Alumni gather for a taste and tour of Downtown San Francisco. Pictured here are (front row, L to R): Colleen McNulty, Connie Gelhaus, Cathy Shelton, Anne Scott Kone, Alice Wang. (back row, L to R) Jonathan Thigpen, Peter Kovacs, Karen Thigpen, Allen Kone and Thad Hart.


 By: Karen Thigpen (MI '96/US '97)

Nearly sixty alumni spanning five decades gathered for the AIESEC Life Winter National Alumni Reunion held in the San Francisco Bay Area this past December 30, 2011-January 2, 2012. The typical comment we heard over and over among attendees was something to the tune of, ""Wow. This was really, really great. I am so glad I came. Please let me know how I can get more involved."" Perhaps it was the festive, fun environments that lent themselves to each function of the event. Perhaps it was the fact that the attendees themselves were an incredible group of people and simply made for great company and conversation. Or perhaps, it was the electric environment we all experienced as former AIESECers mixing with current AIESECers in what used to be our old stomping grounds - an AIESEC US conference. Whatever the case, the reunion was enjoyed by all and AIESEC Life was encouraged to explore where and when national reunions like these could be held next.

As mentioned above, the reunion was held over four days and while some alumni opted to attend just one function, several alumni attended every function offered. While some commuted in to catch an event, others flew in from neighboring states, or in the case of Farid Ismayilzada (San Jose '05), from another country. He flew more than 20 hours from Azerbaijanto to catch up with his old Bay Area friends. Frank Pinto (Kent State '85), who flew in from Las Vegas, reunited with old friends Renee Courington (Alabama '84) and Edith Gong (San Jose '87), both of whom now live in the Bay Area. The three shared traineeships abroad at the same time and used the Winter National Alumni Reunion as a chance to visit with each other after more than two decades. While they were members of different local committees, their shared international experiences forged a tight, unforgettable bond that all of us understand. Urs Huber (Zurich '90), originally from AIESEC in Zurich,Switzerland, flew in from Europe for the event to see his old friend Josh Hannah (Berkeley'93), who was serving as the weekend's keynote speaker. We heard these kinds of stories over and over again as alumni told us why they drove in or flew in to be a part of the event.

Here's a recap of the exciting weekend:

The reunion kicked off on December 30th at the home of AIESEC Life Chairman David Epstein (Berkeley '80), who opened his breathtaking Tiburon home for a fundraiser and reception.More than 40 alumni attended the event, which was catered by none other than David's wife, Judy Epstein. With training from classes at the Cordon Bleu School, Judy's food was nothing short of divine. The conversation ran smoothly, the laughter was hearty and all of us were inspired by a brief speech given by David on the relevance of AIESEC Life, and the global potential that awaits our entire alumni community. 


The next item on the reunion agenda was a delightful and educational tour of downtown San Francisco led by Event Coordinator/Alumna Connie Gelhaus (St. Cloud '05) on Saturday, December 31st. Chinatown, Fisherman's Wharf, Nob Hill and Ghirardelli Square were some of the highlighted spots and the attendees got a great feel for the vibe of downtown San Francisco while also getting a history lesson along the way Tour Guide Connie impressed us all and made us feel a bit nostalgic as we relived those wonderful days of post-conference study tours so many of us have enjoyed. Thanks, Connie!





Later that evening, almost twenty alumni gathered at the quaint Nob Hill Italian restaurant Ti Piacera to break bread, enjoy dinner, and get ready to bid adieu to 2011.

Several attendees then ventured on to the much-awaited and heavily attended New Year's Eve Ballat the Westin St. Francis at Union Square. With more than 4,000 people, 7 DJ's and three floors of music and entertainment, the party pulsated and the pack of attending alumni welcomed 2012 with a bang. That was a party no one will soon forget!  Photos here.

Finally, the last function of the reunion was Alumni Day at the AIESEC US Winter National Conference. Approximately 40 alumni attended the Alumni Luncheon & Panel (led by guests Matt LevineJill FletcherDiane Duerr-Levine and Randy Salim), as well as the afternoon sessions, cocktail hour, and dinner that followed. The attending students hung on every word of these alumni and the alumni reciprocated by sharing much wisdom and encouragement.

A high point for all was listening to the highly entertaining and insightful keynote speaker Josh Hannah, who candidly shared that his experiences as LCP of Berkeley in 1992 taught him more about how to be successful in business than his MBA at Stanford.

In the end, all attendees appeared to feel incredibly proud of their shared AIESEC heritage and equally grateful that a strong alumni association is now truly taking flight. Here's to future reunions!


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