Milne Alumni April Reunion Newsletter
The All-Milne Reunion this past Saturday and Sunday was a big success. The banquet room at the Desmond was filled to capacity, and 12 people from our class of 1971, plus two spouses, were there out of 235 total.
Here is who showed up, B-Z, local and otherwise: Bill Barelski (drove up from NJ), Nora Colasurdo (drove over from MA), John Fisher, Jack Freele (drove over from MA), Debbie Froelich Miracolo (drove up from Westchester), Marjorie Jacobs, Mark Landau, Steve Lerner and his wife Nancy, Barbara Mayer Skladanuk, Beth Rudolph Keller (drove up from PA), me, Mary Welch (who drove down from ME), and Bob Zima and his wife Patricia.
The room was very red and white with tables decorated with candles and small brown stuffed bears at each place setting in recognition of the Milne bear mascot. There was a podium in front of the dance floor and a DJ set up opposite it. At both ends of the room there were a row of long tables set up against the walls with displays by years of Milne memorabilia, starting with 1933 and our table of 1971, followed by the University archive table.
The round dinner tables were 10-12 people and marked by either a single year or in our case, 1971–1973. Our group was split between two tables with Donald Pruden, the physics teacher, and his wife and 1972 graduates at the table I was at, and other 1972 graduates with the other half of our classmates. We were located in the far right back edge corner of the room, which made it easy to get in and out, unlike those class years in the middle areas.
When we checked in for the evening starting at 5 PM, we had to go to the far courtyard at the Desmond and were met by a table of young women with our name tags in alphabetical order. They checked us in, gave us a program, and just past them was where the pre-dinner reception was being held. The small courtyard filled up fast, first with the older graduates, and later our classmates with more familiar faces came in. There were complimentary glasses of wine and a cash bar, and fruits and vegetables and cheese and crackers were out on a central table. Small tables for sitting at or standing at were mostly filled with earlier arrivals, and the area became hard to navigate through as people greeted each other in groups.
I had come early at 4:30 to set up our class display table and because I had been coordinating the group of display table contacts from other years via e-mail, I got to meet these people for the first time. I also got to meet the University event organizer, Melissa Samuels, and Director of University Advancement, Mary Johnson, the sponsor of the event. Both did a wonderful job throughout the reunion's two days.
Our class display was in the near right corner, and I made up trifold cardboard displays of Crimson & White copies from our years at Milne and a second trifold display of various Milne memorabilia, including brochures from the Fine Arts Day, theater productions, sports schedules, newspaper clippings about Lew Ouellette's 1970 Vietnam War death, a copy of the student directory, and other odds and ends. I had also two poster boards set up on easels: One had other Milne newspaper clippings, and the second had a faculty listing and the announcement of the Milne Alumni Association that I started via e-mail last month with Faith Sandles '59. I had a map of the U.S. (and the Albany area) marked with where our classmates lived displayed flat on the table, with only room to open one. Mark Landau brought his red and white Milne athletic jacket and two pairs of red gym shorts, that looked impossibly small to wear, at least 34 years later. Mark also brought his copies of interesting Milne paper memorabilia and copies of the Crimson & White. Our table won the award for the best display.
All around the room were collections of yearbooks over the years. For me it was interesting to see the early versions that had red and white artwork covers. It was interesting also to see the postings of in memoriam for the classmates who had died and also "wanted" posters listing those missing classmates. John Polydouris '72 donated Milne t-shirts, sweatshirts, and his yearbooks to the archives after they were displayed. There were plenty of photographs, newspaper clippings, articles of clothing, class rings, and class contact listings around the room, and there were really nice people who put them all together (Jack Underwood '46, Jackie Mann Gavryck '47, Dan Brown '57, Judy Koblintz Madnick and Joyce Johnson Snell '61, Martha Lowder Kimball '64, Diane Jones Kingston and Mark Borlawsky '67, Carol Fila Carpenter '68, and I, Mary Welch, for '71).
The earliest memorabilia was from Irving Richter, now living in Florida and from the class of 1933. He sent on a letter he wrote of his Milne memories from the thirties. His niece, Judy Koblintz Madnick '61, read it from the podium as part of the evening's program as she welcomed everyone to the reunion. She and Jackie Mann Gavryck '47 were co-chairs of the event planning committee. After the welcoming remarks, we all sang the Alma Mater, and then University President Kermit Hall spoke. Dinner followed, and there were only compliments for the delicious food and the friendly and efficient Desmond staff.
Geoff Williams, the University Archivist, who oversees the Milne memorabilia and records, gave a presentation of the history of the school and the people involved over the years. He had slides of photographs and illustrations from the archives that showed how Milne evolved and then closed in 1977 after the last class graduated.
We were served strawberry shortcake for dessert, and Jackie Mann Gavryck gave out awards for the most class attending, 1957; the longest traveled graduate, 1947, from Washington State; and the aforementioned best display award. Jackie suggested another All-Milne reunion in the future, and thanked us all for coming. The DJ began playing dance music from different eras. Bob Zima and his wife Patricia were one of the star couples on the dance floor and their skill and enjoyment were fun to watch. The skill of the DJ and the music he played were much appreciated, and the dance floor was full with people for a good long time.
Our classmates decided to go the the Scrimshaw Room at the Desmond after the dinner to have drinks and to talk further. The room was crowded, but it was great to talk with everyone just a little longer.
The next morning at 10:00 there was a brunch in the old Milne library on the second floor. The room has been emptied of all the books and shelving and is currently used as a meeting room. The murals on the upper part of the walls around the room are in the process of being renovated and it was clear that the people involved were doing a very good job, even if it was proceeding slowly. Brunch food was set up in the hallway outside the library and round tables filled the room, with unreserved seating. The Associate Dean of the Rockefeller College of Public Affairs and Policy, the current occupants of the "Milne" building, spoke about the work in renovating the office space they occupy. She said money was slow in coming and she hoped for donations to speed the project along.
In the 28 years since the school closed, the three floors and the basement areas have all been carved up to suit the various departments of the Rockefeller College and other University interests. It was distressing to me to see how haphazardly the walls had been put up with sectioning off the classrooms in the Milne building. It seemed to me that there wasn't any overall sense of care or appearance: some were doors replaced, others boarded up, signs and organization of the offices were of whatever fit at the time, hallways and doorways were sealed off, and an elevator was installed in the front right corner of the Milne building . That was my general impression of the Milne building, Page Hall, the gym, and the two lower floors of Richardson that the small self-tour group I joined saw. Whatever beauty or grace there was once to the school was disregarded or neglected. The gym is in shambles, and part of it is used as a fenced-in storage area. Page Hall is painted with pinks and yellow browns, with no color sense (how nice it would look with maybe sage green walls and fresh white trim). Everywhere it looks disorganized. Helen Desfosses, Associate Dean of the Rockefeller College, has a big job ahead of her in upgrading and improving its offices. Only the outside of the buildings and its grounds are as attractive, if not better, and the effort in keeping them so is appreciated.
Not all areas were open to see as part of the tour. The girls' locker room in the basement of Richardson and the hallway to Draper and the cafeteria were all locked off. Some doors had windows in them, and as we looked into the boys' locker room, it was mostly locked storage space, and it was difficult to see where the original shop once was. The home ec room was sectioned off into various work stations, and the space of the old music room on the third floor was taken up by the new elevator. Our tour group wanted to see the gym and we traveled down the front stairwell. It got darker and darker and Peter Bulger '73 went ahead and found the door locked. We turned around to leave the stairway and found the doors all locked behind us. For a too-long moment, we thought we might be trapped there for quite some time, but we found the street level door and it opened by pushing the handle bar and we escaped to Washington Avenue before returning back to the Milne building. There were tour guides available with detailed information, but as they seemed to be moving around slowly, our self-tour's speed was more welcome to me. I needed to get started on my five-hour drive return to my home in Maine.
Our class 35th reunion will be next July 29th & 30th, 2006, Saturday and Sunday. It will consist of a bring-your-own-food picnic in Thacher Park, a buy your own dinner and drinks evening at TGIF's in Stuyvesant Plaza, and buy your own breakfast at IHOP on Wolf Road, just as we had in 2001. It will be very casual and there will be no advance reservations or prior collection of money, and spouses, siblings, and our friends from other Milne classes are welcome to join us. I will let you know as more details become available, and I will be interested to know if you plan on attending.
Thanks for your friendship over the years. I enjoy your company and seeing all of you at all of these reunions.