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The Observer alumni return to campus, mingle with students

| Monday, April 24, 2017

This weekend, alumni and current members of The Observer gathered to participate in the newspaper’s 50th anniversary celebration, which culminated in a reunion gala on Saturday night.

Senior Clare Kossler, who organized the event, said the reunion had been “on [the editorial board’s] radar for forever.” She said she and the other editorial board members began planning for the event at the end of last summer. (Editor’s note: Kossler served as an assistant managing editor for The Observer during the 2016-2017 school year.)

The Observer Editor-in-Chief Ben Padanilam addresses guests at the publication's 50th anniversary gala at the Hilton Garden Inn on Saturday.Michael Yu | The Observer
The Observer Editor-in-Chief Ben Padanilam addresses guests at the publication’s 50th anniversary gala at the Hilton Garden Inn on Saturday.

“Within just a couple days of us starting to plan for some sort of reunion, Observer alumni — without us contacting them as of yet — had started kind of getting together a group to say ‘You know, we really want to have this 50th reunion,’” Kossler said. “At the same time we were planning, there was kind of a movement of the alumni to also have a reunion.”

Mike Connolly and his wife, Noreen Gillespie Connolly, who served as Editor-in-Chief and Managing Editor respectively from 2000-2002, helped organize the 35th and 40th reunions for The Observer. Connolly said he and Gillespie collaborated with current staff members to organize this year’s 50th reunion.

Connolly said this reunion was the easiest reunion he has organized because social media enabled him to recruit attendees.

“I would tag people on Facebook,” he said. “I would find an old photo, and I would tag people in Facebook posts and say ‘You had so much fun. You’ve got to come.’”

Looking through old editions of The Observer causes fond memories to surface, Connolly said.

“I was digging through the old archives and pulling up old stories and tagging the people that wrote them, tagging the photographers,” he said. “And everybody remembered ‘That was my crew. That was my crazy student government story, and that was my crazy cop story and that was my crazy football game.’”

Suzanne LaCroix, class of 1985, said she cherished her time laying out the newspaper.

“You’d show up at 8 o’clock [at night], and then things really didn’t get rolling until about 1 [a.m.],” LaCroix said. “And then if you got done early, that was always the best. If you just blew through it and it was like 2:30, then you went to Denny’s, if you had somebody with a car.”

Heather MacKenzie, who served as Assistant Managing Editor from 1998-1999, said she remembered reporting on gay male students who found notes on their beds containing death threats. She said her time on The Observer taught her she could use her writing to advocate for others.

“What this place taught me was I can stand up for people like that,” MacKenzie said. “It made me so angry to hear those stories. Throughout the rest of my life, I have been angry about stuff like that, and I have spoken up about it … we had the voice and the opportunity to do that at The Observer as an independent student institution.”

Alison Hamilton, Editor-in-Chief from 1990-1991, said the skills she learned while working for The Observer have helped her in many areas of her life.

“The ability to tell a story, to frame a narrative or frame an issue is a skill that you can use in many many lines of work,” she said. “I’ve certainly used it as a social worker. I’ve used it advocating for my daughter with autism.”

At the gala, Robert Sam Anson  — who co-founded The Observer with fellow student Stephen Feldhaus in 1966 — was given an award recognizing his contributions to the paper.

When asked what legacy he hoped to leave, Anson said he hopes students enjoy their time as journalists and don’t let the administration intimidate them.

“[I hope] everyone has a great time, doesn’t get pushed around by the administration, resists authority — including that of the president of the United States — and just feels so lucky they are working as journalists,” he said. “I just think it was a million to one shot that The Observer would work, and it did work.”





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About Natalie Weber

Natalie Weber graduated in 2020 from the University of Notre Dame, with a Bachelor of Arts in English and minors in journalism and computing. A native of Grand Junction, Colorado she most recently served as Managing Editor at The Observer. // Email: [email protected] // Twitter: @wordsbyweber

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