Alumni Reflect on Transformative Wesleyan Experience at Reunion 

Mike MavredakisJune 5, 202410min
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Wesleyan University’s alumni have made worldly contributions near and far. Whether government officials, physicians, attorneys, schoolteachers, musicians — any career imaginable — the former students who crossed Denison Terrace have made an impact somewhere, somehow.  

From May 23 to 26, many of them returned to Wesleyan — a place they described as having a transformative effect on their lives — for Reunion. This year, classes of the ’4s and ’9s flocked to Middletown to meet friends old and new. 

“My four years at Wesleyan were truly a pivotal time in my life. I feel like it really helped expand my mindset. It helped me see the world a lot more, since I came from a small town where everybody kind of looked the same, sounded the same, everybody was Dominican, and grew up within seven square miles of each other,” Fran Moncion ’14 said, while enjoying the shade on Foss Hill on May 26. “Coming to Wes really expanded me to different cultures, different people.” 

While at Wesleyan, Moncion studied cultural psychology, learned Korean drumming, and studied abroad in Spain — a life-changing experience that taught her about her own culture as well, she said.  

Alumni walk in the annual Parade of Classes on May 26. (Photo by Meka Wilson)

Jessica Jackson ’14, an educator in Queens, New York, said she came to gather images and stories of campus to bring back to her students in a bid to get them to come to Wesleyan. She said many of her students haven’t been exposed to other options aside from local schools.  

“This was my first experience to be around people who thought like I do and my first experience to really learn about other people,” Jackson said. 

Entertainment publicist Andrew Cohen ’14 said his time at Wesleyan gave him core skills, like analytical writing, and relationships that he uses in his everyday work. “It really gave me a well-rounded education and pushed my boundaries in terms of creative thinking,” he said. 

Throughout Reunion, Wesleyan put on WESeminars that covered a wide-range of topics — like the history of women at Wesleyan, civic engagement, publishing a novel, the healthcare industry, housing insecurity, and science at Wesleyan. Attendees could also view a selection of senior thesis exhibitions at the Ezra and Cecile Zilkha Gallery, and a collection of artifacts from legendary filmmaker John Waters’ films.  

At another event for alumni, President Michael S. Roth ’78 was joined in a conversation with U.S. Senator John Hickenlooper ’74, MA ’80, Hon. ’10 as part of Wesleyan’s Democracy 2024 initiative. The two talked about how to engage young people in political life ahead of the upcoming election, the effect of positivity and optimism on their own lives, and what Wesleyan taught them.

“I think what I see at Wesleyan is not people who are taking advantage of a lovely full spa experience, but people who are using the resources that we have on hand to do things that nobody ever thought they could do,” Roth said. 

Hickenlooper, back on campus for his class’ 50th anniversary, said the Wesleyan education “does a lot to show you that every person has value.” Middletown Mayor Ben Florsheim ’14 spoke at a WESeminar on civic engagement within Middletown. He said he realized he really loved Middletown when he was doing work in the community at Wesleyan. 

“I realized as I continued to be involved here and around the state, this was a place I really loved,” Florsheim said. “…There’s been this extraordinary legacy of involvement from Wesleyan students, from young people in the community who decide they want to they want to get involved at a deeper level.” 

Attorney and art broker Jerry Thomas ’74 poses with the Cardinal mascot at Reunion. (Photo by Meka Wilson)

Jerry Thomas ’74 said his Wesleyan education gave him the ability to invent and re-invent himself many times. He came to Wesleyan to study physics and initially said that there were two things he did not want to do — become a doctor or lawyer. He also never took an art class because, at the time, “I didn’t think serious people did it,” he said.  

But after Wesleyan, he became a lawyer — a career he held for four decades. Now, he’s an art broker and consultant with a passion for getting the African Diaspora’s impact on the European artistic masters properly recognized, he said.  

“Wesleyan, I think, gave me the foundation to just do whatever I wanted to do,” Thomas said. “And because there were no limitations, I just realized that I may need to develop a better background to pursue different things, but I could do it if I wanted it.” 

The Class of 1974 was the first class of women to spend all four years at Wesleyan. “Even though there weren’t that many women here, we were in groups, so I never felt the kind of loneliness that some others may have felt,” Sharon Purdie ’74 said after the event.  

Bill Burton ’74 talks about his Wesleyan experience at the Class of 1974 “I Never Knew You” event on May 25. (Photo by Meka Wilson)

Educator Loretta Goodwin MA’88, P’24 left Wesleyan with both an education and something else significant — a life partner. After coming to campus from Cape Town, South Africa, she met her husband, David Goodwin ’87, P’24, in a Soviet history class. “We studied together in PAC before it was renovated — so PAC has a huge influence on our lives.” 

Now 35 years after her own graduation, her son, government major Matthew Goodwin ’24, graduated from Wesleyan at Sunday’s 192nd Commencement ceremony. Matthew Goodwin said he recently volunteered as a Spanish teacher at one of the elementary schools in Middletown as a part of a class. “Wesleyan was a really good opportunity to hone in on skills that I already learned and learn new ones.” 

To cap off the weekend of programming, alumni, graduating seniors, and members of their families gathered on Andrus Field for the annual all-campus tent party. This year’s performers were The Future Heavies, an 80s band covering pop, soul, and rock music, led by Andrew Chatfield MALS ‘19, and included a performance from Roth. DJ Mario Torres followed.  

Rose Chen ’26 contributed to this story.