Our 40th Reunion was a huge success, perhaps the best ever! We arrived on Saturday, 22 May, remarkably fit; or at least that was true of our “PWS” cyclists, Larry Palmer, Will Weber, and Dusty Samouce. Their cross-continent travels from San Diego to West Point had been beautifully chronicled on the internet by Larry Struble, Palmer’s B-2 roommate, who was rendered quadriplegic in 1963 by a jeep accident. The team communicated with him nightly by telephone, and he enjoyed his part in their trip immensely.
They were hailed upon their arrival at the Woodcliff (NJ) Hilton, our headquarters, on Saturday; and again at Trophy Point on Sunday, after which they repaired to Peter Stromberg’s quarters on Professors’ Row for showers and a meal cooked by the professor himself. Then it was on to Buckner, in a rain we hardly noticed, for a memorial service and a buffet supper. The service, led by Skip Schow, was very moving. A classmate from each cadet company pronounced the roll of those fallen from the company – there were 73 familiar names in all – and then Mike Gabel led us in singing the Alma Mater. An entranced observer noted that an unscheduled silence was kept for at least a full minute after that.
Monday began with a business meeting at the hotel, and we were happy to be indoors on a rainy day. Fred Franks presided as chairman of the class standing committee, and at the end of the meeting turned the class over to Pete Dawkins, our president, who will resume his able leadership of the class. The thanks of all of us go to the members of the standing committee who have so freely donated their time over the years.
By then a majority of the 184 classmates and three widows had checked in, and note was taken at the meeting of those who had come the farthest, including Dick Schmidt from England, Al Phillips from Belgium, Steve Klein from Heidelberg, and, in a roundabout way, Larry Palmer from Switzerland but through San Diego and other points across the country. The cadet company with most attendees was easily A-2, with 12.
There were several business reports, including ones from Tom Russell on the the handling of funds at the AOG; from Frank Campbell on the continuing construction of our website; from Mary Clare Haskin on the state of the class distaff organization; from John Wilson on the 45th reunion class gift; from Jim Walsh on his plans and our options for the class history book at the 50th; from George Kleb on the availability of out-of-date golf towels; and from regional reps on their current activities and their plans for the coming year.
Awards and admiration were given to recent WP Society presidents around the country, including Jerry Fogel (Kansas City), Sandy Beach (Houston), Lou Schroeder (Denver), and Dick Sundt (also Houston). Likewise recognized were Mike Gillette for his service as chairman of our finance committee, Phil Gibbs for his contributions as vice chairman and other positions on the class standing committee, and to the aforementioned “road scholars,” Palmer, Weber, Samouce, and Struble.
The rain relented later on Monday and the big alumni dinner dance in Washington Hall was enjoyed by all. We then were buoyed by the prospects of sunshine on Tuesday, and it came to pass as forecast. Everyone stood tall in the reviewing line at the parade and, best we could tell, no one passed out. Following a picture-taking formation and lunch in Washington Hall, it was on to Mahan Hall for remarks by the Supe and a brief address by Stromberg giving the perspective of the last living greensuit in the class. The West Point part of the day ended with a dedication of the class memorial bricks around our previous class gift, the flagpole at Herbert Hall. Fred Franks spoke eloquently about our friends who fell in Vietnam and about our class son, Donnie Tillar ’88, who was the only WP grad who fell in the Gulf War. There was not a day in the Gulf War, said Fred, who commanded VII Corps, that he did not think of Vietnam. Dave Gray led the class in prayer, and then it was on to the boat for a most enjoyable Hudson River cruise. Appropriately, it seemed, it ended with a memorable view of the Statue of Liberty.
I think it was Will Weber who brought us down to earth with the perspective that our presence at the time of graduation of the Class of 1999 was equivalent to the presence of the Class of 1919 at ours. Someone else noted that the 40th Reunion attendees at the graduation of the class that treated us to Beast Barracks had fought with Pershing against Pancho Villa. Ah, well.
The enthusiastic thanks of the class for a great event go to the reunion committee, which included Nick Krawciw, Frank Campbell, Jim Walsh, Art Griffin, Skip Schow, Tom Russell, Joe Todaro, Mary Clare Haskin, and George Day.