One Class’s Path to Celebrating ND Friendship and Community
The ND Class of 1976 has been in a celebratory mood since its earliest student days. It distinguished itself on Day One as the class with Notre Dame’s first female freshmen (the first class of women to go all four years at Notre Dame), and it enjoyed positive notoriety as the class that graduated during the bicentennial year of the United States of America. Not a bad way to bookend your time at ND.
Chugging steadily toward next year’s 45th Reunion, this class has shown real creativity when it comes to camaraderie, service, and communication.
“Our annual mini-reunions during football season have been the key to staying connected,” states Debi Dell ’76, who is President-Elect. “Our first mini-reunion happened in Fall 2005 with a block of football tickets and a tailgate. It grew over time to become an annual meet-up that includes a post-pep rally gathering that Friday night and a post-game dinner at the Purcell Pavilion.”
As a South Bend resident, Dell has offered up her home as the class “Club House” on Ironwood, the site of the annual Friday night meetup. “Having a block of football tix was the initial draw, but over the years, we’ve found that the Friday night and Saturday tailgate gatherings are the true attraction. This kind of ongoing contact has renewed old friendships and helped to connect classmates who didn’t even know each other during our student days.”
The mini-reunions are also a major source of funding for other class initiatives, such as better quality Reunion programming, providing financial aid to legacy students, and supporting classmates with terminal illness or who have passed away.
’76 class members have also gotten together to take part in Habitat for Humanity builds. “’Habitats ‘R’ Us’ could be our class slogan,” says Frank Frasioli ’76, the current webmaster and Special Projects Director. “In 2009 and again in 2018, a team of our classmates brought strong backs and a willing attitude to build houses in South Bend and Mishawaka.”
“The 2018 build was a ‘Carter Work Project’ in which former President Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn joined to help build most of a 23-home subdivision – in five days!”
The class also created something completely new and even closer to their Home Under the Dome – Our Lady’s Butterfly Garden down by St. Mary’s Lake across from the Grotto.
“For our 40th class reunion in 2016, we wanted to make a meaningful and enduring contribution to the University, and memorialize our deceased classmates,” remembers Frasioli.
Frasioli has a personal interest in pollinators and the fact that loss of habitat is a major environmental threat. Interestingly, South Bend is on an important north-south Monarch butterfly migration path. The class presented their idea for establishing a “way station” garden for these pollinators to all of the required University parties and received the necessary approvals. On the 40th Reunion weekend, class members planted, mulched and watered the new garden. Now, during the annual mini-reunion, attendees gather together at the Garden to remember those who have passed away. Butterflies are released for each departed class member.
A strong, proactive communications effort knits this class and all of its activities together. Bob Quakenbush ’76, current class president, points to a mix of media tools. “There are four primary ways we stay in touch with our classmates and encourage them to stay in touch with each other: the traditional Class Notes in ND Magazine, class emails, our web page, and our official Class of 1976 Facebook group.
“Our class Facebook group has grown steadily and now includes more than 300 classmates,” says Quakenbush. “One of the wonderful things about the Facebook page is that we can post short, sweet and timely messages in a matter of minutes.”
Posts not only address serious business – such as upcoming class activities, relevant University news, historical or anniversary items about life at ND, etc. “Recently, just for fun, I posted a photo that I came across of a t-shirt featuring ‘Baby Yoda’ as a Notre Dame fan. I immediately received comments from multiple classmates with grandchildren wanting to know where they could buy it!”
Last but not least, the Class of ’76 takes great pride in its Reunion Giving record, consistently ranking among the top classes at ND Reunions. “Our class had the highest rate (62.8%) at our 30th, the second-highest (52.4%) at our 40th, and tied for third-highest (54%) at our 35th,” remembers Quakenbush. “I always promote gifts to ND in multiples of $19.76, $76.00, or the number of years marking our reunion. ND Donor Services always knows when we’re up to something when they receive a bunch of these oddly-figured donations.”
Clearly, whether it’s encouraging donations, partying hearty, serving the ND and South Bend communities, or commemorating its former friends, the Class of 1976 continues to be at the top of its game.
You can check out the Class of ’76 website at http://1976.undclass.org/. And ‘76ers, your Facebook page is easy to find: “University of Notre Dame – Class of 1976.”
Classmates who are interested in helping with the 2021 Reunion can contact Bob Quakenbush at email@example.com.
NDSA Media Links:
Facebook: ND Senior Alumni Facebook Group
Newsletter Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: ND Senior Alumni Home