Alumni Reunion 2016 in Review
By Darylle Sheehan, Advancement Coordinator
The Austen Riggs Center 2016 Alumni Reunion set a record for attendance of more than 100 and was a moving and meaningful event for all those present. For those who were unable to attend or who wish to relive certain moments, we offer this brief recap.
The weekend kicked off on Friday afternoon when former and current patients were invited to attend a Transitions meeting to talk about their shared experiences. Later that afternoon, alumni were officially welcomed by Alumni Reunion 2016 Co-Chairs Dr. Paul Lippmann and Beth Mangiaracina and were then treated to a poignant reading by author Emily Fox Gordon from her book, Mockingbird Years: A Life In and Out of Therapy, a reflection on her experiences, including the time she spent at Riggs. This was the first time Emily had returned to Stockbridge in 50 years, and she noted that her view of Riggs, and of therapy in general, has changed during that time. Riggs Medical Director/CEO Dr. Andrew Gerber joined Emily afterward for a riveting discussion, praising her ability to capture the "enormous complexity" of her memories and the therapeutic process.
The first evening concluded with a reception for former and current Fellows at the Red Lion Inn. Fellows who graduated as far back as 1962 and as recently as 2016 gathered to reminisce and discuss the singular learning opportunity they shared.
Saturday began with a well-received keynote address by Dr. Gerber, in which he outlined his hopes and goals for the Austen Riggs Center in the coming years. He began by addressing two pressing national issues: the state of mental healthcare in the U.S., and wealth inequality. Dr. Gerber stated that Riggs has an obligation to do something about these problems. "We provide what I consider to be the best mental health care . . . probably in the world, to a select group of patients, and I want to make sure we do that forever," he said. "At the same time, I think we have something to offer to the wider community." He described his intention to bring this goal to fruition with strategic initiatives designed to enhance and extend our expertise in clinical care through education, research, and community outreach.
Singularly powerful were the the panels of former staff members and former patients. The talks given by these alumni were equal parts moving, funny, emotional, sad, and inspiring. Though each story was unique, the speakers shared a deep appreciation for the difference Riggs had made in their lives.
Saturday evening featured an elegant dinner in the ballroom of the American Institute for Economic Research. This was a chance for friends old and new to connect in a light-hearted and festive setting. Reunion Co-Chair Dr. Lippmann closed the evening with a heartfelt thank you to all speakers and attendees for making the weekend such a success.
The final day of Alumni Reunion 2016 took a slower and more contemplative pace. A brief session of meditation and gentle movement was followed by a beautiful classical concert. The weekend concluded with brief remarks by Riggs Trustee Joan Goodrich about giving to Riggs, and the opportunity that affords to make the life-changing treatment Riggs offers available to as many individuals as possible.
The next Austen Riggs Center Alumni Reunion will be held in 2019, which happens to be Riggs' 100th anniversary. This distinction will make Reunion even more special as we look back at all we have accomplished as a community and, more importantly, look forward to the positive changes we will continue to make in individual lives and in the world.