Last Sunday afternoon, as the commencement ceremony for the Class of 2022 came to an end, the newly minted alumni stood to do what will most probably never be repeated - they sang the alma mater as one. We believe that the words “years in passing cannot sever ties of new days from the old” are as true as any that can be spoken, and yet it is difficult to imagine a time when every one of the members of this class will be together again.
In a perfect world all of these graduates will be together for their five-year reunion in 2027. This weekend members of the classes that end in a “2” (like my son-in-law, Thomas Yarcusko ‘12) or a “7” (like me) will be on campus for various events, but their primary purpose will be to see those with whom they stood at graduation and sang the alma mater.
For many of these returning alumni the opportunity to get together doesn’t just come every five years. Groups of grads will meet in small or large groups throughout the year - often planned but sometimes ad hoc. You can see them sitting together at a Wildcat football game in the fall or at one of the restaurants in the neighborhood. Years ago the Theology Department used to have our end-of-the-year lunch at Sokolowski's (RIP), and we would often conclude the event by singing the alma mater with the same group of Wildcat alumni who made a habit of getting together for lunch.
Similarly, members of the Class of 1952, the class of my father Tom and of my father-in-law Pete Geiger, had regular luncheon outings at the Longhorn at Westgate. They even dubbed themselves “The ROMEOs”: Retired Old Men Eating Out.
Time has ravaged the numbers of that famed class, but their spirit lives on in groups like the Class of 1985, my first group of students and a class that had several sons of the men of ’52 in it. They say that sharing a harrowing experience bonds people together for life, and that might be why these alumni, who had to endure my initial teaching foray, are so tight. They meet regularly in small groups and also at Christmas time for a reunion event at the Market Garden in Ohio City.
Last night I joined about 20 of them for the first-ever summertime get-together - planned by the incomparable Dan Timko ’85 with the able assistance of the irrepressible Matt Mooney ’85, and it was exactly as I expected it to be, and yet there were a couple of surprises. The biggest surprise was seeing Bill Skerl ’85 for the first time in a very, very long time. Bill and famed theology teacher Jim Brennan ’85 - who was also in attendance - were the servers in my wedding 40 years ago. As Sandy Denny sang, “Who knows where the time goes?”
I also got a chance to talk with Kevin Ginley ’85 about a number of things: from the now laughable - him recounting that at the Christmas gathering while shaking his hand I told him that I thought that Brennan had given me COVID (which I was literally handing on to Kevin); to the still very serious - him giving me the latest update on his brother Mike ’77 and his battle with pancreatic cancer.
Chatting with Kevin and thinking of Mike brought my thoughts full circle and back to The ROMEOs, of which their father Bill ’52 was a member. But it also brought me to the present, and the opportunity to share in the same kind of “band of brothers” meetings.
Recently I received an email from my classmate Dave Presley ’77 telling me that several guys from our class got together for some mild mannered revelry at the Ironwood in Bay Village. Dave joined with classmates Dennis Sullivan, George McFadden, Marty Berry, and, of course, Mike Ginley for an early dinner and some, as Dave called it, “telling of more old stories.”
Dave hopes to make this a regular event and I for one can’t wait for the next gathering. For a lot of reasons I really hope this becomes “a thing”, especially because it will give us the chance to come up with our own cool nickname. Since the Ironwood is almost literally across the street from St. Raphael Parish, and their former pastor, the late Fr. Nelson Callahan ’46, co-wrote the “official” history of the first century of Saint Ignatius; it might be fitting to use a term from his book that described the decade of the 1970s at Wildcat High.
We may be losing our hair and gaining a few pounds, but I don’t think that anyone from the mean streets of Bay Village would ever dare mess with the Men of ‘77 if we called ourselves “The Troubled Years”.
You’ve been warned.