On a sunny Saturday morning at the beginning of May, members of the Class of 1965 donned black caps and gowns for a graduation of sorts. After matriculating from William & Mary 50 years ago, the Class of 1965 joined the ranks of the Olde Guarde and began the next chapter of their lifelong relationship with the College.
According to Bill Armbruster ’57, chair of the Olde Guarde Council, joining the ranks of an organization with the word “olde” in it has a negative connotation to some. But to Armbruster, the name celebrates the legacy and history of the group. “There’s a historical aspect to the Olde Guarde of Their Majesties’ Royall Colledge and that’s what we’re trying to perpetuate,” he said. “When you reach your 50th Reunion, it’s a milestone. Members want to be able to continue to show their loyalty to the College, as well as have their own identity and meaningful role within the W&M community.”
The Olde Guarde seeks involvement of members through programs, projects and activities, and identifies opportunities for individuals to assist in the life of William & Mary.
“We have a lot left to give to our alma mater,” Armbruster said. “The folks who started this felt like we’re not ready for our tombstones — we want to create milestones.”
Credit for establishing the Olde Guarde goes to Arthur Winder ’25 and William Thompson ’28. Starting in 1975, members of all the 50th Reunion classes were officially inducted into the Olde Guarde by the College.
As a service and fraternal organization, the Olde Guarde is dedicated to preserving the heritage of the College while advocating its advancement and reputation among the nation’s prestigious institutions of higher learning.
Their latest project has been to contribute to the Alumni House expansion. The group launched a goal a year and a half ago to raise $250,000 — they surpassed their goal with just contributions from the council.
“The Olde Guarde is one of the most important institutions at William & Mary,” said Pete Kalison ’57. “It allows long-graduated alumni to retain their association with the College and their classmates. This group surely contains some of William & Mary’s greatest supporters.”
One of those supporters is Judi Lownes ’60, who received the 2015 Olde Guarde Distinguished Service Award. Over the years, Lownes has volunteered at freshman Move-in Day, the freshman Ice Cream Social, handed out pins during the Alumni Induction Ceremony, and has been an active member of the Williamsburg Alumni Chapter.
“We alumni need to share our time, talent and treasure with the College,” Lownes said. “Sometimes people only think about contributing their treasure, but we can do all three. The list of ways to stay connected is endless, from joining the local alumni board wherever you live to working on a reunion committee to helping at graduation.”
Currently there are over 6,000 alumni who are members of the Olde Guarde. The council hopes to get more of them actively involved in the organization’s activities in the future. One of those activities is the Homecoming Parade. Five years ago, dismayed at the quality of the floats, the Olde Guarde decided to start creating their own entries, and went on to win first place four out of the last five years.
“The comment made on the judges’ stand last year was about the spirit of the Olde Guarde contingent,” Armbruster said. “The image we want to perpetuate is that we’re not standing on the sidelines. We want to be a part of those events and in the life of the College.”
In addition to special events at Homecoming, the organization also has a special weekend in the spring that is uniquely theirs. Highlights of Olde Guarde Weekend consist of the induction ceremony for the class celebrating their 50th Reunion, a celebration dinner, and of course, a Bloody Mary reception.
“There’s a famous quote that bourbon is the oil of conversation,” Armbruster said. “But 11 a.m. is too early for bourbon, so we have Bloody Marys.”
“Grads in the Olde Guarde come back, year after year, to renew their attachment to the school,” Kalison said. “The familiarity of the College surroundings engenders feelings of their own youth and time on campus. When I’m strolling the Old Campus or playing in the Sunken Garden with my grandchildren or sitting at a football game at Zable, I’ve reversed time and am a youth again. Sounds corny, I know, but when you really cut deep, I believe this is why many return 50 years later and on.”
By Kelley Freund