Class of 1970 grow closer every 5 years, share memories of political turmoil


Midway backfiles

In a Midway article from May 1970, published in the midst of the Vietnam War, U-High students protested at a lunchtime rally. The Class of 1970 have stayed incredibly close due to their shared memories of the war.

Peter Pu, News Editor

“There will be those who are in tears today, as we disappear today — forfeit our right and chance to be remembered,” sang U-High seniors graduating in Rockefeller Chapel on June 11, 1970. 

The lyrics are the beginning of “Thursday Farewell” composed by Stuart Sherman, a member of the Class of 1970, and former English teacher Arthur Sherrer. The music is a mix of folk, heavy rock, string and ragtime.

“It was really remarkable. It was beautiful,” Hannah Banks, representative of the class, said more than five decades later. “It was in Rockefeller [Chapel], and the acoustics were fabulous.”

Although those seniors bid farewell to each other at their graduation, they have stayed connected through reunions every five years. Their connection persisted even through the separation of the pandemic. 

Growing up together in a time of political turmoil and civil unrest, members of the class share long-lasting memories and keep in touch to catch up with each other’s lives. 

“There were racial problems, and there was the Vietnam War, and there were a lot of protests,” Ms. Banks said, “and it was a scary time to be a kid.”

Steven Tulsky, another 1970 alumnus, said that living through social change, fears of getting drafted in the Vietnam War and the questioning of authority was critical in making them close. 

We came as this first generation that had questioned authority. We turned out to be right, and in the course of that our world was turned upside down, and what did we have? We had each other.”

— Steven Tulsky

“We came as this first generation that had questioned authority,” Mr. Tulsky said. “We turned out to be right, and in the course of that our world was turned upside down, and what did we have? We had each other.”

Ms. Banks has been the driving force in keeping the class together and is the primary organizer of the reunions. She values staying connected with people who share many of the same experiences. 

“Even if we didn’t know one another, we lived in the same place, at the same time, shared many of the same things,” Ms. Banks said, “and it’s very important, and that’s why I do it.” 

Rather than anything formal, Mr. Tulsky said the most important activity for them during these reunions has been simply socializing with each other. 

“We just hang, so it’s not about doing anything,” Mr. Tulsky said. “It’s about hanging out and talking.”

The reunions have not only reconnected class members but also brought them even closer. Mr. Tulsky noted that through these reunions, he has come to know classmates he barely knew in high school. 

“As we got to know each other, re-met each other, we found we were kindred spirits,” Mr. Tulsky said. 

As the pandemic has made in-person reunions impossible, for the first time, class members reconnected with each other via Zoom on June 10 and Aug. 30 to celebrate their 50th reunion. Despite the challenges of Zoom, Ms. Banks noted how attending the reunions virtually was actually more convenient. 

Although the reunion was originally planned to span three days at The Standard Club in the Loop with cocktails, class dinner and a tour of Lab, each virtual reunion lasted only 90 minutes. 

“The excitement was palpable, and people kept wanting to break into one-on-ones, but we couldn’t,” Mr. Tulsky said. “It was too short.”

Speakers included 1970 alumni Steve Pitts and Walter Ian Lipkin at the first reunion and John W. Franklin, member of the Class of 1969, at the second reunion. 

Class members caught up with each other’s lives, and the conversation partly centered around how people were shifting to retirement.

“A lot of conversation was about the change, about transition from things they had done through their career to the next level,” Mr. Tulsky said. 

Another new thing for 2020, Mr. Tulsky and class member Erica Meyer have put together a scholarship fund to raise money for financial aid at Lab. With a goal of $50,000, the fund is currently in a quiet phase before it’s available to the public. 

Recognizing the privilege of attending Lab and the subsequent privileges as a result, Mr. Tulsky said the goal of the fund is to expand the privilege to others. 

“The privilege that we enjoy, that has enabled us all to thrive as we have, is not available to everybody else,” Mr. Tulsky said, “so we realize that the least that we can do is to make our privilege available to more, and the way we do that is through scholarships.”

The class has experienced the ups and downs of the past five decades, including the coronavirus pandemic. According to Ms. Banks, the next reunion will take place sometime in March, and alumni will come together again.

Ms. Banks said, “It does my heart good to see all those people and to know that we went through the same crap.”

The story was updated to correct the location of graduation.