Observations from my high school reunion

This weekend was the 35th Anniversary for the class of ’81.

Montgomery Bell Academy is my alma mater, and this is the first of the 7 reunions I have attended – Yes, that’s right . . . I and most of my classmates chose not to attend most of the other 5 year celebrations even though many of us live right here in Nashville and really don’t have a valid excuse.

It’s not that none of us care about each other or appreciate the fine education MBA provided, because we DO. We know that MBA crafted “Gentlemen, Scholars, Athletes” of ALL of us, and we are proud to have had the honor to attend such a prestigious school.

This year was different. A couple of our classmates took the lead on an effort to get as many of us to attend as possible, so a vigorous email campaign ensued in 2 phases. Phase 1 was all about FINDING everyone, and Phase 2 was about guilting, shaming, begging, pleading to gain commitment for a good showing.

20160415_125948MBA had offered a Friday luncheon and tour of the campus. I attended and found 1 (yes ONE) of my classmates Wade Smith, and we toured together. WOW! That school is amazing . . . If only we had all that when we were there . . . yet I know that we got just what we needed. One of my favorite things was the Interactive Periodic table


20160415_205313We DID find most of our classmates and @ 1/3 of our class committed to come to our “Pre-party” at a local restaurant on the day before the reunion dinner. We did, indeed, show up in force and had a fantastic evening of catching up and telling stories and remembering our days on the Hill. As we reminisced, I couldn’t help but notice that EVERY person there was the Same Person I remember from 35 years ago. Sure, we all looked a tad different and certainly have all endured all of the trials and tribulations that go with “growing up” and having families, and failing and succeeding. Some are certainly richer and famouser than others, but amongst classmates we’re just that . . . “classmates,” and it brought great joy to me to see exchanges of hugs and laughter and talk of appreciation and support for each of us. My sentimental self realized in one moment that we all share a bond that few of us realized . . . as a band of Brothers (All male school).

I left that party silently and drove away grateful and aware that each and every one of those guys would have my back if I ever needed it just as I would have theirs.

20160416_181522Last night was the “Official” Class reunion on campus. I was certain that many of our classmates would come because they had traveled long distances . . . Surely, they would be present for the main event! When I arrived, I noticed that there were 4 name badges for our class . . . only 4 . . . We 4 spent an hour with drinks on the patio and then a couple of hours dining together and pretty much solved ALL of the problems in the world.

We found our names on the wall which displays the name of EVERY graduate of MBA EVER – dating back to the mid 1800’s. This Dining hall has an uncanny resemblance to the main hall of Harry Potter’s Hogwarts School.


Some things I learned:

The guys who traveled long distances did so for no other reason than to connect with their classmates. That box was checked at the pre-party, so they took the rest of the weekend to explore Nashville.

When we arrived at the Main event, there was evidence of only very limited “structure” for the evening – No signs telling us where to park and where to go to find the party . . . a set of tables with name badges and a few folks to register any “at the door registrations” – and 4 or 5 “Bars” set up with batches of years indicated on each bar. In theory, we were to figure out that we were to go to the Bar with our year and thereby find each other – Our Bar had 81, 86, 91 . . .

Guess what?

NO ONE followed the rules.

Everyone present went to whatever bar was closest and found their classmates wherever they happened to be.

So . . . The BIG learning . . . Given freedom, a common purpose, and a motivation to connect with the right people, and virtually EVERY group will find its own way to self-organize and create their own experience . . . regardless of the intended structure of the “organizers.”

this was clearly evidenced by the “poor” showing of 4 members of the Class of ’81. The good folks at MBA may never know that the class of ’81 REALLY showed up this year for the 35th class reunion.

As is always the case:

The right people came . . .

It started at the right time (The day before the Main Event)

at the right place (Sinema Restaurant)

What happened was EXACTLY what we needed to happen

and when it was over, it was over, and everyone scattered.

. . . and I love the unabashed exercise of the law of 2 feet of all those folks who acknowledged when it was over for them and opted to take advantage of Nashville’s fabulous weather, restaurants and entertainment rather than attending the “obligatory Main event”

It’s all Open Space!


Published by Barry Owen

Strategist-CEO of Pareto Realty Real estate sales Professional Inviter-Facilitator-Practicer of Open Space Technology Opening safe space for people & organizations to self-organize around issues & opportunities BarryOwen.US Invite-Listen-Love

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