Maintaining relationships after college isn’t always easy. Jobs, family, continuing one’s education, and numerous other reasons can often result in friends going their separate ways.
That’s why it is so remarkable that for more than 50 years, a group of Alfred State Gamma Theta Gamma brothers and Pi Nu Epsilon sisters have made it a point to get together at least twice a year for a reunion. They come together to laugh, tell stories, and to simply enjoy being in one another’s company.
For the past 58 years, Ed and Shirley (Reigle) Hatter have hosted the majority of the get-togethers, both at their home in Fort Myers, FL, and at their residence on Owasco Lake in Auburn, NY. Ed, a Cortland-area native, is a 1958 graduate of the air conditioning program, and Shirley, originally from Akron, studied medical secretarial science in 1958 and 1959.
The reunions began simply enough. Originally, several Theta Gamma brothers and Pi Nu sisters would gather every other weekend at Shirley’s parents’ home in Akron, NY. Once word of the get-togethers spread, the numbers soon grew and the venues changed.
“In the early years, we alternated between our home, the Millers’, the Kidds’, and the Blazeys’. After a while, by unanimous vote,” Shirley said, “it was decided to get together twice a year at our home on Owasco Lake near Auburn, NY, in the summer, and at our home in Fort Myers, FL, in the winter. This way, we could accommodate some different people. However, many of the regulars attend both.”
Of the roughly 40 couples who have attended the reunions, several of the regulars over the years, included Jack and Joann Hanel, Bob and Bev Miller, John and Judy Blazey, Bill and Judy (Allein) Abraham, Bob and Gail (Myers) Granger, Earl and Sue Herrington, Howard and Zena Weimer, Ken and Connie (Darling) Oaks, John and Bev O’Malia, Al and Judy (Delmore) Styrcula, Wayne and Helen Kidd, Pete and Lorraine Steen, and Bob and Jane Mullen. Many others also attend as often as possible.
As for the Hatters themselves, who recently celebrated their 58th wedding anniversary, they met at Alfred State at a Student Council meeting. Shortly after Ed graduated, the couple married and Ed bought a 25 percent interest in the family’s HVAC business, which they eventually took over completely. Shirley became a stay-at-home mom until their son and daughter started school.
After Shirley joined the business, it expanded into commercial and industrial projects. The couple also started an oil business and a residential development.
“Life has been very good to us,” Ed said. “We have many very good friends all over the world, and I can truthfully say that Alfred State certainly played a large part in our success.”
To this day, Ed and Shirley continue to greatly enjoy the company of the friends they made at the college so long ago. Ed said he and Shirley hope that they will be able to host the reunions for many more years, but added, “nothing is forever.”
“We have lost several of our dear Theta Gamma and Pi Nu friends over the last 15 years, but they all are always part of our thoughts and memories,” he said.
Shirley notes that hosting the reunions “is so easy” because everyone brings food and drinks and pitches in to help clean up.
“I especially enjoy keeping up with what their children and grandkids are doing,” she said. “It’s hard to believe, but no one has changed in 58 years!”
What else hasn’t changed, and what will likely never change, are the longstanding friendships of these Theta Gamma brothers and Pi Nu Epsilon sisters, who continue to reunite and reminisce of days gone by.
“Our common bond is Alfred State, and especially Theta Gamma and Pi Nu,” Shirley said. “Although our jobs, our families, and our interests have taken us in many different directions, I can truly say that there is a great amount of love in our group. We tell the same stories over and over. We laugh, sometimes we cry, but we never forget.”