Sixty years on, the Magnificent Class of 1959 charges forward

Students get ready for parade

On Saturday morning, as thousands milled about before the start of the alumni parade, Harrison Baldwin ’59 was rehearsing his bugle call, playing the opening notes to “charge” again and again. Sometimes the notes rang true. Sometimes they came out flat. But Bald­win’s enthusiasm never flagged.

Backslaps and how’ve-you-beens broke through the bugle bleats.

Before long, 70 classes would march in an orderly mass along the road past Plumley Armory and across Sabine Field at Haynes Family Stadium’s gates.

Joined by the Regimental Band drum­mers, an audience seated in folding chairs in front of the grandstand waited to wel­come what President Richard W. Schnei­der called the largest gathering of alumni in Norwich history.

THE OLD GUARD: NU President Emeritus Maj. Gen. W. Russell Todd ’50 (resting on cane) chats with fellow classmate Dr. Ralph Kristeller ’50 and Class of 1952 alum Addison Minott before the start of Saturday’s Alumni Parade.

But back to the bugling: Baldwin ex­plained that he was his group’s designat­ed musician, appointed by “bigwigs in the class.” He said he was playing to remem­ber Pierson Mapes ’59, a friend and de­parted classmate, who’d spent four years in the Army after graduation before be­ginning his meteoric rise at NBC Studios, where he ultimately served as vice pres­ident of network planning.

Ba da da BUM da BUM, Baldwin bugled.

Nearby, Baldwin’s classmate Joe Jor­dan ’59 joked that being back on campus made him feel old, but glad. “I never would have guessed I’d make it to my 60th [re­union], but I did,” he said. “It’s great to be back. I’m seeing people I haven’t seen since five, ten years ago.”

Jordan explained that he only gets up to Norwich from his home in Mechanics­ville, Pa. every five or ten years. Class reunions are the draw.

“In the early days, I didn’t get to a lot of them, because I was in the Army, and I was on the wrong side of the world half the time.”

Baldwin blew more notes.

“It’s going kind of rough,” Baldwin said of his pre-parade music. He played the tuba and euphonium and was in the Regimen­tal Band years ago as a Norwich cadet but hadn’t really tried the bugle.

“Let me get through the parade,” he said, laughing, “and then I’ll let you know if I feel bad or good about playing.”

Whatever the result, Baldwin and his fellow Class of 1959 alumni had plenty to celebrate. A 60th reunion. Thirty-eight out of 95 class members in the Partridge Society. A Sustained Service Award for Richard Thayer ’59 for faithful, honorable service to the university. And Saturday’s symbolic donation check of $2,281,637.66, actual funds raised from Jan. 1, 2015, to Sept. 24, 2019.

Baldwin, like Jordan, said he was hap­py to see classmates. “Some of these guys I haven’t seen for ages,” the Keene, N.H., resident said. “And some of them haven’t been back for 50 or 60 years. So, there they are.”

Standing nearby was Bill Black ’59, one of four ’59ers who leave the comforts of home (in his case, Cape Cod) to make it back to Norwich every year for Homecom­ing. He called the camaraderie wonderful and the bond strong.

“You couldn’t ask for a better bunch of guys,” Black said, adding that his class achieved a participation rate of more than 90 percent for the milestone reunions —50th, 55th, 60th—raising, according to Development Office records, $17.8 million during those tentpole events. “We all care for each other and we care for Norwich.”

Dr. Ralph Kristeller ’50 from New Jersey, salutes Old Glory with hand on heart as he crosses Sabine Field. The former Air Force officer carries with him a special flag bequeathed by his son-in-law U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. William Cording, who died of pancreatic cancer in April.

As parade time drew close, the group began walking. Richard Thayer ’59 took one end of a yellow “Magnificent Class of ’59” banner, David Bockoven ’59 took the other.

Members of the Magnificent Class of 1959 show their pride before taking their seats during Saturday’s Homecoming Alumni Parade.

Henry Pierpan ’59 stood near the front of the line. He explained that the class had been through a lot. One hundred and fifty of them had graduated and commissioned into the Army together. Or as Pierpan col­orfully put it, commissioned on a Saturday, graduated on a Sunday, and into the Army on a Monday.

Some among their ranks became gen­erals. Gordon Sullivan ’59, perhaps most famously, would serve as the 32nd Chief of Staff of the Army and as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

“We went through so much here at Norwich for four years, and that wasn’t the easiest thing to get acclimated to,” said Pierpan, who spent 20 years in the Army and now lives in Williamstown, Mass. “Then we started crossing one an­other’s paths into the service and had a great deal of respect for one another.”

It was time to move. Slowly, the Mag­nificent Class of 1959 walked down the path, into the stadium, and onto the turf. Baldwin kept playing when they arrived. He stepped to midfield. Then he blasted one last charge!

Vermont College graduates Mary William McLaughlin ’59, Vanessa Bray ’69, and Cindy Marriott ’69.
Vermont College graduates Mary William McLaughlin ’59, Vanessa Bray ’69, and Cindy Marriott ’69.

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