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The Golden Reunion held recently during homecoming week at University of Wisconsin-Stout was a special occasion for dozens of alumni from the classes of 1962, 1963 and 1964.
Fifty years after they graduated, they reunited with old friends, toured the campus that has more than doubled in size since they were students and attended several special events in their honor.
For at least eight couples, the Golden Reunion roughly marked another special time in their lives: their golden wedding anniversaries. They were returning to the place where they met their future spouse and began dating as 20-something undergraduates.
Glenn Harke remembered that his first date with Sharon Wyss didn't go as planned. "She was out with another guy, and I said, 'How about if I pick you up for church in the morning?' When I showed up the next morning, she wasn't ready. She didn't believe me.' So that's how it began," Glenn said with a laugh, adding that they went on their first date that night to a movie instead.
Glenn and Sharon Harke, of Anoka, Minn., marked their 50th wedding anniversary in August. Their two children also graduated from UW-Stout, Gregg in 1987 and Allison in 1989.
Back in the early 1960s at UW-Stout, most men majored in industrial education and most women in home economics education. With dominant majors that drew about equal amounts of men and women, it wasn't uncommon for students to meet their eventual spouse on campus. UW-Stout, as an old saying went, was where students earned their bachelor's as well as MR and MRS degrees.
The Harkes were very involved socially on campus so they also made many lifelong friends, including many of the other 50-year couples at the 50-year reunion. Glenn, a native of Kimberly, was a three-sport athletic standout for the Blue Devils, had two tryouts with the Minnesota Vikings and is in the school's athletic hall of fame; Sharon, a native of Boyceville, was a cheerleader and 1962 homecoming queen. They also were in fraternities and sororities.
They taught together at Kimberly Junior High the year they were married, in 1963. In 1965 Glenn earned his master's degree from UW-Stout and was an assistant coach on the football team.
In the early 1960s UW-Stout had less than 2,000 students — it's more than 9,000 now — so it was a close-knit campus, according to the Harkes and two of their best friends, Pat and Fred Seggelink, who returned from Medford, Ore., for the reunion.
The Harkes and Seggelinks have taken trips together and say they remain close friends with 20 to 30 people from their graduating classes.
"Stout was just so friendly and fun. I can't think of anything negative," Sharon Harke said, although she remembers having to take the required swimming course three times to pass. "I passed but I still can't swim."
Most students, even Sharon whose home was just a short drive away in Boyceville, seldom went home on the weekends because "we didn't want to miss anything on campus," she said.
"A lot of colleges were suitcase colleges. This one wasn't," Fred Seggelink said.
"It was a small campus. You got to know a lot of people," Pat Seggelink said.
The Seggelinks' 50th wedding anniversary is coming up in 2014. They remember meeting for the first time at the Rendezvous, a pizza hangout on Broadway Street near campus.
Fred had scholarship offers to play Division 1 basketball at Marquette, Michigan and other schools but turned them down to attend UW-Stout. "It's one of the best things I ever did. I wanted to play basketball, but I really wanted to get an education," he said.
Fred also is in the Blue Devils athletic hall of fame; he starred in basketball and track and played football one year. He became an assistant basketball coach at UW-Stout when he was in graduate school.
The Seggelinks eventually moved to Oregon for Fred's job with 3M. They have three children; their first was born in Menomonie.
Other couples at the Golden Reunion who met at UW-Stout and have been married 50 years include:
- Joyce and Joe Giovanoni, of Wausau
- Mary and Jerry Holubets, of Marshfield
- Grace and Bernie Howaniec, of Waukes
- Charllotte and Bob Janeczko, of West Des Moines, Iowa
- Ruth and Brian Jennerjahn, of Hartford City, Ind.
- Sue and Chuck Johnson, of Fish Creek
The Golden Reunion, put on by the Alumni Association, included reception photo galleries that brought back many memories — games, dances, fraternity and sorority events, evenings on the town and favorite professors.
"We came back to see friends and classmates and see how good our memories are," Pat Seggelink said.
UW-Stout has grown considerably, but one aspect of it hasn't changed, Glenn Harke said. "The friendliness is still here at Stout."