School Ties

By Alyssa Cressotti ’08, ’18

Many of us claim we’ll “keep in touch” after graduating, not entirely sure if it will really happen. For these Setters, however, keeping in touch isn’t simply a social nicety—it’s a major component of their lives, and by reconnecting in style, they’ve continued to reinforce and strengthen lasting bonds first made during their college years. Meet a few alumni who, through trips, rituals, and serendipitous run-ins, have extended their collegiality well beyond graduation. 

Girls Trip

“I had never been to Jamaica, and our friend—who was from there—asked if I wanted to come along and I said yes,” recalls Gina Caro ’96. “And then, before you knew it, all five of us were going to Jamaica.”

For Caro and fellow Pace alumnae Raquel Muñoz ’95,  Nicole Phillips-Moody ’96, Diana Reyna ’96, and Nadine Wallace  ’96, this first trip was the start of something magical. “That first trip, we were just out of college, and we were in a suite, but jam-packed and sleeping on the floors,” Caro laughs. “But we had a wonderful time together—you could’ve put us anywhere and we would’ve had fun.”

Since then, the women have traveled to each other’s places of origin—to Puerto Rico, to Grenada, to the Dominican Republic. When not enjoying the sand and surf of the Caribbean, they visit other big cities or head to the Poconos for a snowy winter retreat where they plan their next adventure.

“Our most recent trip, to Grenada, was amazing! We rented a huge house near the beach and toured the island. We even met a fellow Pace alumnus at one of the local markets,” explains Caro, who admits they’ve all come a long way since that first trip in the mid-’90s.

Maintaining these tight-knit bonds can be difficult—life gets in the way, people grow apart, jobs change, families grow—but if you are lucky, Caro believes, you will find a group of friends who are willing to make the commitment necessary to maintain that friendship.

“We make each other a priority,” she says. “I think that, and the genuine love and appreciation we have for each other, is why our friendship has lasted so long.”

An Event To Remember

“Every time I get a save-the-date, I know I can look forward to a mini-Pace reunion,” says Vinnie Birkenmeyer ’11, ’14. “I’ve actually been to more than 25 weddings with friends connected to Pace—everywhere from down the street to all the way out in Texas.”

A Lost Generation

Reunions are more challenging for College of White Plains (CWP) alumni who can’t go home again. In 1975, CWP consolidated with Pace University and became the College of White Plains at Pace University. Several years later, the College of White Plains at Pace University closed and what is now the Elisabeth Haub School of Law took over its campus.

“It’s been hard, not really having a place to ‘go home’ to,” says College of White Plains at Pace University alumnus Brian Donlon ’78. For Donlon, living through a college merger and eventual closure bonded him with his fellow CWP alumni. They may not have had a campus to come home to, but they always had each other.

The turning point for Donlon and his compatriots was the very first College of White Plains at Pace University reunion hosted by the University in what was their former stomping grounds—Preston Hall in White Plains.

“When we started planning the reunion, we thought we’d get 40 or 50 people, but we got about 175!” says Donlon. “It was awesome! I couldn’t believe it.”

Over the years, Donlon and his gang had remained in touch, getting together and traveling as a group frequently, but now, they have new ways to see each other—Pace’s annual holiday party, baseball outings, and so much more.

“I think there’s a lot of nostalgia. The University’s attitude towards CWP has changed and social media has helped, but I’m not gonna lie, it’s a lot of work, but it’s worth it,” says Donlon. “I love these people—they’re my closest friends on the planet, but it’s like herding cats sometimes.”

Growing a Network

“After I graduated I wanted to stay involved with Pace and at the time, they had the Recent Alumni Committee,” recalls Roshan Marksman ’02. “Through that, I got involved with Pace’s Adventure Weekend, which was essentially an alumni-centered vacation. I went on a few of those—to Puerto Rico, on a cruise to nowhere—and I met some great alumni.”

Looking Back

“We all grew up together at Pace University. Facebook has been wonderful to connect, but face-to-face is best. We love getting together at events on campus and it’s something we look forward to as a group,” says Steven Watson ’82. He and fellow Pace alumni return to Pleasantville every fall for Homecoming.

Bon Voyage!

“Over the years, you lose contact with people, but through the magic of social media, we’re reconnecting,” says College of White Plains at Pace University alumnus Hank Dickson ’85. He and his wife, Christine Botek Dickson ’87, set sail with old friends—Rosemarie Giovinazzo- Barnickel ’86, Pamela Alcid ’87, and Kathie Davenport—and made memories that will last a lifetime.

“Rosemarie had been asking my wife and I to go on vacation with her for some time, and when she said they were planning a cruise to Alaska, I knew we had to go,” says Dickson. “And we all ended up going last summer.”

Though some members of the group hadn’t seen each other in more than 25 years, getting together felt like old times. “It was as though we had just seen each other yesterday,” Dickson says. “We picked up right where we left off.”