Years ago, when Nancy (BA ’78) and Allan McCalder (BA ’78) came back to the University of Waterloo for a tour, they knew their kids needed to see the computer.

If you were also a Waterloo student in the 1960s or 70s, you probably understand why. At that time, the Math and Computer building (MC) housed the largest computer in Canada, the IBM 360 Model 75. It was housed in the centre of MC, and any student or passerby could peer in through the windows to see its gigantic size.

“The whole main floor was a computer,” says Nancy. “It was humungous. We said to our boys, ‘We’ve got to see this computer.’ They loved computers, and so we went to the math building and looked in the room.”

Nancy and Allan were shocked at what they saw.

“It had shrunk! It was a quarter of the size that it used to be. I remember it so distinctly — it was so funny — because the technology had changed so much.”

That was just one memorable change they discovered on campus, and the McCalders expect to see more this spring when they return for their 50th class reunion. In June, they’ll make the trip from Edmonton, Alberta to reunite with old friends in person.

Nancy and Pam Graham (BA ’77) have worked together to organize the event. While much of the class has stayed in touch over the years, this gathering will be special. They plan to join in with other class reunion celebrations at Alumni Weekend, plus they have some private activities too — a meet-and-greet in the new Health building, a campus tour, golf games and an outing to the St. Jacob’s Farmer’s Market. Pam also arranged a tour of Kitchener-Waterloo.

Celebrating their shared experience

While they take in all the changes, Nancy hopes the visit will also spark some memories. She looks back on her time as a student fondly: “We were a unique class I think. At one point, there were seven or eight couples, and a group of the boys lived together in [the townhouse community] Sunnydale. They were real catalysts in pulling the class together for parties and other activities. My husband ended up living with them for a summer.”

On campus, Nancy remembers everyone gathering for lunch: “I remember going to the South Campus Hall (SCH) cafeteria, or the campus centre pub. Actually, that’s where my husband and I had our first date.”

Looking back, that date was a good lesson for Nancy, who reluctantly took a break from studying to meet Allan for drinks. “He phoned me up and asked me to go out, and I’m thinking, ‘For God’s sake, it’s the middle of exams,’” she says. “I needed to learn to have some recreation before my exams. Anyway, we went and it was great.”

So great that the pair got married just before they finished their degrees. After graduation, they moved to Alberta, but have managed to stay in touch with their classmates. Over 50 years, much of the group has stayed in touch, holding annual gatherings at Christmas and in the summer. When COVID removed the possibility of in-person gatherings, they started meeting on Zoom every Saturday. Those calls continue today, and that’s where the group started talking about a 50th reunion.

Whether on Zoom or on campus, Nancy cherishes the time she has with her class. “I think it’s important because it’s part of my history. We had a really powerful shared experience and it’s wonderful to stay connected, to be part of each others’ lives.”

If you started in the Recreation and Liesure program in September 1973 and have not received information about the class reunion, you can learn more on the event website. If you have questions, please email Jennifer Bentley