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9.10.07 – Reunions' Banner Year: AS&E class gifts go up, up, and away

As rain fell on the Medford-Somerville campus, a shower of brown and blue balloons, fired from a cannon, flooded the interior of the Gantcher Center, where they commenced loudly popping. The colorful cascade accompanied the passing of a very large check, for more than $28.8 million, representing the cumulative giving for the past five years by the reunion classes who gathered for Alumni Weekend, held May 17-20. Spirits were high and the mood was generous at the second annual Cirque d'Elephant, a circus-themed event at which class giving trophies were announced to cheers.

The Class Gift Cup was accepted on behalf of the Class of 1972 by James Stern, E72, A07P, chair of Tufts' Board of Trustees, and Nancy Barton, J72. The trophy recognizes the largest overall class gift to Tufts since the last reunion. The Class of '72 gift—more than $12.1 million—was also the largest ever made by a 35th reunion class. The total was bolstered by a $10 million gift from Stern, who is chairman and founder of The Cypress Group, a New York-based private equity firm, and whose son, David, A07, was among this year's graduates.

The Tufts Fund Cup went to the Class of 1982 and was accepted by Kim Gatof, J82. The Fund Cup honors the class that raises the most money toward the Tufts Fund in a reunion year and comprises all annual giving to Arts, Sciences, and Engineering. The Class of '82 set a new Tufts Fund reunion giving record: $376,399.

The Participation Cup, awarded to the Centennial Class of 1952, was accepted by Beverly Peterman, J52, G53, J78P, and Bud Fischer, E52. The prize, which acknowledges the highest rate of fund-raising participation in a reunion year, was won with a rate of 55 percent. The Class of '52 has won a participation cup, reunion or non-reunion, for each of the past eight years. Its members more than earned the cigar-an unlit nine-and-a-half inch El Gigante-that Lee Atamian, E52, with ponytail and flamboyant handlebar moustache, clenched in his mouth as he waded through the balloons. Atamian, a former Navy pilot who retired from the video industry and lives in Weston, Massachusetts, attributed the class's participation rate to hard workers and lots of phone calls. "Once we started getting together, we had so much fun," he said.

Tufts University Alumni Association President Sunny Breed, J66, G72, of Long Beach, California, awarded the class trophies from a platform she shared with President Lawrence S. Bacow, Trustee Chair Stern, Vice President for University Advancement Brian Lee, and Alumni Relations Director Tim Brooks.

"The story of the night? Incredible fund-raising results," said Breed. An affirmed "Brown and Blueblood"-she is a third-generation Tuftonian-Breed described what keeps alumni so involved with the school: "The relationships they build, the family feel, are what keep them coming back," she said. "I come back because I love the people."

Barton was proud to share in the Class Gift Cup as a member of the Class of '72. "It really is an enormous pleasure for the class to generate a gift of that magnitude," she said. "The big question is, can we do it again?" It's worth a try, she said, because "Tufts was such a fabulous place to go to school." Her class attended at the height of the protest era, when students occupied Ballou Hall. "We were here during a time of great political turmoil, and it pulled us all together," she said. "The university was amazingly tolerant-even supportive. It takes a special university to smile through all that." Retired from the position of senior vice president and general counsel at General Electric Capital Corporation, she resides in Greenwich, Connecticut.

Another reunion class that batted one out of the park was the Class of 1947. Margot Lenhart, Tufts Fund coordinator, observed that the class had exceeded all of its reunion giving goals (for participation, for annual fund, and for total class gift) by April. "Sixty years out-imagine that. They are incredibly loyal to Tufts," she said.

Robert W. Cohan, A47, of Beverly, Massachusetts, reunion chair for his class, was at Tufts for only five semesters before the Navy sent him for officer training. Sixty years later, he's still coming back. "I've met more people through the reunions than through my actual classes," he said.