The Cluster What? How Oberlin's Reunion System Works

By Midge Wood Brittingham '60

If you're a typical Obie, chances are you didn't run only with members of your own graduating class. More likely than not, you befriended people who were on campus at the same time you were--even if they graduated a year or two before or after you did. Enabling reunioning alumni to return to campus with friends from adjacent classes was a large part of the reason the Alumni Association adopted the cluster system for Commencement-Reunion Weekend.

The cluster system has been in effect since May 1974, and although the practice has proved popular, it can be confusing to the uninitiated. The cluster system allows three classes to gather together for reunions every five years. The middle class of each cluster celebrates its reunion on the actual five-year interval. For instance, this May the cluster 1981, 1982, and 1983 will celebrate its 15th reunion and the cluster 1961, 1962, and 1963 will celebrate its 35th reunion. These clusters will return again in 2002 for their 20th and 40th reunions.

Clusters remain the same until the classes reach their 25th reunion, which each class celebrates alone. After the 25th reunions, the cluster configurations change, and remain in effect until the classes' 50th reunion, which is also celebrated alone. Fiftieth-reunion class members are inducted into the association's Half-Century Club, whose members are thereafter invited to return for every Commencement-Reunion Weekend. Nevertheless, the association does hold a 55th, 60th, 65th, and sometimes a 70th reunion at a class' regular five-year interval.

Like everything else in life, though, the cluster system is not perfect. Sometimes the break between clusters doesn't satisfy an individual's desire. If you're part of an Obie couple, your partner might be in a different cluster. So might your best friend. There's one consolation, though--if you don't like your cluster, just wait 25 years and you'll have a new one!

You can also propose an alternative format. Send your proposal to Danette DiBiasio Wineberg '68, President, Oberlin College Alumni Association, 50 W. Lorain St., Bosworth 105, Oberlin, OH 44074. A chart displaying cluster reunions through the year 2019 is also available from Margaret Sahs Erikson '62, director of on-campus alumni activities. Write to her at the Alumni Association address listed above, call (216) 775-8692, or send e-mail to

Midge Wood Brittingham is executive director of the Oberlin College Alumni Association.