The alumni pictured above are indentified below.

College Friendships Stand the Test of Time

If developing new friendships is part of going to college, a group of Bearcats who attended UC in the late 1960s won the “College Friends Lottery.” Sixteen couples came together back then and remained great, lifelong friends through five decades and counting.

Cindy Maloney Piening, CAHS ’70, is credited by her friends for being the “hub of the wheel” in many ways, bringing people together back at the start in the mid-’60s and helping them stay together over the years.

“She was a big connector, with many friends from all over,” recalls Tom Lake, A&S ’70, CEAS ’78, Bus ’01, speaking of how Cindy was in the mid-’60s and still is today. “She’s just that sort of person.”

Connections began to be made the summer of 1966 as most members were about to begin their freshman years. They were high schoolers from around Cincinnati who knew each other, or knew others who knew each other, and a variety of social opportunities allowed them to mix easily.

“We went to school introduction parties, including some at the Newman Center [UC’s longtime Catholic campus ministry], some at fraternity events, and some very informal fun things around campus to introduce the incoming class,” Lake says.

“The Newman Center sponsored activities to help freshmen get acclimated,” says Jack Reifschneider, Bus ’71, ’72. “As our friendships grew we formed carpools to and from UC and our jobs, because many of us lived at home in those days.”

They all began mixing together on weekends — east-siders and west-siders getting together in Clifton — with connections growing all the time.

“On campus, we’d talk with a lot of the students from out of town, but the connection wasn’t quite the same as when you share some common history of the area,” says Lake. “So we just kept hanging out together each year we were at UC — parties at our houses, we’d go out, play volleyball, always so much fun.”

Primary hangouts were The Grill and The Rhine Room in the Tangeman University Center, or the Student Union as it was more commonly referred to back then.

“A corner of The Grill in the basement became sort of our meeting place,” remembers Piening. “Practically every minute of the school day someone from our group could be found there studying, playing bridge or just hanging out. Once in a while we would venture to the Rhine Room on the first floor, which was somewhat of a ‘classier’ eating space. Others may have had sororities and fraternities, but we had The Grill!”

Growing Families Deepened the Bonds
What makes their story really noteworthy is the group’s staying power. Rather than disperse and lead separate lives after graduation, they stayed tight. Everyone remained in Cincinnati, at least initially. They pursued their respective careers. They got married — some to each other — and raised their families.

“We have shared weddings, the births of 38 children, picnics, Valentine dinners, Christmas cookie exchanges, vacations, UC Homecoming parades, football and basketball games, and unfortunately a few deaths,” says Piening.

Childrearing served to help hold the group together even more strongly.

“The couples started having children, about the same age,” Reifschneider says. “At our activities together throughout the year, the kids began to be exposed to each other and become friends, so things would strengthen further. We would all go to our children’s weddings, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles to do so. That would impress the kids — that all these people traveled together. My son got married in Arkansas and all these people came down from Cincinnati.”

Life as UC alumni has also provided a common thread, allowing the group to return to their old stomping grounds to cheer on the Bearcats, take in CCM performances or go on campus tours. While such shared experiences are a way of life, their good fortune isn’t lost on the group’s members.

“For a quarter of UC’s 200 years, we have maintained a bond of friendship which has only strengthened as we have grown older,” Piening says happily. “Some met the ‘love of their lives’ on campus, others were blessed to marry other Cincinnatians.”

They admit that with the passing of time and changing of interests, the group continues to evolve a bit, but there’s too much powerful life experience between them to ever break them apart. Back in the late ’60s, the tumultuous atmosphere within the campus community over Vietnam, the Kent State shootings and local racial tensions couldn’t do; now it’s clear nothing ever will.

“We all recognize this is not the normal standard for today,” Lake says, recognizing the “old school” aspects of the group’s origins and shared journey over such a long time. “We appreciate what we have. We’ve seen us all graduate, get married, have children, go through school with them, their weddings, parents dying, the whole life cycles together. So it’s a pretty strong glue than holds us together. It’s a warm feeling to know we’re all connected like this.”

The photo at the top of the page was taken when the UC group of friends assembled on Valentine’s Day, 2019.
Pictured are: Front, from left: Carol Kolkmeyer Wright, ’71; Jane Volker Wenning ’70; Nancy Lay Tebbe ’71; Bonnie Vaughn Petrik ’71; Janie Roth Lake ’72; Cindy Maloney Piening ’70.
Back, from left: Robert Petrik ’71, ’72, ’03; Patrick Hayes ’70; Denny Wright ’69; William Freeman ’69; Thomas Schmidt ’70; Tim Shafer ’71; Steve Tebbe, att. ’67-’68; Jack Reifschneider ’71, ’72; John Hammer ’74; Tom Lake ’70, ’78, ’01.
Group members missing: William King, ’71, ’72; Susan McClure Schmidt ’70; Betty Lange Petrik Brown ’70 (deceased); Mary Lynn Carrigan King ’70 (deceased); Rita Newbold Taylor ’71, ’74 (deceased; for 30+ years she had been head of the Business Department and professor at Raymond Walters College, now UC Blue Ash).

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