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Hamilton College celebrates bicentennial

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: Hamilton College celebrates bicentennial
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Hamilton College graduated its 200th class last month. To help celebrate the milestone, the college brought back as many alumni as it could this weekend. As our Andrew Sorensen tells us, the all-alumni weekend opened the gates to a flood of 200 years of memories.

CLINTON, N.Y. -- The Hamilton and the now absorbed Kirkland College alumni fell back into their old friendships this weekend, like nothing ever changed.

"What I'm hearing again and again is, 'Once in 200 years...' You don't get to do this except once in a lifetime really for most of us," Hamilton College Alumni Relations Director Sharon Rippey said Saturday.

Hamilton is celebrating its bicentennial anniversary this weekend with a rare all-alumni reunion, bringing thousands of Hamilton experiences all to one place.

"A normal reunion would have about a thousand people come back, but we already have 2200," she said.

To celebrate the weekend, the alumni have brought back their experience, memories, and in some cases, their souvenirs.

One alumnus anonymously returned a gravestone he stole as part of a fraternity prank in 1958. Others wore pennants and other prizes of old.

But some took the opportunity to make new memories; one man even biked 500 miles to get here.

"We made the decision to follow the Underground Railroad trail--route-- from Pittsburgh to Erie and then connected with the main route of the Underground Railroad," 1959 Hamilton College Alumnus Don Spencer said.

For others it's the experiences since graduation they're interested in.

"The great thing about reunions is an opportunity to share stories," USDA Secretary and 1972 Hamilton graduate Tom Vilsack said.

Vilsack gave a lecture with his wife, Christy Vilsack, a Kirkland College graduate and Congressional hopeful, on how the colleges prepared them for politics.

"The ability to run for office requires a great deal of confidence, and I found that confidence here by learning how to take a risk," she said.

"Hamilton did a terrific job of making sure you can communicate effectively, both orally and in writing. And certainly in my early career as a lawyer, that made a big difference," Secretary Vilsack said.

Many of the alumni celebrating Hamilton's 200 years of success are looking to the college to continue making that difference and provide distinctive experiences for generations of students to come.

During this weekend's ceremonies, Hamilton also awarded a posthumous honorary degree to the college's namesake, Alexander Hamilton.

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