With pandemic safety precautions still in place preventing in-person events on the University of Pennsylvania Carey Law School campus, Reunion took place in a virtual setting, providing an opportunity to host events beyond the weekend timeframe as held in the past.
Milestone Reunion Classes included those who graduated from the Law School in 2016, 2011, 2006, 2001, 1996, 1991, 1986, 1981, 1976, and 1971. In addition to substantive virtual programs and individual class year events, digital Viewbooks were made available for participants to share personal and career highlights with their classmates.
“It was great to connect with my classmates, even virtually,” said Sierra Shear L’16. “While nothing can replace seeing each other in person, it was so nice to be able to reminisce and catch up after five years.”
Those classes celebrating major milestone anniversaries displayed resilience in making the most out of virtual gatherings, with some excitement around the potential to combine the best elements of utilizing new technology to add new layers to future, in-person events.
“I found the Zoom app to be a facile way to stage a virtual reunion and found that our virtual reunion was a very enjoyable way to get together with all of the barriers to in-person gatherings at this time, and particularly important for alumni like my class who graduated over 50 years ago,” said Craig Lord L’71. “
“The alumni office did a magnificent job making the best of a difficult situation,” said Andrew Schwartzman L’71. “Their communications and logistics planning facilitated what was a meaningful, if only virtual, get-together.”
Schwartzman added that while Zoom is not a perfect substitute for spending days together with friends at the Law School, Reunion 2021 discussions were lively and most participants stayed beyond scheduled sessions to share memories, which held true for other class gatherings as well.
“Virtual isn’t reality, but folks really warmed to it in the breakout rooms. And when we all reconvened as a group at the end of the hour, there was a palpable desire to continue the conversation,” said Randy Mastro L’81. “I heard afterward from several classmates who said the virtual event left them craving an in-person gathering later this year. As the Class of ’81, we were among the first wave to get fully vaccinated, so we’re good to go and looking forward to getting together soon.”
A particular highlight for Schwartzman and the class of 1971 included the presence of Curtis R. Reitz L’56, Algernon Sydney Biddle Professor, Emeritus, who Schwartzman said was among the most popular faculty members for many of his classmates.
“He provided a faculty perspective on what was a period of dramatic change for The Law School, marked by losing many members of the class to the draft, and overshadowed by the war in Vietnam, protests and riots,” he said. “We also discussed with him the dramatic increase in the number of women who came to The Law School over our tenure and the several years that followed, as well as the arrival in our 2L year, 1969, of Penn’s first female faculty member, Professor Martha A. Field.”
Outside of class-specific celebrations, other virtual meetups hosted by specific Law School groups included the Lambda Alumni Association, the Latin American Penn Law Alumni Association, Penn Law Black Students and Alumni, LLM alumni, Senior Partners Society, and the Penn Law Veterans Alumni Association.
Alumni also had the opportunity to hear a State of the Law School Address with Dean Ruger, a presentation of “Women in Entertainment” from the Kilgore Society, various presentations of innovative Penn Law faculty research during the pandemic, a conversation with the Honorable Judge Stella Tsai L’88 presented by Penn Law Asian Alumni Network (PLAAN), an alumni panel discussion surrounding alternative careers outside of Big Law, and programming from the Future of the Profession Initiative (FPI) mapping out “A Vision for the Future” of the Law School.
“As an alumnus, it was heartening to see the Law School community’s resilience, flexibility and connectedness on full display during the week of virtual reunion events,” said Heather Frattone L’98 Vice Dean, Development and Alumni Relations. “We would have preferred to be together in person, but we did not let that stop us from finding ways to share knowledge, hear about the many wonderful things happening at the Law School and, most importantly, connect with our friends and classmates.”
To view the full schedule of events for Reunion week, go here: https://www.law.upenn.edu/alumni/reunionweekend/schedule.php