Story Nicolina Astorina, Alumni Coordinator
Photos by Vinnie Amessé
Traveling from near and far, Wagner College alumni, family, and friends returned to the Hill May 31 through June 2 for Wagner’s premier alumni event — Reunion Weekend.
Since 2003, Reunion Weekend has been bringing alumni back to reconnect, reminisce, and make new memories with one another. It is a time for people to reunite with their classmates, and to make new friends and memories from all generations of the Wagner family. This year, nearly 300 alumni, family, and friends made their way back to the Hill.
Bonding and Saying Good-bye
This year’s celebration began on Friday evening, when more than 100 Seahawks joined us at the Welcome Reception hosted for the final time by President Richard and Dr. Carin Guarasci. It was a bittersweet time, as many of our guests said goodbye to a family that has been at the heart of Wagner for more than 20 years.
“Sit long, talk much, laugh often. That is my wish for you this Reunion Weekend,” Carin Guarasci remarked to all of the guests.
Alumni and friends mingled well into the night, as they joined us at the Seahawk Social. It was a beautiful evening outside of Foundation Hall, with food trucks, a DJ, and fun games for all.
The fun didn’t end there, as another 50 guests joined us for a Karaoke After-Party in the Reynolds House Coffeehouse. We had special performances by various talented alumni: Erica Acierno ’08, Patricia Brooks ’79, Charles Gysel ’80, Jillian Holt ’03, Lorraine McNeill-Popper ’78, Lauren Patsos ’07, Alison Rivera ’09 and more!
The night ended with a group performance of “We are Family” by Sister Sledge, a perfect song to conclude the first day of Reunion Weekend.
Remembering Treasured Lives
We began Saturday with the Rise & Shine and Alumni Choir breakfasts. The Alumni Choir gathered in the Horrmann Library to rehearse before the annual Memorial Service, which honors the contributions of alumni and friends of the College whom we lost this past year. We had special remembrances for Sarah Richer ’98 and Yvonne Mills ’83. Following the service, a reception was held for the friends and family of Yvonne Mills ’83.
Several alumni then got together for brunch in the Hawk’s Nest, enjoying their meal and specialty cocktails.
The New Class of Golden Seahawks
The afternoon continued with the Golden Seahawks luncheon, honoring the Class of 1969’s 50th reunion. (All classes celebrating their 50th graduation anniversaries and beyond are counted among the Golden Seahawks.)
“It was wonderful connecting with friends that I haven’t seen in the 50 years since I graduated,” said Jean Salthammer Christensen ’69. “We both loved visiting Wagner and walking around to see the campus. We even went into the library to visit the exact spot Ed (class of 1967) and I met my very first week at Wagner.”
Some Golden Seahawks even met each other for the first time. “I made acquaintances with grads from my class whom I never knew,” said Peter Pavlacka ’69. “So it was a personally enriching experience for me as well.”
Ann Taranto Giordano ’69, alumni board member, presented her classmates with the newly created Golden Seahawks pin, as a symbol of their lifelong bond to their alma mater.
“It was a beautiful weekend all around. It was fun to visit with those I remember and make new friends,” said Sonja Larsen Sprowell ’69.
Off to the Races
The day continued with an estate planning session, led by David J. Martin, Esq., director of planning giving and college relations, followed by an Alumni Board Meet & Greet, led by Carolina Silva ’16, alumni board president.
Off campus, many gathered at Nurnberger Bierhaus on Staten Island for a Bregenz Alumni Reunion. These alumni went on a unique study abroad program held in Bregenz, Austria, and continue to get together and reminisce throughout the year. Before our main event, the Grand Celebration, several alumni also took a campus tour led by rising senior Kyle Viti ’20.
At 5:30 p.m., a Cinderella-style horse and carriage pulled up at the side of Main Hall so alumni and friends could enjoy a ride around Main Hall. Many were excited and gathered around to take a ride and have a commemorative photo taken in front of the most iconic building on campus.
The horse-and-carriage rides set the tone for what would be a fun-filled, exciting night at the Grand Celebration, featuring a Belmont Stakes theme. Alumni got dressed up for a night at the Belmont Stakes, sporting their bow ties and fancy fascinator hats.
Our Seahawks enjoyed a cocktail hour on Trautmann Square, followed by a night of dinner, dancing, photos, and more in the Main Dining Hall. The ambience of the room was set with colorful decorations, linens, flowers, and lighting reminiscent of the jockey silks that accompany the Belmont Stakes.
The dinner began with Carolina Silva ’16, alumni board president, welcoming all guests and announcing that the class of 1969 had won the Reunion Class Giving Challenge. Reaching 89% of their participation goal, 62 donors from the class of 1969 raised $34,800 for the College in honor of their 50th reunion. Collectively, this year’s reunion milestone classes (years ending in 4 and 9) raised $205,000 as part of the challenge.
As the night went on, Partners in Sound Productions took us on a musical journey through the decades, with their saxophonist and percussionist adding a live music component. Alumni posed for class and affinity photos in front of the flower wall, danced the night away, and most of all, had an amazing time!
“I love Reunion Weekend and have been coming to this event for 15 years,” said Jonelle Blendon ’82. And she’s not the only one. Blendon, along with her friends who are fellow 1980s graduates, have all attended Reunion Weekend for many years now.
Diane Wehrli Mathisen ’79 said, “I enjoy being back on campus with my friends. Because I’ve been attending for a number of years, I’ve made new friends from classes before and after my own!”
Cailin Kelly ’08, a first-time attendee of Reunion Weekend, added that she was “blown away by the weekend. I really enjoyed how there was a wonderful balance between a relaxed atmosphere and well-organized events. It was fun to get dressed up and dance with alumni from all years. I really enjoyed myself and look forward to attending next year’s weekend!”
Love, Tears, and Laughter
Reunion Weekend concluded with the Alumni Association Awards Brunch. This year, the following distinguished alumni (listed in award order) were recognized for their achievements and commitments to Wagner College:
- Elisabeth Cardiello ’06 M’07, the John “Bunny” Barbes ‘39 and Lila T. Barbes ’40 Wagner Alumni Laureate
- Charlie Siedenburg ’95, the Dr. Kevin Sheehy ’67 M’70 M’92 H’99 Alumni Leadership Medal
- Anita Carroll Sabatino ’69, the Distinguished Graduate of Wagner
- Monette McKay ’07, the Wagner Alumni Key
- Marilyn Dobbin Kinelski ’69, the Reverend Lyle Guttu Award
Award winners brought their families and friends to join them in this incredible moment of being recognized by the College for their achievements. As attendees enjoyed their brunch, Carolina Silva ’16, alumni board president, introduced each honoree before presenting their award. (Read about their accomplishments.)
Each honoree gave a brief speech, telling the audience their story, and what has led them to the place they are today in their lives. Each one thanked Wagner College for being the “place where it all began.”
Charlie Siedenburg ‘95, adjunct theatre professor, summed it up well. “I have lived, loved, and learned on this campus,” he said. “It is my home away from home. Most of all, Wagner College is a family.”
At the end of the ceremony, both President Richard Guarasci and Carin Guarasci received a standing ovation at their final Reunion Weekend event, as Elisabeth Cardiello ’06 M’07 personally thanked them for being her mentor all these years.
As Karen Moran, director of alumni relations puts it, “In today’s world, it can be easy to virtually catch up with classmates via social media. However, no version of social media can replace the feeling you get hugging a friend you haven’t seen since you walked across that graduation stage, in the place where it all began.”
Plans are already underway for next year’s Reunion Weekend, which is scheduled to take place from Friday, May 29, to Sunday, May 31, 2020. So, mark your calendars as we invite the entire Wagner family to come back to the Hill to join Seahawks who graduated in years ending in 0 and 5, as they celebrate their milestone reunions.