60th anniversary plans are well underway to celebrate the milestone

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As the University of Waterloo turns 60 this year and is making its usual preparations for September’s annual alumni reunion, one group of UW alumni are celebrating early with a milestone of their own.

Greg Ashbee, Doug Hodgins, Sal Catania, Art Karantjas, Jon Sykes (UW Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Civil and Environmental Engineering) and Tim Jones, all former students from UW’s 1967 civil engineering program, will be marking 50 years of friendship this summer.

According to Kelly Ashbee, daughter of Greg Ashbee and UW math graduate, the six original members became friends during their first year and continued their friendship by living together between co-op terms.

“The group was added to over the years, and two girlfriends then, wives now, also attended Waterloo for psychology — including Susan Sykes, Former Director of UW’s Office of Research Ethics,” Ashbee added. “Today, we have over 40 members and three generations in our Waterloo Family. Three children from the group have also attended UW … and one of them also married a classmate, so the UW tradition of family continues.”

The main reunion is held each civic-holiday weekend, but other smaller events also take place throughout the year.

“Our large event is held every year on the Civic holiday weekend in August, in Muskoka.  Other large events are held throughout the year including New Years’ Eve in Waterloo and the Grey Cup in Pickering in November,” Ashbee said. “Various smaller events such as card games, dinners, Leaf games, and trips that smaller groups partake in are held on an ad hoc basis.”

According to Victoria Jones, daughter-in-law of Tim Jones, this year’s reunion is special because “the reunion events are very important to [my father-in-law], as well as the other alumni. They have a few events every year where they all gather together, but the August long weekend is always the BIG ONE!  And with this year being the 50th anniversary of the beginning of their friendship, this is the biggest one yet.”

Caitlin Sykes Tatone, UW engineering graduate and daughter of Jon and Susan Sykes, noted that, ”to this day, 50 years have gone by since they stumbled upon one another during frosh week, and these fine gentlemen still practice one of the many lessons learned as an engineering student … you work hard and party even harder. Their friendship should be celebrated. They should be celebrated. We are proud of where they started, where they have been, and where they will grow. One thing is for sure, they will be friends for many more decades.” 

When asked if she had any advice for today’s students, Ashbee said, “University is a time of life you will only experience once. Enjoy and keep the knowledge you learn and the friends you make. The person you met when you registered or roomed with in your first year may one day be the best man or maid of honour at your wedding, and an aunt or uncle to your children and remain your friend and family for life.”

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