Reunion saw alumni return to campus for a weekend of celebration and reflection.
Reunion Weekend at Sidwell Friends is always special, but for those celebrating their 50th Reunion this month, it was a memorable treat. This year, in what has become a tradition, historian and Assistant Principal for Academic Affairs Robert Gross provided the class with a retrospective on their time at Sidwell Friends that rekindled some strong memories and put them into a broader context.
“The ’60s didn’t come to Sidwell Friends until the ’70s,” Gross told this year’s returnees from the Class of 1973. And while that was certainly true, one alum couldn’t help but note that “when it did, it was a sea change.”
There’s little question about that. Gross engaged the class with a recounting of their Middle and Upper School experience that spanned the Summer of Love to the end of the Vietnam War—and peppered them with questions that prompted some spirited discussion. It could hardly be otherwise for an era that witnessed such astonishing change, from the Watergate scandal to the introduction of Black studies at the School.
Boys no longer were required to wear coats and ties. Girls were free to wear pants. “Radical education” and the “open classroom movement” landed at Sidwell Friends, where bulwark classes like “The 18th Century Novel” and “Man’s Search for Meaning” were suddenly standing side-by-side with “Civil Mind Control” and “Transcendental Meditation.” For all it was a welcome revisit to a time that seems both fresh and impossibly long ago.
But why just relive the memory when you can relive the experience, too? To that end, the Class of 1973 attended afternoon classes with the 5th graders, who provided lemonade and cookies along with an impromptu art lesson that had all participants drawing self-portraits—with their eyes closed! The attendant images—some surprisingly excellent; others less so—led to lots of laughs and a cross-generational bonding moment for the former and current Sidwell Friends students.
Of course, the Class of ’73 weren’t the only alums who headed back to school. Groups of alumni of all ages returned to the classroom for special courses just for them. The curriculum included “Teaching the Constitution and Civics at Sidwell Friends,” led by Upper School history teacher Steve Steinbach; “From Poetry to Politics—How Black Students’ Activism at La Sorbonne Led to Independence in Francophone Africa,” led by Upper School Principal Mamadou Guèye; and “Metropolitan Policy and the DMV,” led by Director of Equity, Justice, and Community Natalie Randolph ’98 and Gross.
Meanwhile, throughout the weekend, alumni gathered on campus and off for special dinners, events, and receptions. With a revitalized schedule, the traditional Reunion lunch transformed into a dinner and celebration, featuring the presentation of the Distinguished Alumni Awards, the highest-attended on-campus portion of the weekend. Awards went to: Steve Griffith ’63, Arnold Rabson ’73, Dax-Devlon Ross ’93, and Margot Dankner ’03. Watch the tribute videos of the awardees and read their bios. And of course, there was a special Meeting for Worship in the RLS Meeting Room, a tradition no Reunion Weekend would be complete without.
As for the Class of 1973, the group reflected on their senior projects, like “Live with the Amish,” “Go to the Blue Ridge Mountains—Alone,” “Work at NIH,” and “Build a Playground.” They remembered waves of cigarette smoke emanating from the teachers’ lounge. They talked about heading to the Zebra Room after school. They experienced the first ever Earth Day. And they were the last class to be eligible for the draft. There have been a lot of sea changes over the years, but the class’s friendships have remained strong and the warmth among them was palpable.
Sidwell Friends starts the year with diversity and celebration.
A letter to the community from Head of School Bryan Garman
In the latest episode of Lives That Speak, Head of School Bryan Garman talks with Ava Coleman ’11, the executive story editor for Abbott Elementary. Coleman talks about her quick rise in the entertainment industry, why she loves coming-of-age stories, and why the principal on Abbott is also named Ava Coleman. (The podcast was recorded on April 17, before the start of the Hollywood writers’ strike.)
Students across divisions moved up to new grades—and the seniors said goodbye.
For Sidwell Friends students across divisions, chess is the gambit.