Alums celebrate 50 years of friendship during campus reunion

By Steve Nakata, Division of Student Affairs

Among the fans at the Washington State University football game against Northern Colorado on Sept. 16 was a group of women who met each other 50 years ago while living on the fourth floor of Regents Hall.

Their time in Regents created a lasting friendship that has endured a half-century of life’s ups and downs: impressive careers, marriages, kids and grandkids, illnesses, and retirement.

“When we met each other in 1973, we were all a little scared to be living away from home for the first time and had to rely on our friends for support,” said Cindy Aillaud, one of the group. “We all came from different backgrounds and had different personalities, but we just hit it off.”

The eight women – Aillaud, Ann Whittington, Colleen Norcott, Sue Means, Noranne Olson, Jill Bailey, Carol Moehrle and Barb Ahmad – have seen each other often over the years, but decided to visit Pullman this month to celebrate 50 years of friendship. For some of them, it was their first visit to Pullman since they were students.

“It was 50 years ago in September that we met, so we thought it would be a good idea for all of us to have a reunion on campus where our friendship began,” said Whittington.

Building a community

Regents Hall, known in the ‘70s as Regents Hill, was the perfect place to kindle strong friendships, Whittington said. Since few students brought cars to campus then, most spent a lot of time in the residence halls eating, studying, and attending dances, parties, and hall government meetings.

Jack Van Dam, assistant director of WSU Residence Life and Housing, gave the group a tour of Regents Hall and said that, in 1973 and now, the resident advisors work hard to create an environment where students can thrive, find shared interests, and form strong bonds.

“Seeing this group back on campus is special, and a testament to the great work our resident advisors do to create community,” Van Dam said. “We hope all of our students are having the same type of experience this group did and will be reminiscing about it 50 years from now.”

For these eight women, memories of their time in Regents flooded back during their tour: wearing fringe dresses to a Roaring ‘20s dance, rescuing Ahmad from underneath a vending machine that had tipped over on her, and sneaking into the kitchen to grab some freshly baked cookies.

“Regents used to make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world and we could not get enough of them,” Aillaud said. “We were so worried we were going to get kicked out of school for taking cookies.”

Pullman Chancellor Elizabeth Chilton, who greeted the group in Regents, said the tight bond among them is exceptional, and something we aspire to for all WSU graduates. The small-town atmosphere of Pullman and the caring faculty and staff all contribute to unique bonding experiences.

“It is about creating a culture of belonging and having everyone, regardless of where they come from, feel like this is home,” Chilton said. “It is fabulous that these women have come back here after 50 years.”

Always there for each other

Just as they did when they lived together in Regents, the group continues to look out for each other today. Aillaud recalled hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in California one year when her feet became so blistered, she could barely walk. She contacted Ahmad, who picked her up at Donner Pass. When Aillaud moved to Camano Island, Wash., from Alaska in June, five members of the group unexpectedly showed up at her house to unload the moving truck. When one of them was fighting cancer and could not attend a group gathering, the group came to her instead.

The challenging times come with good times. The group takes annual excursions to places like California, Hawaii, and Alaska.

“It has been quite an adventure,” Whittington said. “But mostly we enjoy just getting together to reminisce about all the stuff we did when we were at WSU.”

Alumni group with Chancellor Chilton

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