Saturday, June 01, 2013

Barry's 35th reunion blog - May 31, 2013

The day began somberly. Every five years my Harvard graduating class gathers to remember our classmates who have died. At our 25th reunion, there were 33; ten years later, there are 66. "Change and decay in all around I see..."  I suspect that we are a little below average but that is still a lot.

I have coordinated the services at our 25th, 30th and 35th reunions, but there was a big difference this time - the absence of Peter Gomes. Most of the classmates who spoke to me after the service remarked on Peter's absence. It was like a physical presence. I know it doesn't make sense to say that someone's absence was a thing you could feel physically, but that's the only way to describe it. When I sat in the chair on the dais which he had occupied, I felt a kind of a shock, and everywhere I looked in Memorial Church, I seemed to see him. To understand a little more of why I felt that way, read the text of the remarks I made. I posted it yesterday.

In spite of Peter's absence, the service went well. The new Pusey Minister, Prof. Jonathan Walton, was supposed to have been the preacher, but he tore his Achilles' tendon and had to have surgery. I only found that out on Tue. and had to scramble to find a substitute. My classmate, the Rev. Joy Fallon, ordained only 11 weeks ago, stepped in and did a great job. Joy is the senior minister at King's Chapel in Boston. Although a new minister, Joy is the daughter of a Presbyterian minister and a Harvard Law grad, so she has plenty of useful experience to draw on.

We were assisted by Rabbi Barat Ellman. Barat is the wife of classmate Jay Golan and a great singer, in addition to being a rabbi. She concluded the service by singing Psalm 23 in Hebrew. It was beautiful and moving. Another classmate, the Rev. Elizabeth Krentz-Wee, read some of the prayers.

The service was significant not only because of Peter's absence, but because it was the first time a woman has preached at our class's memorial service. Also, except for me, all the clergy were women.

After the service, I was exhausted and took a nap, so I missed hearing both Harvard's current president, Drew Gilpin Faust, and Derek Bok, who was president when I graduated. But I went to hear 5 current faculty members talk about the university today in the afternoon. The university today is SO different from the university in 1978 -- and better, I believe. One of the big differences is the amazing things that can be done with technology. Diane Paulus, professor of theatre studies and director of the American Repertory Theatre, talked about the course she taught on Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, in preparation for a production of that opera. The course has a video trailer, just like a movie, and it was exceptionally well-made.

I was also very impressed with history professor Maya Jasanoff, class of 96. I'm not quite sure of her area of expertise, but she has written one major book about the loyalists during the American Revolution and another about the British Empire. I bought the first yesterday and plan to buy the second today.