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Founding Classes Reunion

Welcomes 60s Alumni Back to Paris

From January 30 to February 1, 2019, The American University of Paris welcomed members of its Founding Classes back to Paris for three days of remembering the past and looking forward to the future. Graduating between 1963 and 1969, these alumni formed the very first cohorts of students at what was then The American College in Paris (ACP) – and laid the groundwork for everything that came after.

Upon arrival, alumni were greeted personally by AUP President Celeste Schenck for a reunion cocktail event at her home. After raising a glass to the University’s rich history, they headed over to campus for the World in 2019 Gala hosted by AUP Student Government. The evening brought together past and present as the Founding Classes shared their wisdom and experience with students, during a vibrant discussion on post-graduation career opportunities.

The next morning, alumni got to see just how far the University has come since its modest beginnings as ACP. Back in 1962, around 100 students took their studies in borrowed rooms in the basement of the American Church in Paris. Today, just two doors down, visiting alumni were treated to a preview of AUP’s newest building – the Quai d’Orsay Learning Commons at 69, quai d’Orsay – ahead of its grand opening at the end of March.

The tour ended on the newly finished 7th floor for the dedication ceremony of the Founding Classes Classroom. Made possible thanks to the generosity of 1960s alumni – several of the donors were present on the day – the Founding Classes Classroom boasts stunning views toward Invalides and the Montparnasse Tower, and is located across the corridor from the soon-to-be home of the George and Irina Schaeffer Center for the Study of Genocide, Human Rights and Conflict Prevention.

“It’s an absolutely wonderful moment for all of us,” said Elizabeth Ballantine, Vice Chair of AUP’s Board of Trustees, who spoke at the occasion. Also in attendance was Board Chairman Raymond F Henze III, who thanked donors for their generous contribution to the future of AUP. “I hope you look round and say, ‘Oh boy! I really invested in the next generation!’”

“In 1962 we couldn’t have imagined a building like this,” said Clara DeLamater, the daughter of AUP Founders Lloyd and Marie DeLamater, reading from a letter her mother wrote on behalf of their family. One alumnus commented how lucky students were to have access to such a modern space, though many also looked back fondly on the humbler surroundings of the early years. As the DeLamaters’ letter expressed, “You need a basement in order to build up.”

After the tour, visiting alumni had the chance to return to the American Church in Paris for breakfast with The Reverend Dr Scott Herr – himself an AUP parent – before heading over to the Combes building for a panel discussion charting the evolution of the University from ACP to AUP.

“I first came to Paris in 1967–68: a somewhat quiet, uneventful year,” joked Bill Pearl ’68. Speaking on the panel, he explained how his time in the city shaped his view of the world, cementing his belief in the importance of respecting diversity and the need for international cooperation. “It was characteristic of the time to be discussing everything. There wasn’t the polarization that exists today.”

Mimi White Swensen ’63 was one of the very first students to study at ACP. “After only one year, it was lifechanging,” she said, recalling late-night multilingual conversations about politics and the pursuit of peace. She can trace many important milestones in her life back to ACP, and was delighted to see the progress that the University has made since her time. “If the founders were here today, they would say that you have exceeded expectations.”

Several alumni on the panel also commented on the importance of Cultural Program trips as part of their time at the school. It is fitting, then, that the rest of the reunion was taken up with multiple cultural excursions. These included a coffee tasting with AUP alumna Lacy Audry G’13 – founder and owner of the Belleville Brûlerie, a darling of the Parisian roasting scene – and a tour of the Musée d’Orsay with Professor Jonathan Shimony.

“How do we transcend the bounds of narrow nationalisms?” asked President Schenck in her speech at the classroom dedication, citing the famous words of our founder, Lloyd DeLamater. “That's the question we've been answering on campus for 60 years.” She expressed her belief that when diverse people come together and are able to find common ground, it symbolizes something important. We are grateful to our Founding Classes for helping carry that message since the very beginning.