Reflections on a 50-year college class reunion | Greg Asimakoupoulos

Returning to Seattle Pacific this weekend will trigger special memories.

This weekend my wife and I will be attending our 50th class reunion at Seattle Pacific University. It will be a weekend in which we celebrate memories of the past. Although we met as freshmen on the Queen Anne Hill campus in 1970, Wendy and I weren’t romantically involved during college. As a matter of fact, we dated each other’s roommates.

It would be several years later when Wendy and I would rediscover one another. She was teaching elementary school in Southern California and I was a pastor in Seattle. And speaking of celebrating the past, just last week we toasted our 42nd wedding anniversary in Switzerland by attending a performance of the Vienna Symphonic Orchestra.

Returning to Seattle Pacific this weekend will trigger special memories. During our reunion dinner, I’ll be emceeing the program. One of my tasks will be interviewing former classmates including the guy who beat me by 28 votes to be elected student body president. Stephan Coonrod went on to have a distinguished career as a lawyer with a prominent Seattle firm.

A highlight of the evening will be the screening of a video greeting by Dr. David McKenna, who was president of SPU when we were students. President McKenna’s wife Janet was actually part of our graduating class (having returned to college to complete her degree after being a stay-at-home mom).

Now at 95 years of age, Dr. McKenna remains active living independently with his wife of 74 years. He is currently completing the second volume of his memoir. He remains a mentor to me and communes with me regularly as we share a cup of Pike Place roast at his local St. Arbucks in Kirkland.

As I anticipate watching Dr. McKenna’s greeting, I’m thinking back to the night of graduation in 1974 at the Seattle Opera House. There was a very special moment when our beloved president presented his wife her diploma and then proceeded to kiss her. The audience broke into spontaneous applause.

I have other memories of that memorable night where my classmates and I walked across the stage to receive our degrees. As the class clown approached the presiding dean, Tic was wearing a top hat instead of a mortar board. And in place of academic cords, he wore strands of cotton rope.

When it was Ron’s turn to claim his certificate of achievement, the dean announced his name: “Ronald Long, cum laude dah.” The audience burst into laughter.

A moment equally as funny occurred when I approached the center of the stage as my name was called by the dean. Dr. Rearick was so nervous about pronouncing my last name correctly, he called me George instead of Greg. By George, he really did!

That memorable night half a century ago found The Honorable Anne Armstrong addressing our class. She was the first women to serve as counselor to a sitting President. As a follower of Jesus, she challenged us to live out our faith with confidence in the vocations we would embrace. The evening concluded with my dad giving the benediction and asking God’s blessing on the lives of those who were celebrating this rite of passage.

In the half century that has passed, so much has occurred in the lives of the Class of 1974. There have been marriages, births, divorces, changes of jobs and deaths. In fact, a special segment of our reunion will feature names and photos of deceased classmates.

Still as I think of that moment 50 years ago when Dr. McKenna kissed his wife to punctuate that magnificent milestone in her life, I think of a book by the late Methodist pastor Robert Raines. It invites us to face the present while reflecting on the past.

In “To Kiss the Joy,” the author wrote, “God sets us free to taste eternity in an hour — to create the marvelous by contagion — to notice the butterfly when it lands on your shoulder — to have the courage, to once live in unison with your dreams — and the hope, always the hope, to kiss the joy as it flies.”

Even at the age of 72 or 95, we are capable of demonstrating that kind of affection as we embrace life.

Guest columnist Greg Asimakoupoulos is a former chaplain at Covenant Living at the Shores in Mercer Island.