Gayle Jensen Van Auken ’65: The Cornell 8
More than 50 years ago, in 1961, eight Cornell women met in Bowman Hall. When it came time to pledge a social group, we liked each other so much that we wanted to stay together. As a result we played a major role with many other Phi Omega sisters in forming that social group and making it an important part of school and campus life.
We have four cancer survivors, two with other serious health problems, four divorces, and three who are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversaries. All attended and were in the wedding party of one or more of our group, had successful careers in our own right, have continually visited one another during our off-reunion years, and cried and were happy for each other as we faced life’s challenges while raising our families. We live in New Mexico, North Carolina, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois. We call ourselves “The Cornell 8.”
Our first reunion was in 1986 in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Barbara Schroeder DiNovo ’65 invited several Cornell friends to visit her. Since our Wisconsin reunion we have continued to meet every few years and sometimes more often. Since then we have held our mini-reunions 14 more times. In September 2016 we plan to meet in Santa Fe, New Mexico, a full 20 years after our first reunion there.
At our reunions we spend a lot of time just visiting, sharing book recommendations, photos, and recipes; but we also take in the local cuisine and see the sights. Our hikes and walks are shorter now than on previous trips, but we do all love the out-of-doors. When not pursuing other activities, we look at our photo albums to see who gets the prize for wearing the same clothes the most years.
We always laugh a lot and recall our days at Cornell and part with tears, but also renewed and so happy to have made such wonderful and lasting friendships for life in Mount Vernon, Iowa, so many years ago. We are a group of rather tough, amazing women who started our life journeys together because of Cornell College.
Gayle Jensen Van Auken ’65, of Overland Park, Kansas, is a retired librarian, mother of two, and grandmother of six.