I couldn’t read their name tags, but I didn’t have to. The bright orange polo shirts with paw prints over the chest told me where they were from. Clemson. Ed and Frank, the bright orange casual shirts in such contrast to the deep brown leather sofa on which they rested as we talked about new computer memory developments. Incredibly nice gentlemen. But then, everyone there was nice, it was the Southern School Mixer.
Clemson, Vanderbilt, Duke, Georgia Tech, USC, Virginia, the list goes on. Alumni from nearly every southern university gathered together to enjoy some wine (or water, as it were) and friendly chats. Apparently, these mixers happen two or three times a year. This was the first one I had attended.
High above the City in the University Club. Only the fourth floor, but the hill atop which the University Club stands is so large that looking out the windows down toward the financial district, you imagine you’re on a 27th floor. Decked out in dark woods, deep carpets and intricately patterned wallpaper, the University Club transports you to another time and place. A piano in the corner of one room. In another, a billiard table and backgammon set. The library walls stretch high towards the paneled ceilings, shelves upon shelves holding neat rows of leather bound books in antique autumn hues. A large mirror hung over the fireplace, adorned by crystal lamps. I felt I’d walked into the library at Pemberly.
I wandered around the rooms, taking it all in, stopping here and there to chat. Sharing with a group of USC alum glad that for a moment they didn’t have to explain “South Carolina, not Southern California”. Reconnecting with other Vanderbilt alum I’d met at Vandy events. Totally connecting with a Vanderbilt alum I had not met before, who wants to become a patent lawyer and work with innovation in Africa, who was at the same conference as me a year ago out in Stanford, and who, most graciously saved me from a rather overzealous MIT graduate who had crashed the party and was repeatedly offering me a ride to the BART station, not to mention invitations to every event he could think of. I hope I run into her again at another event, that amazing Vandy alum, at the very least to give her my thanks.
As fancy as the surroundings were, and as nice as the new people I was meeting were, the best part of the entire evening was seeing one of my old friends from law school. We’ve been in and out of touch out here, even though she lives just over the hills. It’s always nice to see her, but this night was particularly special. She had the most exciting news: a new job, a new job doing exactly what she wanted to do, doing what she went to law school to do. Those are the best kinds of jobs, those dream jobs. The way her face lit up as she talked of her future, of this new path, she just glowed with joy.