Bonds of Friendship Formed Freshman Year Remain as Strong 25 Years Later | SUNY Plattsburgh Reunion 2015 Recap
It’s hard to say how history might have played out had Jennifer Wallinger’s hometown friend answered her knock on a door in Adirondack Hall on move-in day in the fall of 1990.
Instead, it was Sandra Anderson who opened the door, and the two have been best friends ever since.
Anderson and Wallinger returned to campus for Reunion 2015, which celebrated the Class of 1995's 20th reunion. “We both were on the five-year plan,” Anderson said, laughing, during the weekend’s picnic lunch held July 11 on the Memorial Hall field under sunny, Adirondack-blue skies..
The annual summer alumni event, held July 9-12, welcomed some 250 alumni back to campus and the Plattsburgh community where they participated in local wine and beer tastings, a bus tour of campus and its environs, a welcome-back barbecue at the Naked Turtle on Lake Champlain, a Monopole gathering and the annual Golden Anniversary Club reception and dinner, which this year welcomed members of the Class of 1965 into its fold.
Reunion and Mayor’s Cup Festivities
Like previous reunions, the timing allowed it to be celebrated in conjunction with the City of Plattsburgh’s Mayor’s Cup Festival and Regatta, which included a Saturday night concert downtown featuring SUNY Plattsburgh alumni Eric ’93 and Leigh ’94 ’96 Gibson of the acclaimed bluegrass band, The Gibson Brothers.
Anderson’s and Wallinger’s friendship blossomed after spending more time with one another on their floor Adirondack Hall in their Freshman Experience class, taught by former President Charles Warren and his wife, Nancy.
“It was a tight-knit group,” said Wallinger, a food and nutrition major who is a lieutenant commander in the U.S. Navy currently stationed at the National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. “Half of the girls and half of the guys on our floor all just bonded together.”
And the two of them found out it wasn’t necessarily what they had in common that made it work.
“We’re different,” Anderson said.
“We are so different,” her friend agreed.
“But that’s why it works,” Anderson said. “That, and the fact that we were never roommates. After freshman year, everyone asked if we were going to be roommates, and we both said, ‘No!’ We didn’t want to mess up a good thing.”
That good thing is familial. Wallinger felt it that first January, when her father died. Anderson and their Adirondack Hall friends rallied around her.
“They didn’t leave me until I got on that plane to fly home,” Wallinger said.
‘She’s My Sister’
And when Wallinger fell ill while Anderson was in Florida for a semester with the Disney college program, Wallinger’s mother “put me on a plane and told me to ‘go see Sandy.’ They didn’t know what was wrong with me; I was diagnosed with Lyme disease when I was down in Florida with her.”
Anderson, a Brentwood, Long Island, native, would spend holidays with Wallinger’s family.
“She’s my sister,” Wallinger said. “My family adopted her as one of their own.” The pair were in each other’s weddings and, although circumstances have put geographical distances between them throughout the years — Wallinger has been around the world with the Navy — they’ve always managed to make time for each other. With Wallinger in Bethesda and Anderson, director of audience services at Lehigh University, in Bethlehem, Pa., the pair are now within easy driving distance of one another.
They plan to return next year with their families. Both women are married. Anderson and her husband, Christopher, have two sons; Wallinger and her husband, Ian, have a daughter. On their way home following reunion, they planned to stop to visit alumni friends in Clifton Park and Fishkill, N.Y., and to see Wallinger’s mother and grandmother in Carmel.
“They want to see Sandy,” she said. As for returning to their alma mater for the first time, “It was amazing being here. We have such wonderful memories and this has brought them back. Reunion exceeded our expectations.”