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Back in the Class of '69

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Courtesy Desert | The Daily Wildcat

 Sally Simmons is a member of the class of 1969 and co-chair of the reunion this year. 

The University of Arizona’s Class of 1969 is celebrating the 50th anniversary of their graduation this year at Homecoming 2019.

The reunion events include a bonfire, the lighting of “A” Mountain, campus tours, lectures and a tailgate party and parade before kickoff for the football game against Oregon State.

While the weekend will be packed full of fun events for all alumni, this homecoming means so much more to the former classmates of 1969.

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Sally Simmons, co-chair of the reunion and retired lawyer and judge, remembered her classmates and faculty from when she attended the university.

“I loved the people,” Simmons said. “I had some really good professors.”

Simmons also participated in clubs on campus such as Mortar Board, and said she loved the diversity she saw in the different corners of student life.

“I was involved a lot in student life and got to meet people of all kinds,” Simmons said.

Simmons lived in Manzanita-Mohave Residence Hall on campus her freshman year and later lived in the Gamma Phi Beta sorority house.

“I’m still very close to some of the women who were in my sorority,” Simmons said. “But I also remained in touch with my freshman year roommate from Manzanita.” 

Kathy Walsh-Ostapuk, one of the first 30 students to graduate from the College of Nursing, was also involved in community service clubs on campus.

“My husband was involved a lot with Camp Wildcat from the second year it started,” Ostapuk said. “We would provide camping experience for underprivileged kids and do trips twice a year.”

Clubs and social activities weren’t the only things past UA students were involved in.

The late 1960s were filled with historical events that shaped the nation in myriad ways, with civil rights and the Vietnam War creating fractures in the country’s unity.

Despite this, camaraderie was felt between peers on campus and helped unite the students during a tumultuous time in history.

“I just loved the whole feeling of ‘We’re in this together,’” Simmons said. 

Even in times of uncertainty and fear, the student body stuck together to form a very strong bond in their time of need.

“It was tense,” Ostapuk said. “I mean, we lived through some pretty rough times.”

Alumni recount the many student-led debates, public forums and rallies that were held on campus to raise awareness of the injustices happening in the country and overseas. 

Kris Larson-Teran, who majored in microbiology, remembered the protests against the draft for the Vietnam War.

“What was particularly on everyone’s mind was the war in Vietnam,” Teran said.

Those 1969 graduates said they appreciate that student voices are still being heard on campus, holding protests of their own to stand up for what they believe is right.

“I admire the young people who are saying ‘Enough is enough,’” Teran said.

Some alumni coming back for homecoming have another sentimental reason for loving campus so much: They found their spouses there.

“My husband and I met at the U of A and we were married at the [Saint Thomas More Catholic] Newman Center,” Ostapuk said. “We actually have a brick over there commemorating our wedding anniversary.”

From being involved in student life and other activities on campus, many students from the past were married by their senior year.

Sally Simmons also married her husband in college and said she was seven-to-eight months pregnant in her yearbook photo at the Mortar Board meeting.

Kris Larson-Teran also met and dated her husband throughout her time as a student.

“That made it interesting,” Teran said.

With all the exciting and happy memories from their times as UA students, it’s no surprise that the 50th anniversary alumni can’t wait to get back on campus for homecoming.

“Watching the undergraduates and graduates and feeling the energy and hope for the future is just really uplifting,” Simmons said. “I always like to be on campus.”

For others, they are looking forward to tailgating before the game and enjoying all the fanfare involved.

“I plan to participate in the parade,” Teran said.

What means the most to many alumni, however, is just catching up with old classmates and talking about their college days.

“I’m looking forward to connecting with folks,” Simmons said. “It’ll be a good time to get re-energized.”

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Some alumni have not seen their peers since they graduated and are curious as to what they are up to now.

“Just to hear what people have done in terms of their careers, I think that’s important,” Ostapuk said.

Class reunions are always an excellent time to look back on the past and remember the adventures of college days, but for the class of 1969, it’s an even bigger celebration to come together after 50 years.


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