St. Bonaventure and Siena Welcome Friars and Friends to Reunion Weekends

Wendy Healy Friar News

Alumni and friends of the two Province-sponsored colleges returned to campus last weekend, June 1 to 3, for the annual alumni reunions.

At St. Bonaventure University in Western New York and at Siena College in the Capital region, friars and alumni enjoyed dinners, picnics, lectures, Masses, golf tournaments, and a warm feeling of fellowship. The weather cooperated for the most part, and the only slight complaint among participating friars was that having two school reunions on the same weekend made it difficult to attend both events.

Getting together and recalling common roots is always fun for the friars. Frank Sevola, OFM, a 1982 SBU graduate, said: “As a friar and a trustee, I was very happy. The presence of the friars around campus was terrific. And, of course, there were many great comments about the friars and how much we mean to so many Bona grads. It made me very proud. Walking around with my habit on was always an adventure. We make an incredible and indelible impression on Bona grads. As a trustee, I was very proud of SBU.”

Though both schools gave special recognition to graduating classes in five-year increments, from the class of 2007 to the 50-year class of 1962 and earlier, alumni from all graduating classes were welcome to attend.

St. Bonaventure Activities
Close to 1,000 persons, including many friars, returned for the reunions. At SBU, Friday’s activities included walking tours of campus, several special-topic presentations, and a 5 p.m. Mass in the University Chapel for the 50th anniversary class of 1962 and alumni of prior years. Class dinners were held at various off-campus venues.

Saturday morning events included a donor-recognition breakfast with university president Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, campus tours and open houses, presentations on Thomas Merton and other special topics.

Following a lunch at Hickey Dining Hall, alums took part in tours, open houses and presentations, and many stopped by a book-signing at the University Bookstore by alumni Bob and Ann Flynn McCarthy, editors of The Good Journey: 150 Years of History at St. Bonaventure University.

On Saturday afternoon, three alumni were inducted into the SBU Athletics Hall of Fame. Members of this 35th Hall of Fame class include former women’s basketball player and coach Mary Jane Telford of the class of 1975; former basketball player Hillary Waltman, class of 2002, and Jim Meicke, a soccer player from the class of 1987.

Among the friars who participated in SBU’s reunion were F. Edward Coughlin, OFM, ’70, the university’s vice president for Franciscan mission, Francis Di Spigno, OFM, executive director of university ministries; Daniel Riley, OFM,’64, director of Mt. Ireneaus Franciscan Mountain Retreat, Peter Schneible, OFM,’73, who celebrated Mass on Friday for the 50-year class, and Daniel Horan, OFM, class of 2005, who celebrated Mass on Sunday and then signed copies of his recently-published book, Dating God.

Gregory Jakubowicz, OFM, Siena College chaplain and a 1987 graduate of SBU, noted: “The St. Bonaventure University reunion was beautifully orchestrated to make the more than 1,000 alums attending feel at home once again. I definitely felt back at home. For me, it was my 25th anniversary of graduating from Bona’s. I enjoyed catching up with my fellow classmates who graduated in 1987, seeing many of my former students who were there celebrating their five-year reunions, and, as always connecting with Bona alums, faculty and staff from all generations.”

Alumni Award
A highlight of the reunion for Gregory was being there to see Jocelyn Thomas, ’77, the Province’s director of communications, with whom he worked while based at the Provincial Office, honored as one of three alums of the year.

“HNP’s own Jocelyn Thomas deservedly was named a Stax McCarthy Alumnus of the Year,” Greg said. “During the award ceremony and dinner, I was privileged to be sitting with the wife of the late Stax McCarthy Tena, who works at Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School in Buffalo, and Tom, their son, who works at SBU. Both Tena and Tom were very pleased to see Jocelyn receive the award.”

Thomas, a resident of Somerset, N.J., who was hired by Holy Name Province in 2006, said she was surprised to receive the award and flattered to hear cheers from her classmates at the June 2 banquet.

“It has brought me great satisfaction through the years to help the university — on both a formal and informal basis — with alumni initiatives,” she said. “Whether it is by organizing events, serving on the National Alumni Association Board or acting as a spokesperson for the friars, my involvement has been rewarding. After years of volunteering, I was thrilled in 2006 to be offered the position of communications director of Holy Name Province, where publicizing the value of Franciscan education is part of my position.”

A message from Provincial Minister John O’Connor, OFM, was read at the dinner. “On behalf of the friars of Holy Name Province and myself, I want to offer my congratulations to Jocelyn Thomas, as she is named Alumnus of the Year. One of the best decisions I have made was to hire Jocelyn as director of communications for our Province. Her energy, loyalty, and dedication to the Franciscan tradition has brought the area of communications and public relations to a level of excellence unprecedented in our history. Her dedication and loyalty to her alma mater, St. Bonaventure University, is an example for all alumni.”

“The reunion was fantastic,” said Frank Sevola. “I was so happy that the people I was closest to while a student were there. There were five of us who lived together in one way or another for all four years and we were all at Bona’s for the reunion. It was so good to see them and catch up with their families. A couple even have kids at Bona’s right now. In so many ways it was like we never left. From the perspective of an alum, it all felt so good and it was such a happy event.”

Ed Coughlin agreed. “I very much enjoyed the ‘Afternoon with Thomas Merton’ that Dan Riley and I conducted. The 26 participants crossed a wide spectrum of ages. I think they especially enjoyed the stop at Dave’s Half-Way Inn, the watering hole frequented by Merton and Robert Lax in the 40s.”

Siena’s Festivities
Meanwhile, at Siena College in Loudonville, N.Y., Kenneth Paulli, OFM, assistant to the president, Kevin Mullen, OFM, ’75, said the weekend was extra special, because it kicked off the yearlong celebration of Siena’s 75th anniversary.

More than 700 grads returned to campus, said Kenneth, to mingle with the friars. “At the moment,” he said, “26 friars live in the Siena College Friary. Of these 26, 18 friars work at, or are retired from, the college. Of these 18, eight friars are alums of the college.”

Ken’s ’82 graduation class celebrated its 30th reunion, while the ’72 class of Daniel Nelson, OFM celebrated its 40th reunion. Since it was Ken’s 30th, alumni relations asked him to preside and preach at the Alumni Mass on Sunday. “It was an honor for me to preside and preach on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.”

Several friars participated in the weekend’s events, in particular the President’s Champagne Brunch and Distinguished Alumni Awards. President Kevin addressed the alums, congratulating the alumni award recipients and thanking those who make donations.

Julian Davies, OFM, a philosophy professor for more than 40 years, attended the class of 1982’s party on Saturday night. According to Ken, this was the first time that Julian learned that he was considered by students to be a tough teacher and had the nickname of “D+ Davies.” “He ran into several students whom he taught — as well as several students who intentionally avoided taking him for class — as he is known as D+ Davies.”

Dennis Tamburello, OFM, ’75, a religious studies professor, performed at the Siena College reunion with the remaining member of his musical group 24/Seven, Steven Wilson of the class of 1996. The duo played at the picnic during the reunion, which moved inside due to the inclement weather. Dennis played guitar during the set, while Wilson accompanied on the piano. The duo split drumming duties. Dennis noted that “the set encompassed everything from Buddy Holly to the Plain White T’s”, and that the duo enjoyed their performance.

Amid all the fun and festivities, Gregory spoke of the real importance of Franciscan fellowship at reunions. “I especially am humbled to be part of the Franciscan tradition that meant, and still means, a lot to so many of the Bona alums. Hearing their stories and how the values and faith that were fostered at SBU still play an integral role in the good journey of their lives. It remains abundantly clear to me based on the stories from these alumni that our Province’s ministerial legacy at St. Bonaventure continues to be a source of love at work.”

Photos of the reunions at both colleges can be found online. Siena posted a slide show on its website and St. Bonaventure has several reunion albums on its Flickr site.

Wendy Healy, a Connecticut-based freelance writer, is a frequent contributor to HNP Today.