| Previous profile | Jan/Feb Contents | Gazette
Together The Greatest Generation at Penn
Finkelsteins life as a
University student changed forever one February
morning in 1943. The Wharton School junior ate breakfast, then marched
from the University campus to 30th Street Station with a couple hundred
students, singing Penn songs along the way. Once there, Finkelstein W46
boarded a train, and went on to serve during World War II as a navigator
and bombardier in the U.S. Army Air Corps.
would be nearly three years until he returned to campus. The first order
of business, he recalls, was a haircut. (The barber embraced him.) He
then visited his fraternity housea reunion dampened by the deaths of
five brothers in wartime service. After that, it was on to the task of
finishing his degree through an accelerated program the University was
of us had been very carefree, thought nothing was more important than
having a good time, he says. Now we were more sober citizens. Our youth
sort of went away. Finkelstein graduated with 600 others in February
1946. I knew probably three people in that class.
Finkelstein, all Penn alumni who attended school at that time were affected
in some way by war-years syndrome. Despite their affinity for the University,
many feel little connection to the classes in which they graduated; turnout
for individual class reunions tended to be low.
try to change this, Penn is holding its first-ever War Years Reunion for
the Classes of 1942 to 1949 during Alumni Weekend. The May 19 event will
feature a cocktail reception, dinner and a speaker (possibilities include
news anchor and The Greatest Generation author Tom Brokaw Hon96,
60 Minutes commentator Andy Rooney and historian Stephen Ambrose).
Sloviter, an assistant director in the Office of Alumni Relations, says
the Reunion is the first one of this magnitude to be held by an Ivy League
school. This is not just an event to honor veterans, she says. We think
there is a real unifying spirit to all of these alumni; whether they are
veterans or not, they were all obviously affected by the war.
idea originated three years ago when Finkelstein, a retired businessman,
organized a small brunch for wartime alumni before the Penn-Columbia football
game in New York. Last spring, he and Harold Buxbaum W45, of New Haven,
Conn., contacted Sloviter about planning another brunch. She met with
them, as well as Richard Kaskey W43 and several others, over the summer
and, at Buxbaums suggestion, the concept evolved into one of a full-scale
reunion. A committee of 19 men and women representing all eight of those
graduating classes is now working out the details.
who owns an executive-recruiting firm in New Haven, recalls returning
to two pleasant surprises at Penn after the war ended: All of a sudden,
there were girls in his classes. And the greek system which had separated
Christian and Jewish students into different fraternity and sorority houses
had been officially abandoned.
like Finkelstein, Buxbaum noticed the atmosphere had changed from one
of fun and pranks to seriousness. You totally lost your class unity.
(He chose to keep his original class designation of 1945, though he graduated
in 1947; others did the opposite.)
hopes the Reunion will result in a reconnect to the University for alumni
who have skipped previous events, thinking they wouldnt know anyone.
I think the school has earned our loyalty for what it did for us not
only in education but keeping its promise to get us back in school [after
the war] as soon as possible, he says. It will be fun getting back on
campus and rekindling old ties.
indicate there are about 8,000 living alumni in these classes, most of
whom live in the Northeast. Im hoping and anticipating about 500 to
600 people will attend, Sloviter says. I think its realistic because
of the passion and desire the alumni who are working on this have for
have high hopes for it, just like many of the others do, says John Lawler
Jr. EE43, a planning-committee member who lives in Philadelphia. One
of the next steps, he says, is to start contacting classmates and he suspects
the committee will divide up that task soon. Wed prefer to have people
calling people they know rather than doing a cold canvass.
encourage all alumni from 1942 to 1949 to attend this Reunion, Sloviter
says. If you havent been back since graduation or if you come back every
year, this is a reunion that you cant miss. We are really striving to
make it all-inclusive.
predicts the event will carry some shock value for those making their
first University visit in a half-century. Some of these alumni have never
seen the campus without streets running through it. Its going to be an
| Previous profile | Jan/Feb Contents | Gazette
Copyright 2001 The Pennsylvania
Gazette Last modified 1/2/01