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A Fiftieth First

July-August 2006

Ten years ago, when Kenneth R. Rossano, secretary for the class of 1956, was chairing the HAA’s Radcliffe-Harvard Relations Committee, a utopian picture came into his head: a joint Harvard and Radcliffe fiftieth reunion, with Harvard men and Radcliffe women celebrating side by side their half-century since graduation and their shared lives and experiences. He decided to make it happen.

This June, 456 alumni and 99 alumnae from the classes of 1956 traveled to the Yard for the first-ever combined fiftieth. The reunion committee, guided by Robert Benson and Margaret (Moores) Benson, A.L.B. ’96, Paula Budlong Cronin, Joan Harvey Burns, and Ann Myers Hershfang, comprised more than 200 members, male and female. The joint Fiftieth Anniversary Report, a 1,200-page behemoth—with the Radcliffe “Records of the Class” positioned symbolically at the center, rather than the end—reflected a high degree of participation among both men and women, thanks to the efforts of class-report cochairs Cronin and Stephen A. Greyser. In fact, a larger percentage of Radcliffe classmates contributed to the joint report than had ever contributed to a separate Radcliffe ’56 report, and a larger percentage of the women planned to attend the joint reunion than had ever come to a separate reunion. Rossano surveyed the fruits of his decade-long effort with pride. “Classes before us, and several after us, said that a totally integrated fiftieth reunion and fiftieth class report could not be done,” he noted. “The class of 1956 has proven it can be accomplished.”

Underscoring the milestone is the fact that such a combined reunion and report will remain unique, at least for a while. The Harvard and Radcliffe classes of ’57 and ’58 intend to resume the practice of separate celebrations.