As landscape designers, we know that a river is a living, breathing, dynamic realm. It holds weight and influence, oscillating across terrains, a bloodline of the planet. Ever in motion, it is at once a resource and a medium, providing transport and connection, giving and receiving. It is a happy accident that an institution that inhabits the academic waters of ecological design should derive its name from the waters of an ancient river.
On Saturday, June 3rd, Academic Director Ken Byrne took 160 of us on a winding, floating journey through time and space along the evolution of the word Conway: from the Welsh river Cynwy, to landowners, across oceans, and through forests to the inaugural and current sites of the school. A fascinating and illuminating story, it conveyed knowledge and sentiment to the school’s history, much like the river itself distributes its contents.
Ken’s speech set the tone, appropriately, for an evening of reflection and revival, where old friendships were rekindled and new ones forged. What is the purpose of a reunion? A gathering of people with a shared story, who bring their lived chapters back to the communal well, so that the sum becomes greater than any of its parts.
The weather for Saturday’s 50th Anniversary Reunion certainly had echoes of the British Isles—a stark contrast to the warm and muggy afternoon prior, when a dedicated group of staff and volunteers sweated and raced against the barometric clock to get everything set up before the scene-changing thunderstorms plowed through. We almost made it. As unwelcoming as the cooler temps were for an early June outdoor event, Conway alums and friends are hardy outdoorsfolk, and a bit of lousy weather wasn’t about to stop anyone from having a splendid time.
And what a time it was! Highlights included flower arrangements from Conway community member gardens; a giant group photo; heartfelt speeches from trustee Mollie Babize ’84, campus manager Dave Weber ’15, and Conway founder Walt Cudnohufsky; and a stunning silent auction that showcased the breadth and depth of the Conway community’s talents, which extend far beyond landscape design and planning.
Water can make an impression on even the toughest of substrates. It carves and shapes its presence into the landscape, leaving behind an imprint not of itself, but of its actions: ripple marks, potholes, polished stones, beaches. Likewise, the river of students flowing through the Conway School over the past 50 years has left its indelible mark on our buildings, our people, and, most importantly, on the world beyond our river’s edge. It was inspiring to see this energy pool in one spot and allow us to soak, if only for a few hours, in its beauty.
Thanks to each and every one of you who helped plan, set up and take down; who spread the word and encouraged classmates; who purchased tickets, donated and bid on silent auction items; and who shared your laughter, stories, memories, and talents. We are so honored.