Virtual Connections: How the Class of 1967 Keeps in Touch

Published in Alumni News - Alumni News 2023

From the boardroom to the classroom, the COVID-19 pandemic has made virtual meetings a prevalent part of our lives. Some alumni, such as the School of Medicine Class of 1967, have embraced tools like Zoom as a way to keep in touch.

“What initiated it was COVID and the fact that we were Zooming our friends,” said Francis J. (Frank) Scarpa, M.D., a general surgeon, who is the representative for the Class of 1967. Scarpa became the class representative around the time of his class’s 25th Reunion, a role he says he sort of fell into, and has now held for 30 years. (“I don’t really know how it happened!”). The idea for the Zoom meetings, which the class hosts twice a year, came from Scarpa’s friend and classmate, Charles S. (Charley) Bryan, M.D., who in addition to his career in academic medicine and practice, is an accomplished medical historian and authority on William Osler.

Bryan shared that during medical school, the Class of 1967 was “more cohort than class.” This was before the existence of the many student organizations and programs that support campus life today. “We were meeting each other outside the lecture halls during the first two years, and some of us never saw each other during the third and fourth years,” Bryan said.

Despite this, the class shares a strong bond. For their first virtual class connection, Bryan prepared a slideshow highlighting achievements of his classmates. “We all agreed at one of our reunions that what really made a big difference in our lives was not so much the quality of the professors, although we had great professors and great teachers, it was the caliber of our classmates,” he said. The virtual class connection was met with great enthusiasm by the 12 members of the class who joined.

Bryan and Scarpa, who now organize two virtual class connections a year, encourage other School of Medicine classes to give it a try. They say a formal presentation is nice but not necessary—what is most important is providing a space for people to chat. They suggest three things for classes looking to get started: get your class representative on board to organize it, gain access to a Zoom account (the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Alumni Relations Team is happy to provide this), and solicit classmates to share updates and accomplishments.

They both agree that virtual class connections fill an important niche. School of Medicine graduates spread out all over—you might only run into a classmate at a conference, or every few years during a milestone reunion. Zoom provides an informal space to easily reminisce and catch up. For Bryan and Scarpa, it’s also about sharing in the pride they have as members of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Class of 1967. “We all take pride being a member of the class, even just knowing our colleagues,” Scarpa said. “I can say, ‘I know that guy!’ These are great people, and I’ve rubbed elbows with them. I feel very proud of that.”

If you are interested in organizing a virtual class connection and would like assistance with setting up a Zoom meeting and organizing your class, please reach out to Jamie Seward, Senior Associate Director of Development, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine at [email protected]. We are happy to help!