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Liberty Mutual

Class of 1961 celebrates milestone


By Steve Seepersaud

It had been 50 years, but it felt like it had been no time at all. Time is funny that way. 

"I recognized most of the people immediately, even though all the years do things to the face and body," said Burt Blustein '61, who organized a 50th anniversary reunion for the Class of 1961. "Within a few minutes, we all felt like we were 21 again."

Blustein and 15 of his Harpur College classmates gathered June 24-25 in Manhattan for this once-in-a-lifetime event. The weekend started with dinner and late-night conversation on Friday. The following day, the alumni took a long walk through The High Line -- a linear park on the west side of Manhattan stretching from the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street -- and enjoyed lunch at an outdoor cafe.

Class of 1961 reunion(From left, David Popper, David Wexler, Burt Blustein and Steve Rappel)

"It was wonderful to see these classmates again," said David Wexler '61, professor of law at the University of Puerto Rico, who traveled way up north to attend the reunion. "I had seen perhaps six of them since graduation, and had been in regular touch with two: Arnie Levine '61, whom I dragged to Harpur because I needed a roommate in that far-away place, and Burt, who was later a roommate. I had four roommates during my Harpur days, and all of them attended the reunion. It was wonderful catching up a bit with everyone there, and indeed in meeting, for the first time, a few classmates I hadn't known during my student days. My fondest Harpur memory was combing my thick head of hair."

"Harpur was, for me, far more than a place of book learning, though there was much of that, of course," said Joan (Gluckauf) Haahr '61, class valedictorian and professor of English at Yeshiva University. "It was where I grew up. Most memories center on the many good times with dear friends, especially Bill Hyman '61 (my closest buddy for three years), Betsy Aswad, PhD '73 (my apartment-mate as a senior), and, in the first couple of years, the group of girls who called themselves the Stubies (taken from the German word Stubengenossen, meaning roommates), a name we adopted at the outset of our freshman year when we all lived in the old Lincoln Dorm in Endicott."

Class of 1961 reunion(From left, Joyce Lynch Lannert, Joan Gluckauf Haahr, Nadya Aswad Higgins, Cheryl Sternlieb, Harriet Weingarten Schneider)

Much of the conversation at the reunion recalled life as sort-of pioneers in 1957 in a "ramshackled" Endicott campus with Quonset huts, an existence far different than what the students of today get to experience.

"I went to the school sight unseen," Blustein said. "The first time I saw it was when my parents drove me up there. We toured the campus and my parents looked at it and said, 'What kind of place is this? It's a dump.' And, physically they were right."

Blustein said he found out about Harpur through an advisor at his Brooklyn high school, who was very vocal in touting the college. While the physical appearance may have left a lot to be desired, Blustein said the academics did not disappoint.

"Looking back on it, the education we got was so superior," said Blustein, a member of the law firm Blustein, Shapiro, Rich & Barone, LLP in Goshen, N.Y. "It really gave us the foundation for what we were able to achieve during our lives. Those who were [at the reunion] were such extraordinary successes, and their lives have had a significant impact on society. This is a group I'm proud to be associated with -- college professors, college presidents, doctors, lawyers -- very high achievers."

Haahr agreed, saying her Harpur education prepared her well for graduate studies at Harvard University.

"All first-year graduate students in English were required to take written general examinations, the results of which would determine who would be permitted to continue to the PhD. I, coming from tiny, unknown Harpur College, was one of four students out of 50-60 to pass every category of the exams -- an achievement I attribute entirely to the wonderful foundation I received as an undergraduate."

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Last Updated: 11/12/13