by Heidi Pettigrew ’99, ’07G, ’11CAGS
AT THE DAWN OF THE 1960s, President John F. Kennedy described the decade as the “frontier of unknown opportunities and perils, the frontier of unfilled hopes and unfilled threats.” The concept of new frontiers permeated the American rhetoric and inspired people to think about problems and possibilities that had yet to be explored. “The idea really resonated with our classmates, and we chose ‘Freshmen Enter New Frontiers of Education’ as the theme for our yearbook,” notes class officer Meredith (Bristow) Stevens.
The class of 1962—the last to earn degrees from Plymouth Teachers College—pledged to follow the course of Plymouth’s “New Frontiersmen” and provide guidance and encouragement as the incoming students began their educational journey. “We were unified as a class, a conscientious, thoughtful group of leaders who hoped to offer undergraduates an example worthy of following,” she recalls.
In the 50 years since graduating, they’ve done just that. From classroom to corporate boardroom, individual members of the class have explored and embraced the new frontier in their own unique ways. As a class, they have become one of Plymouth State’s most generous and involved. “We have lived our lives as committed and involved citizens who still feel solidarity as the class of 1962,” Meredith observes.
According to her husband, Wally Stevens, “There are a number of areas in which Plymouth State excels. I think we all like to be associated with programs of excellence. Our class, having all been educators, particularly admires the role that education plays in moving society forward.”
From a named laboratory in Boyd Science Center to the Class of 1962 Scholarship to years of active engagement with their alma mater, the class has always responded to urgent needs at Plymouth State. Recognizing the financial pressure being placed on needy, deserving students—due in part to the $6 million annual cut in state funding to Plymouth State—the class is marking their 50th reunion with a goal that reaches well beyond any previous class gift efforts. They’ve pledged to build their endowed scholarship fund to $250,000. The 88 remaining class members and their families intend to give $50,000 by the time of their reunion in June and pledge another $200,000 through their estate plans. “Together we are making and will continue to make a tremendous difference in the lives of Plymouth State students who could not finish their education without us,” says Sharon (Langlois) Andrews.
Reunion Committee members Bill and Sharon Andrews, Barbara (Dyer) Cullen, John MacArthur, Claira (Pirozzi) Monier, Rita (Laplante) Norander, and Wally and Meredith Stevens have spearheaded both reunion planning and their class gift.
According to Sharon, “We formed wonderful friendships during our years at PTC, and those friendships are still there.” That kind of lifelong connection translates into a strong desire to give back to students, especially considering students currently receive significantly less tuition support from the state than the class of 1962 did—6 percent now compared with 50 percent in the late 1950s and early 1960s. “Our class’s giving reflects a responsibility toward the next generation that we felt even as students,” Meredith adds.
The Class of 1962 Scholarship has helped to support eight students since its establishment in 2002. “We just look at these students to whom we give scholarships, and we’re amazed at what they accomplish,” say Sharon and Bill. “They are working while carrying full course loads. And half of our scholarship recipients have graduated summa cum laude! It’s very inspiring.”
Emphasizing the connection across the generations, the class of 1962 is joining this year’s undergraduate and graduate students at the annual Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 19, before celebrating their 50th reunion on June 22–24.
“We’d like to see everyone from the class come back for reunion, but we understand that not everyone can. We hope to see at least half of our classmates and their spouses and partners,” says Sharon.
“Both our class gift and our reunion weekend are important to us all,” Bill adds. “One celebrates our commitment to the students who are following us to PSU and entering their generations’ new frontiers. The other celebrates our friendship with each other, and both reflect our loyalty to our alma mater.”