ýƵ alumni reconnect during Reunion 2024.
Alumni reconnect as they gather for the Parade of Classes during Reunion 2024. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Laughter, joy, generosity, and deep conversation were all in play as nearly 800 ýƵ alumni returned to campus for Reunion 2024.

Held June 13-16, the annual gathering featured dinners, receptions, beer gardens, a 5K run, a golf outing, Alumni College presentations, a cookout, the annual Parade of Classes, and a convocation in Memorial Chapel that celebrated ýƵ’s past while supporting its future. Alumni returned to Appleton from at least 43 states and 13 countries.

Reunion 2024 Photo Gallery

Reunion classes march in the Parade of Classes.
Reunion 2024 Concert
Classes show their spirit at Reunion 2024
Reunion 2024 5k run
The Class of 1974 saw 95 classmates return to campus for their 50th Reunion. Many of them joined the Parade of Classes outside of Shattuck Hall, which led into Reunion Convocation in Memorial Chapel.
Alumni from multiple classes gathered to perform in the Reunion Concert.
Alumni show their school spirit as they pose during the Parade of Classes.
A number of alumni participated in the Coach Gene Davis Memorial 5k Fun Run/Walk brings

“We hope you’ll enjoy the memories of shared experiences and the excitement of catching up with old friends,” President Laurie A. Carter said in her Reunion Convocation address. “We also hope you’ll use this weekend to look forward—to nurture your relationship with ýƵ and strengthen and deepen the bonds with a place that has played such a transformational role in your life.”

Class gifts total $6.8 million

Susan Lichty-Schmid '84 and Dave Graber '84 present the Class of 1984 class gift during Reunion Convocation.
Susan Lichty-Schmid '84 and Dave Graber '84 present the Class of 1984 class gift during Reunion Convocation in Memorial Chapel.

The Reunion Convocation included the annual presentation of class gifts. The Class of 1974 led the way, presenting a class gift in honor of their 50-year reunion—$3.1 million, with $475,000 dedicated to a new fund to support ýƵ’s exploration of strategies and programs focused on teaching about the uses, possibilities, and ethics of artificial intelligence (AI).

In all, the classes presented $6.8 million in gifts to the university, most of it supporting the ýƵ Fund. In addition to the Class of 1974, gifts were presented by the Class of 2014 ($37,000); cluster Classes of 2003, 2004, and 2005 ($104,651), Class of 1999 ($81,000), Class of 1984 ($1 million), and cluster Classes of 1978, 1979, and 1980 ($2.48 million). 

Carter and Matt Murphy ’06, president of the ýƵ Alumni Association (LUAA), thanked the classes for their gifts and the many ways they are supporting current and future Lawrentians.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of my role is thanking Lawrentians for their investments in this university,” Carter said. “Your time, talent, and resources truly make a difference. ýƵ thrives because of your leadership and support. On behalf of our entire community, thank you for your very generous class gifts.”

Murphy said such gifts make ýƵ more affordable for students, enrich the academic experience, and support the university's world-class faculty.

“Great things are happening at ýƵ,” Murphy said, “and our investments are critical to the continued success and vitality of the college and our community.”

Jane McGroaty Schneider ’74 joined other co-chairs for the Class of ’74 in presenting the gift. She noted that 48% of the class contributed. And 95 members of the class were in attendance. The class, she said, is excited to provide seed money to grow academic programming related to AI.

“To all of you, your energy, your leadership, and your focus on artificial intelligence will help ýƵ move into the future in a very pivotal way,” McGroaty Schneider said.

Alumni College explores AI, crisis in journalism, more

Panelists present a session on artificial intelligence in Warch Campus Center.
Members of the Class of 1974 lead an Alumni College panel discussion on artificial intelligence (AI). 

The growth of AI technology was one topic in a series of Alumni College sessions that had alumni briefly returning to the classroom during Reunion. A mix of alumni and faculty members led the sessions.

In addition to a session on AI that drew an overflow crowd of more than 110, topics included researching maternal mortality rates, examining the future of remote work, exploring the state of journalism, celebrating the legacy of scientist and former Milwaukee-Downer professor Elda Anderson, understanding the ongoing need for ethnic studies, exploring what it means to be a classical singer in a post-pandemic world, and embracing the art and science of craft beer.

Led by a panel of alumni from the Class of 1974 and joined by Constance Kassor, associate professor of religious studies and special assistant to the president, the AI session explored how AI has quickly changed the landscape in everything from academia to music to law.

“This is an amazing, shape-shifting topic,” said Mark T. Nelson ’74, CEO and president of Microscopy Innovations in Marshfield.

He said he and the other panelists from the class—Thomas M. Baer '74, executive director of the Stanford University Photonics Research Center (retired) and adjunct professor in the Department of Applied Physics at Stanford; Gail J. Sonnemann '74, a career librarian who served as an information systems specialist (retired) with the U.S. Copyright Office; and Joseph J. Bruce '74, a retired Illinois 17th Circuit Court judge—started talking about AI over Zoom calls during the pandemic.

“The more we talked the more we realized this was a big thing that wasn’t going away,” Nelson said. “It will affect all of us, our beloved alma mater, and all the students who graduate from here. So, we set out trying to learn more.”

The desire to raise money for a gift focused on AI technologies grew from those initial conversations.

“We are eager to see ýƵ maintain its reputation as an innovator in undergraduate liberal arts education, to be a place where students will learn to use AI tools with skill and discernment and to graduate fully equipped to navigate an AI-enabled world with proclivity, critical thinking, and ethical responsibilities,” Nelson said.

In another Alumni College session, veteran journalist Jill Manuel ’84 detailed the shifting landscape in news consumption, noting that a growing percentage of Gen Z—ages 18 to 29—now consider TikTok their primary platform for news. More and more, it is celebrities and social media influencers delivering the news while the influence of mainstream legacy media continues to wane.

It’s imperative, Manuel said, for those traditional news organizations to find innovative ways to connect with young consumers.

Over the past four decades, Manuel has been a newsroom leader in markets from Cleveland to Chicago to Sacramento. A year ago, she launched her own TikTok channel called Jill the News Lady. With an assist from her 22-year-old daughter, Manuel set out to build trust with young news consumers through credible, engaging content.

“This is about how we engage the next generation, because this, I think, is a critical, critical piece of the puzzle for the future of democracy,” she said. “At the end of the day, there’s a lot of work to do for people who work in legacy media organizations in crafting their products and their presentations to really engage this younger demographic.”

Back on campus 75 years after graduating

Mary Hartzell '49 holds the 1949 sign as she leads the Parade of Classes.
Mary Hartzell '49 returned for her 75th Reunion. She led the Parade of Classes.

Amid the various dinners, receptions, beer gardens, and other gatherings, Reunion weekend featured numerous traditions, including the Vikings Athletics’ annual golf outing, an alumni music recital, the Coach Gene Davis Memorial Fun Run/Walk, the Parade of Classes leading into the Reunion Convocation, an all-reunion cookout, and a day trip to öܲԻ.

The Parade of Classes—held outside of Shattuck Hall—showcased the enthusiasm from generations of Lawrentians. That included Mary Hartzell ’49 leading the parade as she marked her 75th year since graduating from ýƵ, and Chuck Merry ’57, celebrating his 67th.

Hartzell returned to campus from her home in Belleville, Wisconsin. She has made periodic returns for Reunion and said she did not want to miss her 75th.

“I graduated this month 75 years ago, and I got married two weeks later,” she said.

Hartzell went on to earn a Master of Arts degree from Northwestern University and a doctorate from the University of Illinois.

“I think here at ýƵ I learned to love learning,” she said. “It’s been with me all my life.”

Nine alumni receive 2024 Alumni Awards

Headshots of all nine 2024 Alumni Award recipients.

Nine alumni were presented Alumni Awards at Reunion Convocation courtesy of LUAA: Lucia Russell Briggs Distinguished Achievement Award to Cynthia Estlund ’78; Marshall B. Hulbert ’26 Outstanding Service Award to Adam Locke ’03; Gertrude Breithaupt Jupp M‐D’18 Outstanding Service Award to Rick Davis ’80, Jill Manuel ’84, Bonnie Maas McClellan M-D’62, and Eileen Paulson Johnson M-D’66; Nathan M. Pusey Distinguished Achievement Award to Jacob George Allen ’03; and George B. Walter ’36 Service to Society Award to Christina Balch ’03 and the late Donald Brunnquell ’74.

Carter called the presentation of the Alumni Awards one of the true joys of Reunion weekend.

“The career accomplishments of these brilliant alumni are worthy of celebration,” she said.

Brunnquell’s wife, Sally Scoggin ’74, received a standing ovation as she accepted the award in honor of her husband, who passed away in late December.

“This posthumous honor celebrates a brilliant career and a life well lived,” Carter said in presenting the award, highlighting Brunnquell’s professional contributions to pediatric psychology and bioethics at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and in classrooms at the University of Minnesota.

Milwaukee-Downer celebrated on 60-year anniversary of merger

Two of the Alumni Award recipients were former students of Milwaukee-Downer College, which merged with ýƵ College in 1964.

Recipients Bonnie Maas McClellan M-D ’62 and Eileen Paulson Johnson M-D ’66 were among the Downer alums in attendance for a luncheon that celebrated Downer’s lasting influence on ýƵ over the past 60 years. They also joined other Alumni Award recipients at an awards dinner.

Carter praised both McClellan and Johnson for their years of commitment to Milwaukee-Downer and ýƵ.

"Your love and support for Milwaukee-Downer has remained resolute," she said.

The influences of Milwaukee-Downer continue to be seen and felt at ýƵ. Downer traditions such as class colors are embraced, and items of historical and sentimental value such as the Teakwood Room in Chapman Hall and the sundial from Merrill Hall that is now on the south side of Main Hall remain important pieces of the ýƵ campus.

"We are celebrating the 60-year anniversary of the merger and the myriad ways that the Downer legacy remains embedded in all we do," Carter said.