When asked what makes the Classes of the 1960s so close, Penny McCandless, Head Cheerleader and Class of 1965 Robinson alumna answered, “The right people in the right place at the right time.” The Classes of the 1960s proved that again over the weekend of September 29, 2016 in Celebration, Florida for their second All-Class 1960s Reunion. And they brought with them bringing that signature spirit that makes Robinsonians (or Robinsoneros, in Spanish) a tribe of their own, no matter when they graduated. As Alumni Relations Director (and alumna, Class of ‘89), I had the privilege of joining this special group of Robinson alumni (and teachers!). I also had a blast! The conversation, the food and the music all confirmed why their time at Robinson felt like a Golden Hour. Laurence (Laurie/Lorenzo) Rosenberg (Class of ’68), who was unable to attend, noted that “in some strange, cosmic way, for a very brief moment, Robinson was the energy center of the Western Hemisphere. The school was charmed. We basked in an openness that no longer exists.” Although times have changed, Robinson always strives to remain that golden oasis of openness that gives young people the space to flourish.
But it hasn’t always been easy to keep in touch. The Classes of the 1960s lost touch for 30 or 40 years, only to reconnect, first through the Internet and then through reunions. After reconnecting through Robinson’s 100th and 110th Anniversary celebrations, these alumni have stayed close. That perseverance and inclusiveness truly make Robinson stand out as a school and a community. We should all be inspired to come together like the Classes of the 1960s.
At the Meet & Greet reception on Thursday night, we introduced ourselves and started sharing stories. Philip (“Busi”) Montalvo (Class of ’64 and event coordinator) is a Robinson ‘lifer’ who attended from Kindergarten through 12. He described how Robinson was an extension of his actual home, since his family lived behind the school on Placid Court. He also organized the FIRST EVER Robinson School dance in the Auditorium under the Chapel at a time when these were not permitted. No doubt, those persuasive skills came in handy later when he became successful attorney.
Anne Hartwig (Class of ‘64) traveled all the way from Madison, Wisconsin where she works as a disabilities attorney, also traveling to Africa to teach public health when she can. Lydia González, Annie’s 93-year-old mother and former Robinson Spanish teacher accompanied her and presented Robinson with a beautiful decoupage invoking Puerto Rican folklore and culture.
As alumni reconnected, I matched faces with names, feeling at home with everyone and proud to represent the Robinson. My faith in love was refreshed by the endurance of Robinson couples who married shortly after graduating—such as Jim and Myrna Gulick (Class of ‘66) and Bob and Raquel Hisey (Class of ‘64)—or found each other again after years, such as Pamela Fisk and Greg Rodgers (Class of ’65). Jeff King (Class of ‘68) and Greg Rodgers (Class of ‘65) provided the perfect musical ambience from the era.
On Friday, Robinson alums took over prime real estate by the hotel pool—soaking up the sun, lounging and picking up conversations and relationships as if no time passed. Their affection for each other and Robinson was warm and inviting. That night, everyone gathered in the hotel ballroom to eat, drink and continue the party. Mike Reilly (Class of ’64 and event coordinator) presented Super 8 films that he and his family had taken of Robinson in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s. Jeff King contributed videos from the 100th and 110th Anniversary celebrations back in 2002 and 20012, respectively. Greg Rodgers once again provided the soundtrack and we danced until we dragged ourselves to bed.
On Saturday, the hangout by the pool continued. Friends broke off from the group for some private time, and two alumni who recently retired from careers as lifelong educators—Meleta Kardos and Penny McCandless (both Class of ’65)—discussed their ideas for the Class of 1965’s 115th Anniversary celebration in 2017. A group dinner at the popular Columbiana restaurant (SEE PHOTO) that evening further fed their nostalgia for the island with traditional Puerto Rican cuisine. Meleta proclaimed the weekend “a success. I LOVED seeing everyone and actually having the time and opportunity to eat, drink, dance, and be merry…It was great!” She promised, “God willing and if the creek don’t rise, I’ll see you next summer in PR to celebrate the 115th at Robinson.” We certainly hope so!
The time to say goodbyes to new and old friends came on Sunday morning at the Farewell/Despedida Breakfast. History teacher and Secondary Principal Bill Wright and his wife Joan drove in to visit with the students from the early years of their careers. Mr. Wright shared the hilarious anecdote of a skit prepared before the 1964 election that presented the “outlandish” idea of the 1st woman president. How times have changed! And how prescient! Another example of how Robinsonians use their creativity and imagination with an eye toward the future. Nancy Calogne (Class of ‘64) has the skit in her archives. Let’s present it again for Robinson’s 115th Anniversary!
After all the goodbyes were said and hugs were given, the weekend came to a close. Anne Hartwig put it best when she noted that “As you observed, despite the diversity, we remain a pretty cohesive group and try to show that through laughter, hugs, and genuine affection for each other. I think that this is, in large measure, due to the camaraderie and values provided to us at Robinson!” We couldn’t agree more! Thanks for setting such an example and keeping that spirit alive!
In a post-reunion email, Phil Montalvo announced, “Y entonces la cortina calló, todo terminó (And then the curtain came down and it was all over)… For me, it was a unique opportunity to catch up on just about everyone’s past 50+ years, give and receive hugs, and share laughter. What a treat…Not only did we have the opportunity to have fun together again, but we were also able to make a donation to the Robinson Scholarship Fund.” Thank you, Classes of the 1960s for this memorable event and your generosity. Please come home to Robinson and bring back that spirit of unity and celebration next year for the 115th Anniversary!
1960s Reunion Playlist
After listening to the music that Greg Rodgers (Class of ’65) and Jeff King (Class of ’68) played at the reunion. I put together this playlist of songs and videos to remind everyone of the Classes of the 1960s. Hope you enjoy it!
• Happy Together
• House of the Rising Sun
El Gran Combo
• Que le pongan salsa
• En mi viejo San Juan
• My Girl