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Don Reichert reflects on his days as a member of Cal's class of 1950 at his home in Lafayette, Calif. Thursday Sept. 30, 2010. The class will be holding its 60th reunion in November, the day before the Big Game. They're billing it as a reunion of the "greatest generation." Many in the class interrupted their studies for World War II and returned to Cal on the GI Bill. (Karl Mondon/Staff)

Much has changed in the 60 years since Don Reichert graduated from college.

Growing up in Philadelphia, the Lafayette resident said he had never heard of UC Berkeley.

Now?

"I've been to 85 countries, and I bet in 80 of those 85 somebody will come up to me and say, 'Oh, you're a Bear, too?' " he said, after noting that he often wears a Cal hat while traveling.

Reichert will be one of many members of the class of 1950 who will return to Berkeley next month for what is being billed as a reunion for "the last of the greatest generation."

The class is hosting a Nov. 19 reunion luncheon at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley, to coincide with the Big Game against Stanford the next day -- the last Big Game to be held at Memorial Stadium before renovations.

The "greatest generation" label was tagged onto the reunion somewhat automatically, said event chairman Ted Jatho, of Rossmoor in Walnut Creek.

"So many of our class were people who were just out of the service, World War II, and so much has been made about the World War II group being the 'greatest generation,' I guess it just kind of got included," he said.

Many members of the class had just returned from fighting overseas and were completing their education courtesy of the GI Bill.

The campus population skyrocketed, said Sally Lyding, of Orinda, a class of 1950 graduate who is helping with reunion publicity. Some classes were overflowing, she said, forcing students to sit on the floors.


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Dick Hafner came to Berkeley in 1946 after serving in the Army and served as the editor of the student newspaper, the Daily Californian, in 1950.

Hafner, who now lives in Sonoma County, said one professor at the time called the students "the most focused and intellectual group that he had ever taught."

"When we all got back from the Army, we really had a great "... feeling of having contributed to the future of the country and now wanting to be part of that country more than we had been as kids," he said.

Don Sharman, who spent 2½ years fighting in Europe before returning to Cal in 1946, agreed.

"I studied more than I would have and I took things more seriously and respected the fact that I was getting an education paid for by the government," the Orinda resident said.

Reichert, who was too young to be drafted, started at Berkeley in 1946 at 17 with his twin sister.

"The campus was full of returning veterans," he said. "You had to take examinations" to get into some courses.

Because his parents had moved to Berkeley a few years ahead of the children, Reichert was able to pay in-state tuition: a whopping $27.50 per semester, he said.

Studying was important, but so was Greek life -- and football.

"(Football was) a lot different than it is today because we won," said Frank Brunk, in comments not likely to be endorsed by current coach Jeff Tedford. "We won everything. We went to the Rose Bowl three years in a row."

Brunk, who lives in Rossmoor, played football all four years at Cal and said few at that time had aspirations of playing professionally.

"Nobody that I know of lifted weights," he said. "We just practiced and played and we were successful and it was very enjoyable. Good football. Good stuff to be a part of."

Jatho does not know how many alumni to expect Nov. 19, but said the group's 50th anniversary reunion drew more than twice the anticipated group. For members of that "greatest generation," it will simply be a time to see old friends again.

"It's hard to believe that it was 60 years ago," Brunk said. "But it is, and it will be enjoyable to see fellow survivors."

Contact Jonathan Morales at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/sosaysjonathan.

If you go
  • What: 60th reunion of the UC Berkeley class of 1950
  • who: Members of the class of 1950, but others who attended or graduated around that time are also invited
  • when: 11:30 a.m. Nov. 19
  • Where: Claremont Hotel, 41 Tunnel Road, Berkeley
  • Cost: $85 per person
  • For reservations: Call University Relations at 510-643-8091 by Nov. 5
  • For more info: Call Ted Jatho at 925-944-4799