Alumni reminisce about good old days at ‘Suntan U’

UM united alumni from all generations dating as far back as the 1950s in seven separate reunions last weekend to bring former Hurricanes back to campus for Homecoming and Alumni Weekend.

The reunion brought together alumni who have not seen each other since they were students as well as some who have stayed together over the years.

“We met at UM and we just celebrated our fiftieth year anniversary together a few weeks ago,” Fritz and Shirley Richter, class of 1952, said. “We look back on our time here as beautiful.”

Fritz was president of the student body and Shirley was the president of Panhellenic.

“Back then there used to be six to eight guys for every girl,” Shirley said. “There weren’t enough girls to go around.”

Fritz mentioned how tuition at UM in the 1950s was only $225 per semester, a huge difference from the current tuition rates.

“When I asked what I had to do to transfer to the University, they said, ‘You got $225, you’re in,'” Fritz said.

Shirley brought up how she used to be teased because of UM’s reputation as “Suntan U,” despite the fact that she considered it to be a very academically-conscious school.

“Everyone teased us even though we had some of the nation’s leading experts teaching our courses,” she said. “We had fun in the sun, but we also had a strong academic base.”

Fritz joined in and said he had a business law professor who practically wrote the book on the subject.

The Richters also mentioned that student leaders used to meet with their respective staffs in the same office as other organizations, sometimes at the same time.

“We all sat around and discussed our plans sitting on top of desks and making sure to speak quietly so the other organizations didn’t hear what we were talking about,” they said.

Also as part of Alumni Weekend, the “Old Timers Society” gathered for the 28th time in UM history at President Donna E. Shalala’s house to induct the Class of 1953 in honor of their golden anniversary.

The School of Communication hosted the “Shack Pack” reunion for those who worked on student publications from 1945-1955.

“We have yearned to gather again with those who worked in their spare time on student publications in what we selfishly think was the most exciting, determining decade in the development of a now-great University of Miami,” Ed Goodpaster, ’51, and Lory Snipes, ’52, said in a letter to Shack Pack members.

“Publications are the most fun you’ll ever have in your life,” Joan Nielsen, ’53 Ibis editor, said. “I was closer to the people I worked with than with my own husband.”

Nielsen is currently editor and publisher of Social magazine, South Florida’s premier society magazine, and author of several books.

“Everything I learned I learned in student publications,” Nielsen said.

Lois Helen Mondres, assistant section editor for the ’49 Ibis, said she has fond memories of her time at UM.

“I found the experience to be challenging, warm and welcoming,” Mondres said.

When asked what year she graduated, Mondres replied: “I didn’t graduate – I got married and had babies.”

Steve Avellone, 1977-78 business manager for The Miami Hurricane, said he physically built the entire newspaper office with the excess profits he and his sales reps earned.

“We had so much money left over, we rebuilt the whole office,” said Avellone, director of national sales for Cox Radio, Inc. in Orlando. “The place was in shambles.”

Avellone said the protests and demonstrations of the time helped ad sales.

“We tried to make the paper a true editorial and entertainment resource for UM,” he said. “Everybody wanted a spot in it.”

The golden anniversary reunion was hosted at the Biltmore Hotel, also as part of Alumni Weekend, and featured a slide show and dancing to hits from the 1950s.

Jopie Theed Estaver, co-chair of the 50th year anniversary committee, said she remembers wanting to attend UM for its diversity.

“I remember meeting people from different cities and towns throughout the country that I would not have met otherwise,” Estaver said.

Estaver mentioned some of the benefits of being a college woman at a time when few women sought higher education.

“Oh, it was great – I had lots of dates,” she said.

Estaver, who studied interior design through the School of Architecture, said it took a while to be accepted by her male classmates.

“I was the only female around,” Estaver said. “Once they got used to me, I learned a lot from them and they were a big help.”

“It was a different generation back then,” Joe Feinberg, co-chair of the reunion, said. “The whole student body really blended together.”

Feinberg said he spent most of his time palling around with his fraternity brothers and going to local food hangouts.

“Most of our social events revolved around food,” Feinberg said.

Ronnie Khalil, BBA ’98, MBA ’01, said Alumni Weekend was just another weekend for him.

“Come back? I never left,” Khalil said.

For more information on alumni week or alumni-related issues, contact Alumni Relations at 305-284-2872.

Jorge Arauz can be contacted at

The following quotes were obtained by The Miami Hurricane during Alumni Weekend. The anonymity of the sources has been granted so as to protect the reputations they have established for themselves over the years since their graduation.

“My fondest memory? Hell, I used to love taking advantage of the motel across from Ponce. I’d go out for a burger afterward. That’s what life was all about. I miss those days.”

“All the guys are ugly and all the ladies still look wonderful. If the guys didn’t have name tags I wouldn’t recognize them. Hell, I wouldn’t even look twice at them.”

“The University has turned into Sun[less]tan U. I don’t mind though with all of these skimpy vixens roaming around in their hootchie-cootchie cutters. I like the direction the University is going in.”