By Risto Marttinen (Hist’62)
It is the class reunion for 1962. That was a good Kennedy year and things looked bright. Some 60 members came. This was out of an Arts & Sciences attendance totaling 790.
Fluff floats in the air. What’s this? Some of the white stuff rolls on the street in front of the hotel. Cottonwood fluff! But of course. It’s spring along Boulder Creek. All rivers in the Midwest are cottonwood feeders. How had I forgotten? The fluff floats lazily before my eyes, passing slowly, just like life-nature’s message understood.
I am a day early. I will walk the Boulder Creek Trail. There, bicycles and skateboards speeding along. I feel old, seek benches. A light headache begins. What’s this? Oh, yes. It dawns on me–this is not old age. This is the well-known altitude effect. I am now a mile high from Lexington, Ky., where I live.
That evening I pick up my cap and gown at the hotel. A man and wife appear for the same reason. The man has a cane and looks feeble. He is a fellow graduate, 50 years later.
My sleep is not good, appetite vanishes. It is all part of altitude change. Not to worry. I can stand to lose a few pounds.
Friday, May 11, following two days of receptions, banquets and speeches, we go to commencement. We have a 7 a.m. assembly at the hotel, and a shuttle bus ride to Norlin Quad. It is wet and cool – good to wear the cap and gown plus a “Class of 1962” scarf thoughtfully provided. The quad is filled with gowned students, faculty, administrators, photographers and faculty. The class of ’62 carries a sign identifying us old pros. Much cheering, applause and academic camaraderie erupts. The students are friendly, jovial, euphoric.
We sit in Folsom stadium as a group up front and we are twice cited during the academic ceremony. Some 25 of us made it. Perhaps the weather or early schedule precluded the rest?
Inspirational talks made the students restless. Suddenly a long speech saw two beach balls fly into the air above the sea of mortarboards. It was comic. Soon a six-foot champagne bottle balloon would join the others. Rambunctious students these.
There were 6,200 degrees conferred. One department had jobs lined up for all 47 graduates: computer science. The rest would be saddled with debt and struggling in the job market. Average debt for four year college graduates is $19,758 at CU.
We heard talks by former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown (Acct’61, Law’69), also a former CU president. Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano spoke. Then President Bruce Benson (Geol’64, HocDocSci’04) shook my hand and offered his card. All in the ballroom understood.
The reunion was emotional and thought-provoking. The past 50 years were illuminated. Our life stories were highlighted by the occasion. This was a moment to cherish. This was a scene to remember. A new generation stepped forth before us. And a lifetime of effort lay ahead of them. Some will die young, some will live long – as had we. They would make their mark. And this mark would be more profound because of their education. We are more than ever in a knowledge-guided world.
No force today will halt progress. And the young graduates ready for it will triumph. The struggle of life surely is sped up by four years of university life, no? Those who emerge are like coiled springs full of potential energy. They have been subjected to stress and have survived. To them I raise my voice, salute their accomplishments, take pride in their spirit and applaud their determination. Go now Class of 2012. Do your best. And raise yet higher the crests of our culture, the essence of our existence.
Risto Marttinen (Hist’62) was pleased to attend the class of ’62 reunion in May of this year. He is the Kentucky gold medal holder in discus, javelin and shot in the 70-74 age group. He says he no longer climbs cliffs in mid-winter and limits his boxing to the bags at the local Y. He lives near his three grandchildren in Lexington, Ky.