Picture with gray flag: Mary (McCarthy) Stagis ’85 (SFS), front row, second from right, at a 2022 reunion with friends from Fairfield Hall. With blue flag: Julie (Stagis) Bartucca ’10 (CLAS, BUS), ’19 MBA, second from right, with her UConn squad at the wedding of Deidre (Schelin) Salisbury ’10 (CLAS).
While interviewing Christine (Berry) Walker ’73 (ED) for our spotlight on lifelong UConn friends in this issue, tears stung my eyes when she read me a message from Patricia (Robustelli) Weber ’73 (CLAS): “We formed a very strong bond. I think that’s why when I walk into a room at our summer get-togethers, I feel like I’m 18 again.”
I could relate. I love my alma mater for countless reasons, but 10 of them occupy space in my heart like no other: Ashley, Ashley, Christine, Emily, Deidre, Jess, Julia, Kami, Lindsey, and Mary.
A dozen years after graduating, I still text daily with the group of women I met in Shippee Hall freshman Honors housing in fall 2006. Walking to the dining hall together promptly at 5 p.m. to laugh over a lengthy dinner (and, often, peanut butter on ice cream) or dancing at Huskies Bar gave way to visits, trips, and get-togethers, supporting each other through first jobs, weddings, babies — and even divorces and infertility.
When I was growing up, my mom — Mary (McCarthy) Stagis ’85 (SFS) — would often share memories of her glory days in The Jungle (North Campus), with a big, co-ed group that included my dad, Tom Stagis, and her longtime best friend Leslie (Wohlhueter) Forte ’85 (SAH). The Fairfield Hall crew features in photos from my baptism and first birthday party, and I remember playing with their children at parties. As family life became busy, they stayed in touch through Christmas cards and the occasional phone call, and in the past two years my mom and a few others began organizing large reunions.
“We always pick up like no time has elapsed since we’ve seen each other,” Mom says. I feel the same: Though our WhatsApp chat is very active, I leave every in-person gathering of my Shippee girls — fewer and farther between now that the second generation has come along — feeling like I’ve been wrapped in a big hug.
The foundation we built here, while living steps away from each other and even sometimes sleeping on the same bunk beds, withstands time and distance, aided by technology and deeply rooted history. Like UConn, these friendships just feel like home.