This year's Reunion Weekend was a family affair for some of the attendees at last Thursday's reception for alumni who graduated 50 years ago or more. Jerry Work '62 and Carrie Gallagher Lyons '57 are Whittie parents and grandparents—and that's just for starters.
"We have 16 direct family members graduating from here," Jerry said. "It started with my wife's parents in the '30s and the last one was a granddaughter who graduated a couple of years ago—and everything in between!"
The celebrations, which ran last Thursday through Sunday morning, welcomed 800 alumni and guests celebrating their 5th, 10th, 25th, 30th, 40th and 50th reunions, as well as older graduates ranging back to the class of 1952.
Sharon Woodward Work '62, Jerry's wife and president of Whitman's Alumni Board from 1991 to 1993, added that they can never keep track of how many family members are at each reunion, given that nephews, nieces, in-laws and more rank among their Whittie relatives.
English major Sharon went on to receive her master's in religion at Gonzaga University and Jerry, an economics major, earned a doctorate in finance and computer science from the University of Wisconsin–Madison and an MBA in finance and statistics from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. But the couple—based in Kerby, Oregon—believe that the undergraduate academic experience was central to their later success.
Whitman had and still has "a fabulous reputation for being such a small school," Jerry said. "It was academically good then, it's academically good now. A lot of things in the world changed around it, but the level of academic excellence did not."
He summed up the best thing about Whitman in one word: "continuity."
That theme also resonated with education and psychology major Carrie Gallagher Lyons, who attended reunion with her daughter Linda Infante-Lyons '81. A former special education teacher and elementary school principal from Anchorage, Alaska, Carrie Gallagher Lyons said that both she and her family benefited from her Whitman education.
"The difference you can make for yourself makes a difference for your children or your relatives," she explained, both professionally and personally. Linda Infante-Lyons, a biology major, married economics major Matias Infante '80; and their daughter, Sofia Infante '12, went on to major in biochemistry, biophysics and molecular biology.
Although some things have changed—"of course, things were more formal in '57. Dinner was formal, [and] I think you could wear jeans only on Saturday!"—the value of a liberal arts education has remained constant, said Carrie Gallagher Lyons. "A lot of people think you go [to college] simply to get a job, and we all know that there's so much more to it."
Reunion celebrations continued through Sunday morning and included class receptions and dinners, campus exhibitions, bike tours, faculty and staff presentations, and an All-Class Parade and Convocation ceremony with Whitman President Kathleen Murray.