Searching – Scott Ryan

The Reunion Project, a blog

by Scott Ryan

August 17, 2012
300 and Counting

I figured one of the challenges I’d face would be living far away from where all the action will be. Technology has brought me a lot closer, but I can’t exactly bump into someone at the mall or a restaurant and chat. As you might expect, almost all my communication has been online or by phone.

Despite all that distance, I’ve found a lot of people with connections to Michigan, now my home. A handful of classmates are spread across this state, although I haven’t contacted all of them yet. During my search, I contacted an ex-spouse of a classmate who shared an amazing story. He used to work in Detroit. Another classmate was here briefly for work recently and we managed to catch up. He has a job that’s even crazier and more exciting than mine. And another friend who moved away when we were teens is planning to come here for a few days for a company he now runs. Plus, at least three other people from high school and college either lived here at some point or still live here.

There are also a handful of classmates next door in Ohio – which could be fun as college football season begins.

So, I guess – in theory – there’s a great story that awaits the next time I make a call or send an email. But fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your viewpoint, I’m running out of opportunities. Just minutes before typing this, I managed to locate my 300th classmate, which means we have fewer than 100 to go. Even if we can’t find quite everyone, I think that’s a big enough guest list to start planning the event.

… to be continued …

August 31, 2012
Labor Day, Every Day

With the arrival of Labor Day, I’m intrigued by the various jobs our classmates hold. It’s probably not a surprise that many work in the military or for some type of government or defense contractor, since they grew up in the shadow of the world’s largest naval complex. In many cases, I’m willing to bet they have parents or other relatives in service and are carrying on the tradition.

We also have many teachers among us; some teach in the schools they went to as children. I used to teach adults and found it to be very rewarding. I also notice that many of our classmates are stay-at-home parents—another tough job, but one they’re proud to have.

I’ve also encountered some people who are fully involved in the beach way of life–working somewhere within the beach/boating/fishing/surfing field. Clearly, these are people who love living along the East Coast and want to be consumed by the lifestyle.

But what fascinates me most are the students who have their own companies. We have a few doctors and lawyers, and in most cases, I’m not surprised. Many showed ambition in school. Some were more outgoing than others, but as you listened to them, it was pretty easy to tell they were going to go far in life – some even had their profession picked out already.

And then, there were classmates who didn’t make the homecoming court – or maybe even the honor roll – but have gone on to be successful with their own businesses. Those are the people I’m most impressed with. It takes creativity, nerves, and discipline to start your own company, whether it’s manual labor, health care, science, engineering, law, whatever. Many times, these were people I never heard a peep from in school. I guess they were quietly plotting their route to success, even if it was by accident.

We’ve made contact with just over 300 of the nearly 400 people in our class, so that part of the project is in the home stretch. But, like any race, the last 100 meters is the toughest.

October 5, 2012
A Plan Is Hatched

With all the effort to find classmates, we can’t lose sight of the actual planning. What good is a party if there’s nowhere to host it?

A group of classmates recently sat down for the first of what will probably be several meetings to plan things. The big debate will probably center around the venue–and whether it should be at a hotel-type conference room versus a restaurant. Each has its merits, and we’ll be competing with summertime tourists and wedding season. Fortunately, we have friends and other grads who work in both areas–maybe we’ll have to call on one of them for a favor.

We can’t just all show up in a room; there has to be some nostalgia to look at. You wouldn’t believe some of the things classmates have saved from high school. Not just yearbooks, but newsletters, student handbooks, lettermen jackets, boxer shorts, etc. I still use my high school key chain.

To that end, I’ve still got some pictures, ticket stubs, and other items from high school. Even a report card. I think I still have my track spikes, too. I doubt anyone will care about those old shoes, but if I can dig up those pictures, I’m sure the great stories that go with them will also be discovered. And maybe some embarrassment too.

As far as finding classmates goes, things have slowed considerably. I’ve reached a point where emails and voice mails aren’t being returned or I’m chasing the same leads. I’m pretty sure we’ve got the right info in many cases, but it helps to know for sure.

I think we’ve got a good group planning things – I’m guessing they’ll meet again in another month. I hope we’ll each have made some progress by then.

November 9, 2012
Are We There Yet?

When planning a reunion, there’s a good reason for having a group of people work together: it’s a lot of work. As it turns out, picking a date was the easy part. I was hoping to be passing along some details today, but our group back home is still working on details. They are busy–with venues, food, a DJ, and other things. We hope to have it all finalized soon, as out-of-towners need time to make travel arrangements. I’ve already been getting some questions from classmates about when, where, etc. I wish we had an answer–but it’s going to take a little bit longer.

We’re competing with weddings, tourists, and other events by having a reunion in summer. Traditionally, homecomings are in fall – but we felt that a summer event would mean better attendance. And we will have reached out to about twice as many classmates this time compared to our 20-year reunion. No promises, but maybe someone will put together a second-chance event later on for those who won’t be at the main event.

We’ll have to find some hotels, too. From the numbers I’ve put together so far, two-thirds of our class still lives in town or within a few hours drive. And just one-fourth of the classmates who were invited to the last get-together wound up going, with only about 20 needing a hotel room. I can already tell we won’t be getting huge blocks of rooms all in one place.

I’m also approaching a point that I was hoping not to reach until next year. Back when I began locating classmates, I set a goal of finding one classmate per day on average. So far, I’ve stayed ahead of that pace, but if I don’t get in touch with anyone else in the next few days, I’ll fall behind.
I can’t lie – the lack of phone calls and emails being returned is frustrating. We’re trying to accommodate as many people as possible. And, we still have people moving, changing phone numbers, etc., which is another fire I keep trying to put out, with only modest success.

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