Saint John's Magazine Winter/Spring 2013

Page 46

Inspiring Lives

Steven Fling ’82 (L) with Mike ’82 and Bonnie Franta

Was This a Mistake?

Then a familiar voice brought me out of the Steven Fling ’82 fog of memory. Paul Gelbmann, a classmate Wearing a name tag that read Steven Fling– who recognized Class of ’82,, I sat alone outside Mary Hall. I’d traveled me despite my gray and receding hairline, called my name, across country for a 30-year SJU class reunion, excited to quickly bringing me into a group of our classmates. I see my “best” college friends. recognized them immediately and was suddenly wrapped in The air was crisp and the maple outside old Engel Hall warm memory and conversation, despite the fact that we all was in full autumn color, as one expects when attending hadn’t really hung out together much in college. Homecoming. I looked up and remembered devious During the weekend’s events, I was drawn back to moments from freshman year while “studying” in that many others I’d known only tangentially. I found myself hall with Tim Rongitsch, Conn McCartan, Mike Franta, immersed in joyful conversation of dear memory reflecting Bob Alpers—I imagined we’d laugh about that when they communal values. That we really cared about each other arrived. was clear. Dan Mulvaney, Bill Cashman, Steve Klos, Mike Suddenly, I felt anxiously Krumholz, Greg Marszalek, Al I found myself immersed in joyful Lanners, Dave Rogotzke, Larry alone having not told my closest conversation of dear memory classmates I’d be attending. Rather, Dingmann, Kelly Frank and so I’d thought they’d just show up, like reflecting communal values. many others from ’82 welcomed me. With growing uncertainty, I me with open arms. Humbled, I panicked—what if they didn’t show? Was this a mistake to felt deep pangs of regret that I hadn’t spent more time with travel 2,000 miles and not firm up plans with them? these guys during those college days but rather had carved Forty years earlier my father, Paul Fling ’52, had out space then for only a few “best” buddies. brought me to his 20-year reunion. There, standing Years and geography have separated me from SJU, proudly next to him on that hillside amid the pines and my path since has crisscrossed the globe. Yet this overlooking the football field, I’d soaked in the joy of my 30-year reunion affirmed my grounding in those SJU father’s experience in seeing old classmates like Alberic days. It reminded me of the principled decency of SJU Culhane ’52, OSB. It had been easy, welcoming and and CSB peers and the shared ideals of those with whom heartfelt. In that moment long ago, I’d decided to attend I’d communed in those years. Outside Mary Hall, in that SJU, and in the years since have often spoken of the moment of feeling alone and isolated, I was paradoxically uniqueness of SJU, invariably mentioning that when you joined to people I really didn’t appreciate well when I was at arrive there, someone will always know you and care about SJU, but now know I do. you—that it is easy, welcoming and heartfelt. SJU has that Writing this on Thanksgiving eve, I give thanks—to my sense of continuity and belonging…that Sense of Place! classmates of ’82, to my father’s class of ’52 and to all SJU That moment in ’72 changed my life. classes. We’ve created a shared experience guided mystically Sitting alone outside Mary Hall, I also recalled having by God—and that is definitely not a mistake. asked myself, as my father had driven I-94 with me to SJU Steven Fling ’82, Ph.D., is project director for the Neutralizing in the autumn of 1978, “Was this a mistake going to SJU Antibody Consortium (NAC) at the International AIDS without considering anywhere else?” Now I felt similarly Vaccine Initiative in San Diego, Calif., a consortium of anonymous and vulnerable, wondering where my closest scientists working collaboratively to develop a vaccine for HIV. classmates from those days were.

Reflections on Reunion 2012


“Inspiring Lives” is devoted to reflective pieces with a Saint John’s or Benedictine theme written by Saint John’s alumni. Please feel free to submit essays, poetry or other reflections for consideration to the editor: