When I packed up and left Yale in May 1974, little did I know that it would be my last act as a member of the Class of 1974 for the next forty years. True, I attended THE GAME in the fall of 1974 but that was at Harvard and I vaguely remember being at Princeton when Yale played there in the fall of 1975 but between May 1974 and June 2014, I had returned to New Haven only on occasional recruiting trips for Lehman Brothers and to take each of my three daughters on a tour of the school in the hope they might attend:

  • Reaction of oldest daughter as shots were fired in front of Payne Whitney as she left her meeting with the field hockey coach June 1996: “Get me out of here!”
  • Reaction of middle daughter after long tour on hot August day 2002: “I think I’ll apply early to Princeton.”
  • Reaction of youngest daughter (Yale 2011) to tour in spring 2006: “Can I start here now?”

Even with my youngest at Yale and living in my freshman dorm and residential college, I at best visited five or six times on the theory that this was her experience not mine. My Yale experience ended in 1974. Or did it?

I was always very proud and happy to have been admitted to, attended and graduated from Yale. To me, it was and remains absolutely the best undergraduate education in the United States—a true community of scholars as our admissions letter avowed. I couldn’t and still can’t imagine attending Harvard with its “happy bottom quarter” (those very well connected applicants whom Harvard could not financially afford to turn down) not to mention 22 members of my high school class. Nor, as an anti-prep preppie, would I have wanted to go to Princeton which to me was Duke picked up and repotted in New Jersey (or is it Princeton that’s repotted in North Carolina?). Finally, I just wasn’t a good enough rower to get into USC, especially since I’d actually taken the SATs myself. I loved Yale. It was just, well, over in 1974, and I started the rest of my life.

Then in 2012 the phone rang and it was Shary Aziz. Since graduation and as far as I could tell, Shary had become Mr. Yale, which was a pretty fair distance from Karachi from whence he came. Every missive I received from Yale seemed to have his name somewhere on it and when we were re-introduced in about 2000 on a golf course, I understood why. Shary not only loved Yale but he seemed to know everyone in the financial services industry connected to the place. Since I had recently “lovingly separated” from Lehman Brothers. I couldn’t help but admire his success and connections and was happy now to be one of them.  Shary had informed me in his own wonderful way that I had “volunteered” to run the 40th reunion and that it was time to get going. I thought, “why not?” and accepted the job. I did remind Shary that I had not yet attended a Yale reunion, and he kindly reminded me that I should get over myself and even enjoy it. So I jumped in. No toes to test the water; just go.

The next two years saw a sea change in my life: not only did I rediscover Yale I rediscovered the class and all of you, most of whom I had not known and all of whom I was glad to meet. By the time of the reunion, I, who had created an image of Yale as an intellectual hiatus that could well end in death in a rice paddy, had begun to remember all the important things about the class and the time in which we attended Yale: the pioneer spirit of our women (after all, sailing on the Lady Arabella, the second boat to arrive at Plymouth, was only slightly less scary than sailing on the Mayflower; one still had to cross a big ocean); the diverse interests and talents of each member of the class, the amazing intellectual experience of American Studies, and this above all, Yale 35-Harvard 0, when an unsung hero, the inimitable Kevin Rogan, whom I regarded as a friend became a Yale legend. Yes, I just shivered.

But what probably left me with the greatest sense of pride was our role, unintended as it may be, in making co-education real during our time at Yale, thereby preserving the school’s relevance and driving it forward into new levels of thought. I witnessed the first women’s basketball team’s first game; I saw the disappearance of the question, “how about the women’s point of view”; I traveled (uninvited) to Radcliffe to watch Yale win a tennis tournament made up of the best tennis teams in the Ivy and Seven Sisters league, I saw all male Yale breaking down when I first shared a bathroom with the women in my entryway and, yes, I was in the middle of the effort and ultimate decision to create a “sex-blind” admissions policy at Yale that was implemented during our time there. Over 3000 students signed a petition demanding “sex blind” admissions which was delivered to the members of the Yale Corporation in November 1972, and I was lucky enough to be one of the presenters and advocates of that petition and its subject matter to the corporation at its November meeting.  The policy was approved by the corporation on or about December 9th of that year.

I rediscovered these things in working to create the 40th reunion, and, for the above reasons, dedicated it to the women in our class, because, without their being admitted, I would never have gone to Yale in the first place. Without women and, honestly, without Inky Clark, I had felt as late as my junior year in high school, Yale was on an irreversible path to irrelevancy. Then Yale admitted women as part of Clark’s overall plan to make Yale other than a gentlemen’s school, and our class became the first male applicants to knowingly apply to a co-ed and much diversified Yale.  By November 27th, 1972, after news of the petition got out, the Harvard Crimson was questioning Harvard’s relevance and accused it of “sleepwalking through the halls of co-education.”  I, for one, think Harvard students continue to sleepwalk through the halls of undergraduate life. Not Yalies. We went to a school where undergraduates matter.

Back to the reunion: it was a reasonable success from Yale’s point of view but for me it was a win win. I had come home and been welcomed as a member of the Yale Class of 1974.

But these feelings can be fleeting, what is often called “conference or seminar effect,” and I didn’t want them to go away. So I decided to get more involved. We resuscitated the monthly class lunch in New York and now average between 20 and 25 attendees at each one.  At the first one, I realized I was making new friends, and have continued to do so every month for almost five years. When I occasionally have to miss a lunch, I always get a call asking if I’m alright. Jeepers! Welcome home again, Alec.

So when the chance to lead the 45th reunion planning was offered, I jumped at it but in a different way than before. I jumped at it because I wanted to make it better. I did not know how to do that alone so I didn’t. I have been challenged, supported and pushed by the remarkable classmates who were kind enough to accept my call for assistance, and I think what we have ready for you will not defeat your expectations. I am extremely grateful to all of them and would include their names here but for the fact that I am space and word constrained.

Several times during the last year, I have been subtlely and not so subtlely been reminded that the reason people return is to see old friends. Of course that’s true, but as you return to Yale, please recognize that this is a remarkable opportunity to make new ones. Please start by going through our 45th Reunion Book which contains four remarkable essays by classmates, each better than mine, a timeline of our four years at Yale, stats about our class like admission rate and favorite majors (Yes, American Studies awakened me from my dogmatic slumbers; in fact, it provided me with the intellectual construct under which I live), early results of the class survey, a list of departed friends, lots of vintage photos and more than 200 updates from classmates themselves.

Enjoy it all and welcome home!!