pitt photoWilliam Wordsworth was wrong. Need some intimations of mortality? UNC Chapel Hill provides its graduates with an interesting reminder. Carolina designated me as an official member of the Old Students Club. Until invited, I had no idea such a fine group existed. The UNC class of 1974 was offered a free lunch to new members.
An earlier fellow classmate, James Love, UNC class of 1884, left a pile of money to provide an annual free lunch to all graduates of UNC who reached the 50th anniversary of their graduation who were still alive. I qualified on both accounts, so I got a free meal.
Parking was in a large garage next to the Alumni Center. UNC thoughtfully supplied cheerful student ambassadors every few yards so the doddering members of the Class of '74 would not get lost on their way to lunch. The ambassadors were trained to identify free-range alumni by our graying visages and confused expressions. I mentioned that I thought the name "Old Students Club" was a bit ageist, but was assured it just meant we were cute.
At the lunch, a speaker explained the original name of the group was "The Ancient Patriarchs," because back in the 19th Century only men could attend UNC. The name morphed into Old Students Club when ladies of the female persuasion were allowed to enroll at UNC. At the dining hall, we were told the name had been changed once again to "UNC Alumni Precious Gems."
Not sure if the new name is accurate. They gave me a lapel pin to prove I was a Precious Gem. I remain unconvinced of being a Precious Gem; however, it is possible I might be a Semi Precious Gem.
At my age when I am invited to a free meal it is usually from a company that either wants to sell cemetery plots, timeshares in North Dakota, variable rate annuities, term life insurance, or a spot in a senior citizens' residential home that has Happy Hours on Friday afternoon at 4 p.m.
I skip those free meals. However, since it was UNC that invited me, I decided to go to see what they were offering to age-enhanced alumni.
Considering our class's advanced age, lunch was scheduled for 11:30 a.m. This was done so the alums could make it back home without driving in the dark. The timing also meant we would not miss the 4:30 p.m. Early Bird Special supper at the Country Kitchen Buffet.
I speculated as to what UNC's hook baited with a free lunch might be. My initial guess was a speaker explaining how to include UNC in our estate plan. Or darker, a speaker from the Medical School on how to donate our bodies for anatomical study by Med students. Imagine my surprise when there was no pitch to give UNC either our money or our cold dead bodies. In fact, it was just a dandy free lunch with a talk about our fast times at UNC in the early '70s. It was celestial.
The entertainment was a student choral performance by the female singing group The Loreleis. Their name was a bit spooky considering the age of the attendees. The Lorelei was a legendary German beauty who drowned herself in the Rhine River over love gone wrong. After dying, she came back as a beautiful Siren whose singing lured sailors to their deaths. Being calendar-enhanced, our group might be endangered by their singing. Their first song, "Dust in the Wind" did not ease my concern. The Med School might get us yet. Ponder these lyrics: "Dust in the wind/ All they are is dust in the wind/ Just a drop of water in an endless sea/ All we do/ Crumbles to the ground, though we refuse to see/ Now don't hang on/ Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky/ It slips away/ And all your money won't another minute buy/ All we are is dust in the wind." Cheery song.
Their performance was excellent. Minor quibble: The Loreleis beating us over our greying heads reminding us we had one foot on the banana peel between here and eternity was problematic. I wondered if the Loreleis next appearance singing Dust in the Wind was at the ICU or the Emergency Room at Memorial Hospital.
Lunch ended on a spectacular upbeat note with the crowd of several hundred seventy-plus-year-old UNC grads singing a rousing chorus of "Hark the Sound" which ends with the immortal words: "I'm a Tar Heel born/ I'm a Tar Heel bred/ And when I die/ I'm a Tar Heel Dead/ GO TO HELL DOOK!" It was a transcendent moment. I hope to be around for many more Precious Gem lunches. Thanks for everything, UNC

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