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Alumni Association hosts class of 1961 Golden Reunion

April 28, 2011

This year, graduates from Arizona State University’s class of 1961 will come back to their alma mater for Golden Reunion May 12 and 13. The Alumni Association hosts this special two-day reunion event each year, allowing classmates from the university’s 50-year reunion class and their guests time to reconnect with each other and ASU, as well as the opportunity to lead the procession during the university’s Spring Commencement.

Arizona State’s class of 1961 occupies a pivotal place in the institution’s history. Ushered into Arizona State College in 1957 as freshmen, some in this cohort were actively involved in efforts to change the school’s name to Arizona State University, with class members campaigning for the successful 1958 name-change ballot initiative, Prop. 200.
A number of former student leaders and successful graduates from the class of 1961 are registered for the reunion.

Several of them reflected on their time at ASU and what the university experience has come to mean to them over the years.

Nancy Ellis ’61 B.A.E.

Nancy (Weigle) Ellis pursued a path of leadership throughout her career, which began during her student days at ASU. She was president of the Spurs, Natani and Pleiades – the women’s sophomore, junior and senior honorary societies, respectively – as well as serving as leader of Delta Gamma sorority.

She continued her association with Delta Gamma after graduation, serving as the organization’s field secretary for a time. She later became assistant dean of women at the State University of New York, Oswego and acted as an academic advisor at the military education centers for several universities.

Ellis met her husband, Larry Ellis ’61 B.S., at ASU, with their first date coinciding with graduation night. Their daughter, Kristi Lynn Ellis ’89 B.A., graduated from ASU with a degree in journalism.

Marshall Trimble ’61 B.A.E., ’63 M.A.E.

As an undergraduate, Marshall Trimble majored in secondary education, with an emphasis on physical education. However, to hear him tell it, his graduation in 1961 and the completion of his master’s degree two years later were only the beginning of his ASU education.

“I returned to ASU (again) when I was 30,” he said. “I was serious this time and (had) a newly discovered passion – Arizona and Western history. My professors at ASU were very helpful getting me started on my new career.”

Since that time, which corresponded to the turbulent historical period of the late 1960s, Trimble has blazed a trail across Arizona’s landscape. He created the original Arizona history class for Scottsdale Community College in 1972 and has taught the course for nearly 40 years. He’s the author of more than two dozen books on state and Western history, and was appointed Arizona’s Official State Historian in 1997. His explanations of local history often have been communicated through songs and music, and he was inducted into the Arizona Music & Entertainment Hall of Fame earlier this year.

Jay Norton ’61 B.S., ’86 B.S.D., ’88 M.Arch.

Jay Norton has pursued two careers in the past half-century. After graduating with a degree in psychology in 1961, he spent 21 years in the United States Air Force, serving multiple tours in Vietnam and earning numerous awards for valor and extraordinary achievement in flight. After retiring in 1983 at the rank of lieutenant colonel, Norton returned to his alma mater to train for his second career, earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture.

As an architect, he was involved in the design of many major educational projects in the Valley, including Caesar Chavez High School and the East Valley Institute of Technology. He also contributed to the design of the building that houses the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus and the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building IV, currently under construction on the university’s Tempe campus.

Norton says he is pleased to be sharing his Golden Reunion Commencement ceremony with daughter Kirstin Epting, 32, who will be receiving a degree in early childhood education.

“My daughter is graduating summa cum laude from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College,” he said. “Having our picture taken together, as a new grad and Golden grad, will be a special treat.”

Jessica (Thomas) Koory ’61 B.A.E., ’91 M.Ed.

Jessica Koory began a lifetime of civic involvement at ASU, serving on the student-faculty relations board of the university’s student government as an undergraduate. When interviewed recently about Golden Reunion, she reflected on the changes in societal mores since the early 1960s.

“I went to a student government convention in Denver – there were six men and me coming from ASU,” she said. “I was required to have my own chaperone.”

Koory also served as president of Gamma Phi Beta sorority and participated in the Kaydettes, an auxiliary of the school’s ROTC training program. As a Kaydette, she assisted U.S. Sen. Carl Hayden when he visited the Memorial Union, and was part of an honor guard that accompanied ASU President Grady Gammage’s body when it lay in state at the rotunda at the State Capitol in Phoenix.

After graduation, Koory taught English as a second language to elementary school students for 22 years. She also earned her master’s in education at ASU during this time. She has been very involved in local civic and arts-based organizations, having served as the president of the Glendale Arts Council and an active member of the Glendale Arts Commission and the Glendale Historical Society.

Koory remarked about her education at Arizona State, “What I really value is the people – I can go anywhere in Arizona and meet people from this class!”

Dr. L. George Hershey ’61 B.A.E.

Athletics brought Dr. L. George Hershey to ASU on a full-ride track scholarship, and he served as captain of the track team his senior year. Sports also have formed a large part of Hershey’s career, as he has served as a team physician at Northern Arizona University since 1971. He worked as a United States Olympic Committee team physician from 1985 to 1987, and he was a staff physician for the United States team during the 2000 Olympics Games in Sydney, Australia.

After graduation from ASU, Hershey spent three years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He attended the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, graduating in 1968, and settled in 1970 in Flagstaff, where he opened his private practice as a family physician.

Hershey calls his ASU years as “the opportunity that made me what I am today.”

“I’m grateful that (Coach Senon) ‘Baldy’ Castillo took a chance on a sprinter from Bisbee and enabled me to obtain a valuable well-rounded education,” he said. “Having the opportunity to attend Arizona State College … being part of the change in 1958 to Arizona State University and watching the school grow into a national and international hallmark of education has been satisfying beyond all words.”

Sun Devils who come back for Golden Reunion take part in various events over the course of two days, but one major highlight is a candlelight ceremony in which class of 1961 graduates will be inducted into the Golden Circle, an honorary group comprised of all classes who have celebrated their 50th reunion. Graduates form a circle around Kachina Fountain in front of Old Main, and each class member lights a candle representing the light of knowledge. Reunion attendees will be joined at this event by members of the Class of 2011, as recipients of the Moeur Awards and Outstanding Graduate Awards at Spring Commencement have been invited to participate in the Golden Circle Induction.

For more information about the class of 1961’s Golden Reunion, visit: