Magazine Feature / People

Alumni celebrate 50th reunion of Commencement

Anne Pennington (BA ’59) says she’ll remember walking in the Commencement ceremony June 6 with the Class of 2009 just as much as walking in her own class in 1959.

And she says she’ll probably be more comfortable this year, too. Pennington married at the end of her junior year, and was “very pregnant” during her own graduation ceremony.

“It feels like it hasn’t been 50 years!” Pennington says.

Other 1959 graduates — who were inducted into the DU Pioneer Alumni Legends at an alumni emeritus tea on June 5 — shared the same sentiment as they chatted up other alums from 50 years ago and beyond.

“I probably wouldn’t be accepted into this school now,” Grant Wilkins (BA ’47) told the alumni. About 320 alumni registered for reunion events this Commencement weekend.

“The GPA average gets higher every year,” Wilkins said. “We can be proud of what I consider to be one of the top 10 universities in America.”

Del Jenson (BS ’48) says he’s one of those proud alums. A business alum that has worked in the insurance business for more than 50 years, Jenson says DU is “a well-recognized school with a more-than-competitive athletic program.” Jenson was a fan of DU’s football team, although he now appreciates DU’s success in skiing and hockey.

Jenson attended DU on the GI Bill after he got out of the Air Force. He was a member of the business fraternity and a fan of business law professor Jimmy Johnston, who died last year after teaching at Daniels for 60 years.

So what was Denver like in 1948? “Basically a cow town,” Jenson says. “There were no tall buildings like there are now.”

His favorite memory of DU was simply “the people,” he says.

For Sandra Dillard (BA’59), 50 years has triggered more diversity. “There were only about 30 of us black people on campus,” Dillard says. “We mostly kept to ourselves.”

Although Dillard says the few black women that went to school at that time graduated as teachers, librarians or social workers, Dillard graduated with a journalism degree and went on to a successful career in newspapers. The former Clarion staff member worked at The Denver Post for about 25 years.

Pennington, a theatre major, says since 1959 she’s embraced the use of technology; she listens to an mp3 player and uses the Internet regularly. But it doesn’t mean she doesn’t miss a simpler life from the 1950s. She said she’s been disappointed to learn that DU’s yearbook, the Kynewisbok, is now defunct. She worked on it during her time at DU.

And then there’s the cost of education: “I paid $15 an hour when I started, and $22 when I left DU,” she says. “I feel bad for everyone now!”

For more information or for streaming video of DU’s commencement ceremony, please visit DU’s commencement Web site.

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