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Graduates from different eras unite over alumni pin

Doug Michel and Caitlin Shea

DU grads Doug Michel and Caitlin Shea met in the Seattle airport. Photo courtesy of Caitlin Shea.

Like the more than 1,000 students who graduated from DU with her in June 2009, Caitlin Shea (BSBA ’09) walked away from the Commencement ceremony with a souvenir: a tiny crimson and gold alumni pin. The new grads were instructed to carry the pin with them to give to a fellow alumnus, were they ever to run into one.

“They said if you ever meet an alumni you give them this pin and it’s really a way of keeping our tradition alive,” Shea says.

She didn’t know how good her chances were of ever running into a DU alum, but she liked the sense of connection the pin represented. Two days after graduation, however, she met Doug Michel (BA ’51) and his wife, San, in the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. Shea and her family were traveling to Canada to embark on an Alaskan graduation cruise, while the Michels were returning to their home on Maui.

“They started talking to my family, and my graduation from DU came up,” Shea says. “The look on Doug’s face was priceless. He laughed and said, ‘Well, the funny thing about that is that I am a DU alum too!'”

Doug Michel told Shea of his service in World War II and how he came to DU on the GI Bill. Michel also served as president of the DU Alumni Association from 1976-77.

“Caitlin and I compared our experiences at DU and the many changes in the campus and faculty since 1951,” Michel says. “It was then that she presented me with ‘the pin.’ I accepted it with thanks and told her I was very touched by the gesture.”

Shea has kept in touch with the couple, even giving San Michel a coin to throw in the Trevi Fountain in Rome on the Michels’ recent trip to Italy.

“We all value our education at DU so much and most of us had a wonderful experience there, and I love the fact that someone who is probably triple my age can still tell me amazing stories about going to college there and enjoying DU,” Shea says.

“We all have that common bond. It doesn’t really matter what age you are; it doesn’t really matter what major you were — it’s just neat that the school in some way touched all our lives.”

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