A Family Affair

The threads that run through Reunion connect alumni, memories, and those who went before.

By H. Jay Burns

Bates had not yet graduated its first college class when Addison and Florence Small welcomed a son, William, into the world in 1863.

When William was just a toddler, his father entered Bates, graduating with the Class of 1869. A Lewiston banking career lay ahead for Addison, including long service as a Bates Trustee and treasurer. So imagine father Addison’s pride when William Small entered Bates in 1881 and graduated four years later, thus becoming the College’s very first legacy.

Now imagine you are Jim Balano ’75, sitting at the 2000 Reunion Awards Ceremony. You’re about to announce your class’ Reunion gift totals for the year, but your mind is on family. And on Bates. They both swirl together.

“Both my parents attended Bates,” he said. “This year would have been my father’s 60th Reunion; he died when I was a sophomore. And I was able to attend my last Reunion with my mother, before she passed away.”

When it was time for Balano, whose brother, aunt, uncle, and cousins also went to Bates, to announce 1975’s class gift, he rose and asked his fellow alumni to raise a hand if a Bates family member had turned them on to Bates. Hands rose fast, as if he asked who thought it was a nice day.

“I guess I did it less for myself but as a tribute to my parents,” he said. “I didn’t want to grab the light. But I got to Bates because of my parents, so I wanted to know who else in the crowd were in that position – we came to Bates for education and it became part of our family.”

Come Reunion each year, the legacy families who parade across the Quad reaffirm that Bates is, for many, a family college.

Hugh and Lois Kenniston Penney, 1950 classmates, were the first of their respective families to attend Bates. In the last half-century, more than a dozen Penney siblings, in-laws, cousins, children, and grandchildren have attended. Their granddaughter Melissa ’03 (daughter of Bruce ’76 and Janice Malatesta Penney ’77) served as 1950’s class host at Reunion.

“Melissa’s sister is at Bowdoin, which is nice and we love her dearly, but when Melissa told us she was going to Bates, it was so exhilarating,” Lois said. “The feeling is so wonderful that Bates will have meaning for her generation of the family the way it’s had meaning for generations before her.”