Waxing Nostalgic

Karene Evenson '60 and Russ Caine '85


As formative life experiences go, college graduation has to rank right up there with, well, just about anything, right?

Think about it. It’s the curtain call for what many of us consider to be the most impressionable and inspiring years of our lives; the defining moment when, by the simple turn of a tassel, we acknowledge that we’re ready to make the prodigious leap from campus to the real world, hoping that the education and skills we acquired along the way will help land us safely on our feet.

The passage of time does little to dull the resonance of that amazing moment for most University of San Diego alumni, including those celebrating their 25th and 50th anniversaries in 2010. “Graduation was such an amazing, and somewhat terrifying time,” recalls Russ Caine ’85 (pictured, at right). “But, to be honest, I felt like the friendships I’d made and the experiences I had while at USD prepared me for what would come next.”

As the genial ambassador of the San Diego College for Women’s Class of 1960, Karene Evenson paints a vivid picture of what life was like for her and her 38 classmates. “We really only had two buildings where we had classes (what are now Founders Hall and Camino Hall), and we definitely didn’t have the breadth of class choices that students have these days,” she explains. “Back then, we were trained to be one of three things: a nun, a nurse or a mother, and we were all required to have ethics as a minor.”

Evenson thrived in the San Diego College for Women’s close-knit community, serving as the social chair for three years and graduating with a degree in music. “Life on campus seemed a bit more formal than it does today,” she says. “We would have dances where the guys all had to wear ties, and all the girls had to wear nylons and heels. In fact, there would be a nun standing at the door making sure that everyone was dressed appropriately” she giggles at the memory. “My, it was just such a different time.”

During his days as a student at the San Diego College for Men, J.T. Trily ’60 was a big fan of two things: football and the fairer sex. In fact, if the business administration major and former stalwart of the USD Pioneers offensive and defensive lines could’ve had his way, there would have been more co-ed social events between the two colleges. A lot more.

“My big thing was trying to get the fellas and the ladies together. I knew a lot of great guys, and
I had met some great girls from the other college as well, and it seemed like a good idea to try and get everybody together at some point,” Trily says. “We really didn’t get a lot of opportunities to interact with the gals in the other college on a social level.”

Life has its funny little ironies,and when Trily returned to USD decades later to move his daughter Jolene into her residence hall, he found that his hope as a student would become his fear as a father. “I saw that the girls were living on one floor, and the boys were on the next floor above. They had done what I was trying to do and bring everyone together, although, in this case, it might have been closer than I would’ve liked,” he adds, laughing.

In some ways, Russ Caine’s USD was a place Evenson and Trily would struggle to recognize. For one thing, leg warmers and neon-hued Reeboks had replaced nylons and heels as preferred dance apparel. For another, the campus and the student population had grown dramatically, providing Caine and his classmates a wealth of opportunities their predecessors could only dream of.

“It’s crazy to think about when you compare my class to the students of today, but yeah, we definitely had a much more dynamic campus culture than did the classes that graduated prior to the merger,” Caine says. “But everything’s relative. We may have had more opportunities than they did, but, coming back to campus today, it’s amazing to see how much has changed since the mid-80s.”

While they may have earned their diplomas 25 years apart, Caine, Trily and Evenson are connected by a learning experience that transcends dates on a calendar.

“The camaraderie of the students, the support of the faculty, that’s the same as it ever was,” Caine says. — Mike Sauer