David George ’96 has lived and worked abroad for 15 of the last 20 years since he left Stevens, from Chile to China, Turkey to France. Now living in London, all roads recently led him back to Castle Point, where he marked his 20th reunion this past Alumni Weekend.
“I literally just fell in love with the campus,” he recalled, as he enjoyed the breeze off the Hudson with his classmates and other alumni and their families on the patio of the Ruesterholz Admissions Center. “I’m glad that I came here — it was good for me.”
George, general manager of Trimble Real Estate Solutions in London, also touched upon a sense of pride and hope for Stevens that could be found among the generations gathered on campus for this one special weekend.
“It feels great to be back,” George says. “I don’t know how many people in my class understand the transformation happening at the school. Some of the statistics that (President Nariman Farvardin) showed speak for themselves.”
Tom Gibson ’65 returned for his 51st reunion and to congratulate his friend and classmate Frank Semcer ’65, who was honored for his extraordinary support of Stevens with a gathering on the lawn two evenings earlier.
Gibson was a bit more direct.
“What a change! If you can’t find a reason to be proud as a Stevens graduate, there’s something wrong with you! With Nariman, how can you not get excited? His enthusiasm is contagious.”
That enthusiasm was palpable as hundreds of alumni and their families returned to campus June 3 to 5, happy to see each other and to learn more about the Stevens of today. Classes ending in “6” or “1” marked reunions, though all alumni and their families were invited to this weekend that included reunion gatherings, a family picnic, campus tours, lectures and longtime favorites like the Lollipop Run and beer and wine tastings.
More recent offerings were reunions for alumni of student organizations, including the Stevens Dramatic Society, The Stute, Gear & Triangle, the Honor Board and other groups, as well as STEP and WCPR. One very special debut event: a performance by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, presented by the Class of ’71.
Art Ketterer ’61, who marked his 55th reunion, received the prestigious Stevens Alumni Award, for his decades of volunteer work and dedication to Stevens. Five other alumni received the Harold R. Fee ’20 Alumni Achievement Award for their outstanding service to the Alumni Association: Jeff Capone ’91, Patty Torres ’01, David George ’96, Robert Hoar ’06 and Victoria Blazeski ’11.
The 50th anniversary class — the Class of ’66 — enjoyed a strong turnout and presented Stevens with a gift of $10.2 million, the second largest class gift in the university’s history.
“Everyone participated and worked more than I expected,” said reunion chairman Gerry Osborne ’66, as he spoke to his fellow classmates. “Our class stepped forward, and we have some classmates who are very generous.”
President Nariman Farvardin warmly welcomed the Class of ’66 back to Stevens and thanked them for their generosity.
“Every time alumni get engaged, it gives this university energy, and we really appreciate your support,” he said. “Congratulations to all of you on your 50th reunion.”
Farvardin’s fifth annual “State of Stevens” address to the alumni was well received and much discussed, and alumni praised the president’s openness, as he discussed Stevens’ strategic plan and presented some impressive numbers to illustrate the university’s progress. Some of the memorable recent statistics included the #12 ranking in the nation for best 20-year return on investment for graduates (PayScale); the 95 percent career placement rate for the Class of 2015; and the 98 percent freshman retention rate.
Farvardin also showed detailed graphics of the university’s finances, which are vastly improved and on solid footing, and asked alumni for their support, as Stevens embarks on its fundraising campaign, “The Power of Stevens,” which will focus on student success, faculty excellence and “a vibrant campus (facilities).”
Franco Dichio ’86, who gathered with his buddies for their 30th reunion, praised Farvardin’s talk and his performance as president.
“He’s turned it around. And he has a strategy,” Dichio said.
Dichio had other reasons for feeling good about his alma mater this weekend. A former Stevens soccer player, he’s amazed at the success of the recently nationally ranked teams at Castle Point.
“Now they’re top-notch,” he said. “They’ve had astonishing success.”
Maria Hurtado ’10 M.Eng. ’12 comes back almost every year with her family to enjoy the family picnic, the kids’ activities, her friends and that view.
“The view — I love being here with the good weather, and the kids love it.”
“When I came here, everything was beautiful,” she said. “Everyone has a high respect for Stevens.”
Anthony Bastardi ’66, who marked his 50th reunion, also has fond memories and affection for his classmates and alma mater — and gratitude for where Stevens has taken him.
“It was a really great four years. I think that the fraternity (Phi Sigma Kappa) was a big part of it. We had a bunch of crazy guys,” he said.
Bastardi, who owns Strategic Development Group and has spent much of his career in real estate development, has carried what he learned at Stevens throughout his successful career.
“I find that the engineer in the room thinks differently — more organized, more logically,” he said. “I’ve always cherished my engineering degree.”
Now, excitement is already building for Alumni Weekend 2017. Several future reunion classes, including the Class of 2007, which will celebrate its 10th reunion next year, met during the weekend to begin their planning. Anthony DiGiovanni ’07 is one of the planners.
“It’s a very personal thing for me,” he said. “I believe in making New Year’s resolutions and I think they should be things to make us better as people. So this year, I made two: learn Italian and become more dedicated to Stevens.”