ESSAY

Welcome to Our 50th Reunion

By Harvey Kent, 50th Reunion Co-chair

It is my distinct pleasure to welcome all of you to this momentous event – the 50th Reunion of the Yale Class of 1974. On behalf of my four co-chairs and the more than 50 classmates who have measurably contributed to the planning and success of this four-day New Haven experience. Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

I encourage you to look through the Credits section of this 50th Reunion Classbook. You will see that an extended happening this large doesn’t come together on the spur of the moment. To everyone involved, we say: Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

How did this program come together? We started with a  reunion planning survey over one year ago. Looking back, I think the strong response we got was an early indication that this reunion is especially important to us.

You were open and candid about what you wanted to see at this reunion, and time and again we have used your requests to check our progress. “To see old friends” was the number one theme. Other requests included “meet my Residential College classmates,” “enjoy the party,” give us expert presentations, and “keep the music down so we can converse.” I have no doubt that you will let us know how we did.

I know that I will be taking advantage of all of the above. I can’t wait. Because reunions have great meaning for me personally. The pivotal moment in my life happened at a Yale reunion. Let me explain.

I was a public-school grad from Long Island who was thrilled to receive both scholarship bucks and bursary jobs to pay for my Yale education. I worked the entire time I was at Yale. (Maybe you remember me as a busboy in TD dining room?).

Right after our graduation in 1974, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to ‘work’ the reunion which was being held in my college, Ezra Stiles. It was the 10th reunion of the Class of 1964. My job was to help organize and run “Casino Night.”

That evening I started a conversation with a talkative fellow who wanted to know all about me, this crazy thing called co-education, living in the cool Ezra Stiles College, etc. His name was Donald H. Crabtree ’64. One topic stopped him in his tracks — my Computer Science major. (1974 was the first year Yale offered that major and since I loved computers and computer science, I grabbed it.) Soon he was asking me “programming questions.” He was slightly inebriated so some of them didn’t make complete sense. But, he was blown away. “We are building systems for the advertising industry,” he said. “You have studied everything that we are trying to figure out! You must come and meet with us.” He wrote his name and phone number on a Casino Night $100 bill.

Several weeks later, I called him. I met his partners. They offered me a job for big bucks — $12,000. “How am I going to spend all this money?” I asked my best friend.

That was the beginning of a beautiful working friendship. After two years, Don and I left that company and started our own. Don took a second mortgage on his house so we could buy IBM equipment and hire more staff. We did a “friends and family” funding round (it wasn’t called that then) that included my mother and brother. We were profitable after 18 months. We made the Inc. 500 in our third year. I met my wife Janet at this company. (We just celebrated our 40th anniversary.) When Janet talks about Don, it is something like, “He is one of the sweetest and kindest people you will ever meet.” Eventually, we sold our company to a Memphis based firm, which was soon acquired by another company, and Don and I continued working together for 20 years. We’ve been friends for 50.

Today when people ask me what I do for a living, I say “Adtech.” When they look at me cross-eyed, I add something like “you know, it’s technology and systems for the Advertising and Media industries. I’ve been doing that since I graduated college.”

So now you understand my feelings about Yale reunions: that first one was the most pivotal moment in my life. I still have that fake $100 bill with Don’s phone number on it.

This leads me to the final part of my story. I have made an important promise to myself to keep up the friendships from Yale that I rekindle at this reunion. We have email, instant messaging, mobile devices and social media. No shortage of ways to stay in touch.

Because here’s the thing: Don and I don’t talk that much anymore. In fact, I have been trying to reach him for 3 months now. Right in the middle of the pandemic, he told me that his memory was declining. His son assures me that he and his wife Judith are doing fine healthwise. But his communication skills have seriously declined.

In one of my letters to the class about this reunion I reminded you of the phrase  “carpe diem.” For me that means holding friendships close and making sure that they continue to flourish.

Welcome to the Yale College Class of 1974 50th Reunion!