Last weekend I attended my five-year reunion at Swarthmore College. I graduated in 2005, and it was my first time back on campus since I attended the 2006 graduation to see off friends from that year. I think I had somehow forgotten how beautiful the campus is (being a national arboretum will do that).
Campus hasn’t changed much since I left; the Parrish remodel I had seen in 2006 makes a much nicer first floor lounge, New New Dorm is in place next to New Dorm (where I lived senior year, now called Kemp and Paul respectively), and the arboretum building got expanded. The newest trees planted around the science center (which was completed my senior year) have grown a fair bit. The napping couch in Hicks (the engineering building) was reupholstered. Otherwise, the campus is a very familiar place.
My sense of calling Swat home really struck me Sunday morning, as several of us met up to go to brunch at Java Joe’s. Since my parents moved to Seattle, I haven’t had a sense of permanent home. There’s not much tying me to Minneapolis other than high school friends I visit occasionally, and while my parents are associated with home, their current condo is largely unfamiliar. It probably also doesn’t help the sense of home there that my sister is still far, far away! I like Boston a lot, but I don’t feel Bostonian in a number of key ways. Swarthmore, however, is where I spent a good chunk of four years of my life (almost straight through in the last three years, since I did summer research twice). Now that I’ve been back, I can see myself returning more often, if for no other reason than to keep an anchor there; conveniently however I can expect to see a lot of old friends every time I go.
A more detailed rundown of the weekend is below the cut. Overall it was great to see everyone, but the official events were pretty lame. Apologies if I left anyone out!
I had initially planned to take the train down, but with Fritz up in Boston for a summer internship, with his car, he offered to drive my licenseless behind down to Philly in change for navigation skills and gas money. We both left work early on Friday (I definitely didn’t get much done that morning), so that we’d be able to meet Emery and Joanna for dinner at one of our favorite brewpubs, Iron Hill in Media. The drive was relatively uneventful, although we ran into a lot of traffic crossing the Tappan Zee.
Friday night, after having a delicious Coffee-Chocolate Cask Pig Iron Porter, we went to the Ladies’ Night reunion party outside of Willets. Ladies’ Night was a weekly party I went to regularly junior and senior year, so named because the early smaller parties in PPR were pretty much a bunch of guys sitting around and watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
It was very strange having the on campus alumni housing be in Willets, given that it is generally known a the gross dorm. The humidity certainly made it live up to that reputation. The funny thing is that I think I increased my total time spent in Willets by close to two orders of magnitude… I didn’t know many people who lived in Willets, and those who did generally socialized elsewhere. I think I was in there no more than 10 minutes when I was on campus, so it was a little weird sleeping there.
Saturday was all about the official events. We started off with a surprisingly expensive continental breakfast in Sharples, the main dining hall. Good conversation, reasonable amount of mocking the Fritz. This is normal. An gave us an update on her moving plans, which was fun, having heard a bit of that when she visited Boston last month.
Collection was totally lame. I think it was geared to the older alumni? The speaker was talking all about history in the context of experiencing the Civil Rights Movement, which due to the length of time just didn’t speak to me. I guess it’s a reminder of how much has changed in this co unitary within living memory. The rest of the ceremony was about alumni giving, unsurprisingly. They handed out awards to the classes with the best stats. We also sang our alma mater, which I wasn’t even aware that we head. Maybe that’s also something for the older alumni, and it’s gone away for more recent classes?
The rest of the afternoon I bounced between the SWIL rooms for snacks, conversation and gaming, the Engineering Department open house (only two professors showed up), and the CS Department open house (nonexistent, although nominally combined with Math and Physics). I also helped move beer from the car to the tent for the 2005 class dinner.
The definite highlight of the day, and possible the whole weekend, was when Fritz got a current member of SCCS Staff to let us into the Media Lounge. We both have many memories there, Fritz more than I since he was on Staff longer. We both did a lot of our CS assignments there as opposed to the CS lab or Hicks lab or our dorm rooms. I know Fritz slept there on more than a few occasions. One of the more amusing moments was discovering that a haiku I had written on the whiteboard in the server room was still there, over 6 years after I had written it. I was also very happy to see that many of the old Mac games I had donated (Rebel Assault, YDKJ, Masters of Orion II, etc.) were still being played on the one old PowerPC Mac OS 9 machine that they have running. We also talked to Ryan (the Staff member who let us in) about changes in the CS department curriculum, and the future of jobs vs. grad school with a BACS degree. The experience convinced Fritz and I that a proper SCCS Staff reunion (probably covering roughly 2002-2007, the core social group we overlapped with) sometime in the next year.
The 2005 class dinner was pretty disappointing. People were kinda rude about taking seats, the food was meh, and was mostly out by the time we got through the line. I think the main problem was that they weren’t enforcing tickets, and so a lot of people who hadn’t signed up online were getting food. Most ridiculous of all was that it cost $37 at registration. I guess we were subsidizing our classmates’ booze. I’m not sure if that was a problem caused by the Alumni Office or our class officers, but definitely something to keep in mind next time I attend.
The evening was spent gaming with SWIL; I failed to get Dominion off the ground, but had a fun Name Game (in which I provided most of the ridiculous quotes). Also discovered that the word “bookcase” isn’t really in my dialect… For me it’s just “bookshelves”, which contain “shelves”. After that, a group of us, including Rafa and Katie, sat in some chairs on Parrish Beach and had typical Swattie conversations on the future of American politics, the BP disaster, and so on.
Given the unsatisfying dinner, and a general lack of interest in partying, Emery, Fritz, and I decided to go to the Denny’s on Baltimore Pike for more food. Huzzah 24 hour service. There was a group of young punks there after their prom or something. I got some fried dough since I wasn’t up for some of Emery’s nachos. It’s a lot of fun being all together again. Now that we’re all on the same coast, I hope to make is happen more often.
We started the day meeting up for brunch at Java Joe’s. There were a few swatties at other tables, but Joanna, Emery, and I stuck to ourselves. I got scrapple, eggs and toast… I generally can’t find scrapple up here in Boston, though Fritz introduced me. It’s a sort of special breakfast treat when I’m in the relevant Mid-Atlantic states.
We made a final stop at the campus bookstore (I picked up a new coffee mug, pint glass, and t-shirt), and used the bathroom next to the SCCS Media Lounge for old time’s sake before hitting the road. Fritz loaded his phone up with several recent episodes of “Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me”, which was very entertaining for the drive back. We exactly reversed our route, hoping we’d stay south of the Raingnarok hitting Boston, and then had a nice pizza dinner stop in northern Connecticut. The service was very slow, but it was a tasty local pizza place. We had a long talk about the nature of academic computer science and our respective futures therein.
Fritz dropped me at my place in Watertown, and I left my umbrella and sunglasses in his back seat (which I retrieved on my way to work the next day). Then I crashed after two nights of bad sleep in sweaty Willets. All in all, a weekend well worth it.