North Central College - Naperville, IL

Finding the Class of ’51: Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Leota Buss Ester’s goal is to personally deliver 60th reunion invitations to 120 class members in 28 states. Marcia Meyer ‘51 Hawkins (right) of Arlington Heights, IL, already has it on her calendar. Ester asks every classmate to sign the North Central banner.

Braving thousands of miles with unflagging energy, Leota Buss ’51 Ester is giving her time and resources to visit nearly every member of the Class of 1951. “My hope is that at least 60 of us gather in November for our 60th reunion to see our beautiful new, but still the same, campus—and to share our stories with one another,” she says. Ester spent the winter traveling the West Coast, the South and the East Coast, with many Midwestern visits still to come.

Lost in the hills of Pennsylvania, I’m trying to find Ralph ’51 and Mary Huth in Pittsburgh to give them their invitation to the Class of ‘51’s 60th reunion and North Central’s 150th anniversary celebration. I asked myself, “What am I doing? Why am I going to every classmate’s home to deliver this invitation?”

I came up with the answer in Ohio. It’s the stories. The one about Prof. Eastman coming to class earlier than usual the day Jean Crosby ’51 had just gotten an ice cream cone. He asked her to finish it in the hall. She couldn’t. Her legs would’ve collapsed she was so embarrassed. She set it on the window ledge instead. Her friend, Janet Lederman ’51, would reach over, take a lick, while Jean remained immobilized. Later, Prof. Eastman apologized and she grew comfortable in his class again, in fact, got an A in it. Prof. Eastman. No name is mentioned more than his. Prepared, knowledgeable, fair, demanding, patient, these are among the adjectives of admiration and appreciation for him and his teaching.

Some classmates I didn’t know, and they don’t remember me. It matters not. We tell stories that make us laugh. One remembers coming in after dorm hours, one of us started the Sadie Hawkins Day event. We all remember green beanies, the rope tug of war over the DuPage River with the sophomores, First Church and Grace, no dancing allowed. The list goes on. When I called one classmate asking to visit, he said, “I don’t know. I’m getting old.” Then he paused, laughed a bit, and went on, “But so are you, I suppose.”

Elton Tietz ’51 took me on a tour of his newly redecorated Southwestern home outside Phoenix. We worked our way through the 1951 Spectrum, the pictures reminding us of old friends, stirring our memories. “There,” he’d cry, pointing out classmates. “I want them to be at the reunion. I want to see them again.” And, the beautiful girls. I believe that he was in love with all of the girls of ’51. All except me. And we laughed.

Ray Polivka ’51, after a lifetime of working for IBM, worked on a real problem—getting Betsy Erdmann ’51 Germanotta and me on the right train back to New York. Later we relied on the GPS to find Bruce Rogers ’51, who lives just under Mt. Shasta. We had a hug from Jim Hook ’51 in bed with Parkinson’s, but with a story of developing a program for collecting more than 40,000 books for African countries like Rwanda. So many stories. How could this trip be other than satisfying?

Stepping out the front door into Cincinnati sunshine, Burton ’49 and Jean Crosby ’51 burst into “North Central is the school we love…” and I joined in to make it a chorus of three, not caring a bit what the neighbors might think.

And what are we like? Mostly middle-class folks who have been of service to their communities, families and country, surprised with where life has taken us, but not changed from the values we brought with us to North Central—and which carried us through our lives.

North Central Now Spring 2011