When it comes to life’s milestones, turning 50 can be an unwelcome, ground-shaking one. Or it also can be an excuse to celebrate enduring friendships forged three decades ago on College Hill.
Last summer, Andy Stern ’87, Tim Moeller ’88, Eric Kramer ’88, and Steve Friedrich ’88 toasted their half-century turning point by bicycling 200 miles over six days through Ireland.
Their allegiance to their alma mater was on display, literally, throughout the trip as they wore matching customized maroon jerseys imprinted with the name of their fraternity.
This trip was a great way to celebrate the lifelong friendships that we forged at Lafayette!
Their attire and camaraderie drew whimsical comments from other cyclists on the trip who referred to them as those “50-year-old frat boys from a little college in Easton,” still together after all these years.
They were accompanied by a near-50 pair, Rob House ’90 and Ed March ’90—all six of them friends from their days as brothers at Theta Chi fraternity.
“We just stayed in touch over the years and found excuses to be together,” says Stern, noting he’s also part of a broader network of similarly aged friends who travel regularly to Las Vegas as a way of staying connected.
Choose your friends well, and they become your family.
“As we’ve gotten busier and busier with our lives, it has become more challenging to carve out the time for reunions,” says Stern of Summit, N.J., a corporate litigation attorney. “But this time, to mark 50, we had to do something a little more ambitious instead of another Vegas weekend.”
Biking seemed like a good option. Everyone agreed that Ireland would be an ideal choice, with its cool summer days and warm pubs at night.
Stern says the group had a pretty good range of experience getting around on two wheels and booked the trip with Backroads, a travel company that plans biking, hiking, and other outdoor trips. After a year of planning and spending time on their bikes to get into shape, the grads started their July trip in Cork in southwest Ireland and ended at the remote Caragh Lake in County Kerry. Biking between 33 to 65 miles each day in and out of the rugged coastline, the six followed unforgettable routes that traversed rolling hills in ever-changing shades of green and steep, mountainous terrain. Weary legs rested at thatched country inns along the way.
As a direct result of the enduring bonds established at Lafayette, I have experienced so much more—and personally become more—than I might otherwise have, and my life is immeasurably richer because of it.
“The climate changes on any given day were remarkable and unexpected,” Stern recalls. “We’d go through 30-degree temperature swings from cool and rainy and into almost tropical weather along coastal areas dotted with palm trees. Who knew you’d see palm trees in Ireland?”
Along the way, the group contemplated a predictable but nonetheless befuddling question— “How’d we get to this age?”—and shared photos with friends and spouses on WhatsApp and Facebook and with an occasional text.
For Rachel Nelson Moeller ’88, Lafayette’s executive director of alumni relations, seeing her husband, Tim, off to Ireland for a challenging bike trip did not cause heartache or worry.
“There isn’t a group of people I trust more. Lafayette is what brought these guys together, and they’re brothers in every sense of the word,” she says. “There were no worries sending our husbands off for this adventure, and technology allowed us to be in the moment with highlights of the trip and erase any left-behind feeling.”
The bonds have only gotten stronger as this extended family has moved through the years and experienced losses and triumphs. “We trust each other forever; these relationships are solid,” she adds.
Stern wholeheartedly agrees.
“From our perspective, the true friendships formed all those years ago is why we’re doing this now,” he says. “There’s also something about Lafayette, its size, its legacy, and its intimacy, that creates a bond over the four years you’re on campus.”
He adds, “You form those bonds, and the seeds sprout for friendships that mature through your 20s, 30s, 40s and now the 50s, which is just another number and an excuse to continue to do fun stuff.”
Asked if the planning for 60 has been broached, Stern laughs and says it’s too early for that.
“The younger guys who were on the trip, they’re 48,” he says. “They have to at least match what we did for our 50th.”
If you have a milestone you’d like to share, please send an email to magazine Editor Kathleen Parrish at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We may feature you in an upcoming issue.