Last weekend was our 25 year reunion at Stanford University — Mike and I graduated the same year, so we’re lucky that we can go to the same reunion, and we have been a couple since our first big reunion, the 5 year. It also happens to be my birthday month, so I’m feeling my age…luckily I feel pretty good. Although it has only been a couple of years since I visited Stanford to be honored as a distinguished alumni scholar, I was still very excited to be back on campus. It was wonderful seeing old friends, going to a football game where the Stanford Cardinal lived up to their nickname “the cardiac card” – at least we won that game in overtime. We weren’t so lucky at Notre Dame :-(. Seeing the campus again always brings back fond memories of the days when alcohol was allowed at games, fountain hopping was a requirement after games that we won (didn’t happen very often in my four years there), and I don’t know how many times I crashed my bike. I’m envious of the sparkling new athletic facilities that I hope the athletes appreciate. When I ran track, it was around the football field in a very old stadium with the rubberized track patched and peeling in places. I remember doing the stadium stairs and feeling the pain for the next few days. The Stanford of today has grown with new buildings that look like they are straight out of a science fiction movie. The boom in Silicon Valley has put the university in a very enviable position. The founders of a variety of technology companies including Google, HP and others recognize the value of a top-notch university up the road.
As a university professor and alum, I certainly appreciate what Stanford has become, but even 28 years ago, Stanford was a special place. My life was changed completely during my years at Stanford. I’ll never forget walking into my freshman dorm that first day — some of the first people I met were Faisal Khan from Pakistan and Nick Shah, an Indian from Kenya, but at the time I had no idea what kind of background these dark-skinned young men came from. In small town Spokane, the only people I had met from outside the US had been Kenyan soccer players who came to go to school. My horizons broadened immensely while at Stanford. I had decided long before that first day that I wanted to major in international relations — partially because it required at least a quarter of study abroad. I had been learning French since junior high and going to France was my dream. I can’t say enough about how that trip during my junior year impacted me, particularly visiting the Normandy beaches. It would be the spark that would ignite a career in academia studying France and other European countries.
As my friends and I have aged, we have had our ups and downs, some I keep in touch with regularly, others I only see at reunions, but I have always appreciated the opportunities and doors that were opened by my time at Stanford — which include meeting the love of my life. It was good to get a reminder over the reunion weekend, that despite the struggles I may have experienced during my time at Stanford (I’ll save those for another blog post), in the end it was truly the experience of a lifetime, and as I grow another year older this month, I am glad for the ties that will always bind me to a very special place.