Reunion: An act of reuniting. The state of being reunited. Merriam-Webster.
Roy B. Evans, U.W. 1979, maintains a solo practice in Milwaukee, focusing in business development and contract law.
Having recently reached emeritus status (lawyers at least age 70) with the State Bar of Wisconsin, I am finally old enough to fully appreciate and reflect on the intrinsic value of participating in class reunions. The past couple of years I have attended family reunions, where I even met relatives I never knew I had, making my personal history richer and more purposeful. I’ve attended my 50th high school reunion, my wife’s high school reunion, my all-college (Dominican College) reunion, the annual reunion of the neighborhood where I grew up (Walnut Street), and my church’s 100th anniversary celebration. Now I eagerly look forward to my 40th U.W. Law School reunion (class of 1979).
Class reunions are magical trips down memory lane, back to a time when innocence was a virtue that gave rise to a blind courage to challenge uncertain futures in hope of achieving fruitful and positive outcomes. It can be challenging to share vague memories with people who look familiar but whose names you have forgotten. But even if the first hugs and handshakes are tentative, it is amazing how your memory becomes crystal clear after happy hour kicks in.
Reunions are important times that give people the opportunity to reunite our humanity, renew our spirits, and give comparative meaning to our life’s intended goals and objectives. Reunions reinforce our common bonds, regenerate our friendships, and reinvigorate our spirits in appreciation of life’s different but parallel journeys. We take time to compare notes of pride about family, children, and grandchildren, and debate whether job success is more about making lots of money or about life satisfaction in our dedication to serving others.
Everyone at my college reunion spoke proudly of their volunteer work and community service, which was not unusual because it was the underlying basis for every class we took. (The Dominican Sisters were magnificent trainers as well as teachers. Everything started with personal commitment and dedication to service. You cannot be a good teacher if you are not dedicated to teaching.)
Reunions reinforce our
common bonds, regenerate
our friendships, and
reinvigorate our spirits
in appreciation of life’s
different but parallel
Reunions normally last only a day or two. By the time you wrap yourself in the good feeling of renewed camaraderie, it’s time to say goodbye. Often as we part we exchange phone numbers and promise to stay in touch, but, in reality, we probably won’t see each other again until the next reunion (if we make it that long). But merely the fact that many people have traveled from near and far to celebrate lifelong friendships that have common learning experiences and human value and the anticipation of meeting again make the time and effort well spent.
In parting, it brings to mind the first line in a book I am writing about my grandmother, All the Things My Grandmother Tried to Tell Me But, I Wasn’t Listening. The line is, “In the context of time and history our lives last less than the flicker of a heartbeat.” It’s a stark reminder of all the friends and classmates who are no longer with us to celebrate at our reunions but who we fondly commemorate with our prayers and libations. We should remember that we are all on this earth for a brief moment in time. This is why, to me, reunions are important and serve a vital purpose.
Meet Our Contributors
What unconventional but practical lessons have you learned over the course of your career?
Forty years of law practice have given me the opportunity to observe and experience many things that have broadened my perspective about life and how issues affect people.
In my early practice, I did a considerable amount of public defender representation and quickly realized that many clients had no clue as to what their charges meant. I made it a habit before sitting down for an interview to have them go to the library and look up the statute under which they were being charged so that we could better discuss their situation. Almost to a client, many would tell me that “if I had only known the penalty, I may have made a different choice.”
Reality “after the fact” is not as helpful as knowing reality “before the fact.” I realized that too many people acted impulsively without thinking about or fully understanding the consequences of their actions. I strongly believe that civic and legal literacy in our schools would go a long way toward helping people to understand that an uncontrolled moment in the heat of passion is not worth 15 years in prison and a felony record.
My conclusion is that you can only avoid the things that you know. To know is to know better. Knowledge must be gained at every opportunity, and it’s much easier than learning things the hard way. Fifteen years is a long time to think about avoidable transgressions.
Roy B. Evans, Roy Bradford Evans Attorney at Law, Milwaukee.
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