By Erin Hallissy
It’s hard to match the class of ’59 when it comes to school spirit. A number of them were among the 22 students who stuffed themselves into a campus phone booth in March 1959, a feat which vaulted SMC onto the pages of Time and Life during a global phone-booth stuffing craze.
They also stuffed the Cow Palace to capacity that same month for the Gaels’ NCAA basketball “Elite 8” tournament game against eventual national champion Cal.
“Saint Mary’s had the talent that year, with Tom Meschery ’61 and Laroy Doss ’59, but Cal had the coach, Pete Newell,” remembers John Tarabini ’59, the team’s statistician.
The class of ’59 took school spirit so seriously that when three Santa Clara students were caught pulling a prank on the SMC campus, the offending Broncos ended up with their heads shaved into “S,” “M” and “C” hair patterns.
Now, they’re honoring their Gael pride with the Spirit of ’59 Memorial Scholarship Fund. They’ve raised more than $90,000 in five years and hope to reach $125,000 before their golden anniversary reunion next year.
The fund began after Charles “Bob” Balassi ’59 and his wife, Novelle, were killed in an Egypt Air crash on the day of the class’ 40th reunion in October 1999. Today, the endowment honors the 29 members of the class who have passed away.
Every few months, the class descends on Restaurante Forli in Alamo to swap stories from the Saint Mary’s days. Alumni travel from as far as Sacramento and Fresno to listen to speakers, including Brother President Ronald Gallagher, Athletic Director Mark Orr and men’s basketball head coach Randy Bennett.