West Chester’s Class of 1951
by Chelsea Hess-Moore
In the early afternoon of Saturday, May 14th, 25 people gathered in the Philips Autographed Library in the Philips Memorial Building at West Chester University. A luncheon took place and a baked-potato bar was available for the guests. For one hour and 45 minutes, the guests mixed and mingled and shared stories of their pasts. For 18 of these guests, this was an occasion they look forward to every five years. And this year, although a smaller number of guests than usual, it was just as special as all the years before. On this day, West Chester University’s class of 1951 celebrated their 65th reunion, with 18 classmates in attendance.
Reunions are nothing new for this class, as they have regularly held one every five years since they have graduated. Patricia Appleby, affectionately known as Pat and by her classmates as Pam, has never missed a reunion since she graduated. Appleby was the class treasurer and started helping with reunions during the 50th class reunion, which had the largest attendance of nearly 100 guests.
Before West Chester University became a fully functioning, comprehensive college, it was the West Chester State Teachers College, offering four-year degree programs specifically for educating teachers. Since this class was one that graduated from the teachers college, it is something they always reflect on and implement into their reunions.
“It’s custom for the class to give something to the college at the 50th reunion,” says Appleby. “All the things we could think of had already been given. So, we ended up starting a scholarship. This year, there will be $3,900 in scholarship money awarded to three recipients who are pursuing degrees in education.”
While the scholarship was the highlight of the 50th reunion, guests enjoyed other entertainment, which included a live band and a dance floor. Each year, classmates who did not follow the teaching career path would talk to the class about their professions and what they do. Many of the students from this class went to the military due to the Korean War. Others ended up as pilots, lawyers, small-business owners and some even became school superintendents.
With the 65th reunion, Appleby knew that the attendance would be smaller, and the guests are limited to what they can do physically, so she picked the library as the venue.
“I decided that we would have it in a library in one of the old buildings that we all recognized from when we went to West Chester,” says Appleby. “But nobody in our class really knew about this library because we graduated in 1951, and the books for this library were donated in 1952.”
Appleby describes the room as the perfect place for such an occasion. Elegant gold guilds in the ceiling, windows that go down to the floor and a stone fireplace all made for a quaint luncheon for this small but passionate group of 18. While they enjoyed their meals, they followed the tradition of having classmates who are not in the education profession speak about their careers and tell stories of what they do or, in this case, what they did since most are retired, Appleby points out.
One thing this group has seen over the years is the loss of classmates. While it saddens them to have attendance drop each reunion, they understand the patterns of life and, in fact, shine humor on it when they can. Appleby, who proudly claims to be “87 and three quarters” (turning 88 in September), started off the save-the-date letter for this year’s reunion as follows: “Dear classmates, someone once said that life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer you get to the end, the faster it goes.”
Although life may be passing by quicker these days, the West Chester State Teachers College class of 1951 is still gathering every five years and reflecting on the memories that they not only shared in their college years, but also throughout their lifetimes. And even after 65 years, they have no intentions of stopping their reunions.
“My departing words at the reunion were,” says Appleby, “‘I will see you all at the 70th reunion. Save the date for a luncheon on the second Saturday of May in five years.’ I’m already looking forward to that one.”
This article appears in the July 2016 issue of Harrisburg Magazine