Like many events of the 2020 reunion season, Class Connections--the Dartmouth tradition of pairing each year's graduating class on campus with the reunion class celebrating its 50th anniversary--has fallen victim to the effects of the pandemic.
A picnic and other events that would have taken place this year between the Class of 1970 and Class of 2020 have been postponed until next year.
But the spirit of connection between these two classes won't be denied.
Jeff Demerath '70, president of the Class of 1970, has taken this turn of events as an opportunity to reach out to the Class of 2020 with a heartfelt letter sharing the '70s' disappointment--and drawing some interesting parallels between the two classes' graduation experiences--to provide a message of hope.
A brief history refresher is in order: In the spring of 1970, Nixon was in the White House, the Vietnam War was in the headlines, and the killing of four students by National Guardsmen at Kent State shocked the nation. Campuses across the U.S. were in turmoil, and student activism had reached a high point. Dartmouth was no exception.
In his letter to the '20s, Demerath recalls that President John Kemeny suspended all classes as well as final exams so that students could choose options and follow their own conscience as they felt appropriate. Returning to class after a few weeks' hiatus was voluntary, and the Class of 1970 completed its last term without exams. A reduced number of the graduating class did finally return for an anti-climactic Commencement.
"We understand it is not easy to have your normal life interrupted," Demerath writes to the '20s. "But to be honest, this trauma made us a better and closer class, and this unique bond has lasted to the present: the friendships that were solidified during that time have endured to this day, our families have grown up together, and our love for Dartmouth remains steadfast. Please know that these are silver linings that you can look forward to once this has passed.
"Welcome to the Dartmouth Alumni family, Class of 2020. The value of your Dartmouth experience, and your Dartmouth friendships, are sure to last a lifetime. Dartmouth alumni are a wonderful family and we look forward to you joining all of us. We especially anticipate seeing you in Hanover in the summer of 2021 to jointly celebrate your Commencement and our 50th Reunion."
Several members of the Class of 2020 have written back with their thanks.
Maura Cahill '20 wrote: "Thank you so much for sharing your experiences and best wishes for our class. I was touched by your reflection on the strange similarities between our classes fifty years apart and I am so grateful for a Dartmouth family and community spirit that extends beyond the years."
Demerath said the underlying goal of the letter was to encourage all members of the Class of 1970 and the Class of 2020 to return to Hanover next year for a belated but joyous gathering. "We hope that everyone will come to the 1970 Reunion and 2020 Commencement next year. These are both amazing classes, and we've all been through amazing things. So... come to Reunion and Commencement!"