartily greeted fellow players. School of Law alums raised a glass to toast the long-awaited construction of a new building and the renovation of the existing tower. And a crowd gathered in the George Sherman Union Metcalf Ballroom to salute the distinguished alums being recognized with awards.
One of them was British-born former athlete David P. Hemery, who won the gold medal in the 400-meter hurdles at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico (breaking a world record) and silver and bronze medals at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Hemery (SMG’68, SED’88) was among those receiving University Alumni Awards, the BU Alumni Association’s highest honor, at the Best of BU Luncheon & 66th Annual Alumni Awards on Saturday.
He recalled the training he endured as an undergraduate, describing his coach, Billy Smith (SED’55,’58), as “the architect” of his Olympic victories. He remembered a winter day when Smith refused to cancel training—outdoors, during a snowstorm: “He said, ‘Out there is the road to Mexico.’ I really thought he was joking. And he stood with his collar up against the blizzard while I did a series of 800 meters. I have no idea how he didn’t absolutely freeze to death. But my respect for him went up enormously for going through it with me.”
Hemery, who went on to found the charity 21st Century Legacy, was joined by Analjit Singh (SMG’77, GSM’79), chairman and managing director of Max India Limited, a health care corporation. The third Alumni Award recipient, Jennifer Yeo (LAW’85), chair and senior partner at YeoLeong & Peh in Singapore, was unable to attend the ceremony.
Two others were honored at the luncheon. BUAA president Mary Buletza (SMG’80) presented the Young Alumni Award to Sera Bonds (SPH’04), founder of the nonprofit Circle of Health International, and the Best of BU Award to Jack Parker (SMG’68, Hon.’97), who retired last spring after four decades as men’s ice hockey head coach.
Parker got a standing ovation as he walked to the podium to receive the award. Like Hemery, Parker fondly recalled his undergraduate mentor, saying that while he had great teachers at BU, “I thought that my best professor was my hockey coach, Jack Kelley. He seemed to know more about his subject than most of the guys I had in class. He certainly drove me harder than the professors I had in class….In all the years I’ve been here, the thing that has made it special are the people of BU.”
Scores of students were also recognized over the weekend. New members of BU’s Scarlet Key Society, all seniors in the Class of 2014, were tapped on Saturday; they will be inducted into the society next spring. The Scarlet Key Society, the University’s highest honor for student leaders, was established in 1938 by the General Alumni Association—now the Boston University Alumni Association.
Mary Perry (CAS’79, GRS’80, LAW’83), a member of the nominating committee, remembers when she was inducted, in 1979 in a ceremony at the Castle. “It was a wonderful honor,” said Perry, who recently retired from the US Air Force after serving as a judge advocate general (JAG) for 26 years. “It felt like someone out there took notice of me. It was the boost I needed to have confidence that what I was doing mattered.”
Howard dePass (CAS’14), a Posse Scholar, a resident assistant, and one of this year’s inductees, knows how Perry felt. “It feels good to have someone recognize the effort you’ve put in during your years at BU, that you’ve contributed to campus life, in my case residential life,” said dePass. “And you get to etch your mark in BU’s history.”
Some of the weekend’s events focused on what’s ahead. On Friday, more than 250 LAW alumni, faculty, staff, and students celebrated the construction of LAW’s new Sumner M. Redstone Building and the renovation of the tower. Redstone (Hon.’94) gave $18 million for the school’s new building.
Richard C. Godfrey, a BU trustee and chair of LAW’s Building on Excellence Campaign, described the project as a “transformational event” in the school’s history. “When I was here in the 1970s, we talked about the rumors of a new building,” said Godfrey (LAW’79). “And here we are, some 30 years later, and the building is rising….As a lifelong Cubs fan, if we can build a new building here at BU, I believe that in my lifetime we’ll actually see a World Series.”
William Schwartz (LAW’55), LAW dean from 1980 to 1988, read a message from Redstone, who taught the school’s first course on entertainment law. Meghan E. Kelly (LAW’15) will be among the first students to take classes in the new building. She said the project will bring the LAW community closer together.
President Robert A. Brown said Kelly’s words were apt. “It’s about having that space where students can learn from each other, because, with all due respect to the faculty, they learn at least as much there as they do in the classrooms,” Brown said. “The addition of the Redstone building will not only give us wonderful classrooms, it will give us that kind of space for collaboration and study that we so desperately need for the quality of students in the school.”
Some alumni spent part of the weekend talking about their own ideas for the future of BU—one that they think should include a football team. At a packed reception for former Terrier football players, cheerleaders, managers, and marching band members, many expressed lasting disappointment that the University trustees canceled the football program in 1997 after 91 seasons, largely because of the expense and poor attendance.
Bruce Foucart (CAS’84, MET’85), who was an inside linebacker, said football “is still in our veins.”
Dominic Dell’Olio (SMG’62), a quarterback from ’58 to ’62, said he came back “to meet old friends, and hopefully to try to get football going again.”
All told, the weekend drew some 5,000 alumni, a number that Brown said reflects alums’ “strong connection” to the University and a growing engagement with BU. “Just a few years ago, BU alumni were gathering a little more than three times a week on average,” Brown said at the Alumni Awards ceremony. “Today they gather almost three times a day at events around the world. That’s an astounding change.”1 Comments