The Gavel: UND School of Law Class of 1966:
Keeping a tradition of class reunions for 46 years
Reunion: an act of reuniting: The state of being reunited: A reuniting of persons after separation. Merriam-Webster
Class Reunions are an opportunity to reunite with a group of people with whom you share a common bond. The UND School of Law Class of 1966 have enjoyed regular class reunions for the past 46 years. That’s a milestone within itself.
Their first reunion was held in 1976 in Phoenix, AZ to mark ten years since graduating from law school. Fred Gerszewski is a member of the Class of 1966 and has lovingly been nicknamed the “Class Historian.” His records show, after that first reunion, the class reunited every five years up until 2001 – their 35th anniversary of their law graduation. After that reunion, they decided that five years was just too long between visits, so they switched to every two.
For the past 21 years the class has been getting together on a biennial basis at destinations including Mesa, AZ, Coronado, CA, Clearwater Beach, FL, Medora, ND, and Couer d’Alene, ID. Coordination of the reunions are informal according to Gerszewski. “There is only one rule and that is there are no rules,” he added.
Those attending a reunion typically take time to meet on the Saturday of the reunion weekend to decide on the next reunion’s date and location. Someone then graciously volunteers to play host and does the work to make the reunion happen. Typical reunion activities include touring local museums and other attractions, going to the theatre, dining, and even dinner cruises. “Golf was always a favorite activity,” recalled Gerszewski, “but the vagaries of age have eliminated that,” he added with a chuckle.
Do you attend class reunions? Some people never miss one, while others wouldn’t go even if they were paid to attend. Reunions are unlike most other events and therefore seem to either excite or terrify people. You may still have close friendships with people you went to school with, you may see others at annual events or follow them on social media. Maybe you have mutual friends that keep you in-the-know about what is happening in your classmates’ personal and professional lives? And then, it’s likely there are people from school that you’ve lost touch with and haven’t seen in years or decades.
I regularly plan class reunions for UND School of Law and it always baffles me to see who chooses to attend and who doesn’t. Some people fly in to attend and others that live in town choose not to make the drive across town. It’s interesting which classes have remained close over the years and are eager to get together again and others that have gone their separate ways and seem uninterested. What I’ve learned is that class reunion participation – whether law school, high school, or college, is not so much about whether people have a desire to reminisce with their classmates, but whether a person or group from the class is dedicated to getting everyone together again.
What keeps the “Sixty-Sixers,” as they like to refer to themselves, coming back to one another? It all goes back to that one person or group dedicated to getting everyone together. For the Class of 1966, it began with their Class President, Joseph Mahowald. It was he who started it all by coordinating and hosting that first reunion in Phoenix so long ago. He went on to plan the 1991 and 1996 reunions. “He was instrumental in maintaining a current contact list,” said Gerszewski.
Mahowald continued to plan the class reunions and be the glue that is so important in keeping a class connected until his passing in 2001, five months after their sixth reunion in Coronado, CA. The reunions didn’t stop after Mahowald’s passing. In fact, they became more important with the Sixty-Sixers deciding to meet every two years from then on. Coordination of the reunions passed to Robert Wheeler until 2013, then the unofficial position was passed to Gerszewski. A core group of the class, which includes Gerry Galloway and Tim Keating, has nurtured and enjoyed remaining connected, thus the reunions continue. The spouses have also bonded with each other and the class over the years and continue to be an important and integral part of the equation. The glue keeping the class connected remains strong to this day.
You share experiences with your classmates, whether you were friends at the time or not. You are likely the same age as your classmates, had the same professors, and bonded by being together in the same time and place for several years. “We were the first class under Dean Jerrold Walden and for some unknown reason, really bonded,” said Gerszewski of the Class of 1966’s connection.
In the early years, reunions provided a much-desired escape from the harsh winters and at each reunion, the bonds forged in law school were reinforced and grew even stronger. Reminiscing about the past is perhaps the most enjoyable part of a reunion. Sharing stories with one another is an important part of reconnecting. It can be amazing how fast those memories and feelings come back. For the Class of ’66, their favorite memory occurred in 1964 while sitting in Contracts II. They heard through open windows, via battery-powered megaphone, Larry Jahnke and the late Honorable “Sparky” Gierke say, ‘‘Dean Walden convicts without due process.”
Gerszeweski laughed, “we will probably smile thinking about that as we take our last breath on this Earth.”
The 50-year class reunion was Gerszeweski’s favorite. The reunion took place in Grand Forks in 2016 and was hosted by UND School of Law. Seventeen of the 42-member class attended. “I particularly enjoyed the opportunity to interact with several of the student volunteers and the faculty,” said Gerszeweski.
The Reunion included a private tour of the UND School of Law that just completed a remodel and addition the previous year. “It was a real eye opener,” recalled Gerszeweski, “especially impressive was the technology.”
The UND Law Class of 1966 met 59 years ago when they entered law school. They graduated shortly after and went their separate ways to practice law and live their lives. Why have they stayed connected throughout all these years? What is their secret? Why do they continue to do it? “The reunions are a lot of fun through getting together with good friends and their spouses,” says Gerszeweski, “Perhaps, at this point in life, that is reason enough.”
The next reunion for the UND Law Class of 1966 is scheduled for 2024 in Coronado, CA.
UND School of Law is happy to assist with class reunion planning. Creating a memorable event tailored to your class is important to us. We offer support, timelines, resources, and guidance free of charge to make the reunion planning easy for your committee. For more information, please contact Beth Moe at 701.777.2856 or beth.moe@UND.edu.