A Class of 1986 Celebration of Friendship

During Reunion Weekend 2022, members of Wheaton’s Class of 1986 and friends gathered on campus for a tree dedication ceremony to honor Pam Sidel-Gruntfest ’86. Members of Pam’s family joined in the celebration via Zoom (video link).

Classmate Michele Imhof opened the ceremony. “Today’s dedication is inspired by the sisterhood Pam found while at Wheaton,” she said. “A sisterhood that continues to sustain her to this day. This tree is our way to have her present with us today and at future reunions. This tree demonstrates the dedication our class has to collaboration, partnership, and the Wheaton spirit. As Pam likes to say, ‘You plus me equals the we in Wheaton.'”

Maura Murphy spoke next. “At Wheaton, trees are special,” she said. “As we look at this tree today, and in the years to come, let us remember: the roots of the tree encompass our collective ideas; the trunk shows our strength and perseverance; the branches show our growth since graduation; and the leaves remind us that life is fragile, and ever-changing, while offering us hope and the belief that what changes through the seasons will grow back stronger and more vibrant.”

Martha Peterson ’87 said that Pam is “woven in the fabric of my Wheaton experience.” She shared news of a recent visit that she had with Pam in December 2021, and she recited a poem by John Imrie entitled “Emblems of Friendship.”

Betsy Morgan Walsh shared memories of vacations in Maine that she and her son, Connor, enjoyed with Pam and her son, Ethan. “This tree will be a physical reminder of Pam’s presence,” she said. “Pam can’t travel to campus right now, but this tree will be here in her absence to remind us of how she has always embodied everything special about Wheaton.”

After Pam’s classmates and friends joined together to sing “You’ve Got a Friend” by Carole King—led by Debbie Barrette, Diane Kennedy, and Pam Messenger—they all raised glasses of champagne and gave a heartfelt toast to Pam.

“To the friends we make the first days of freshman year,” said Mary Psychoghios Klein. “Through good times and life’s challenges, they find a way to your heart and soul—and they become lifelong friends and sisters. We celebrate you, Pam Sidel-Gruntfest, and the warmth and love of our friendship and sisterhood. May you be blessed with good health, comfort, and peace. And may we all make our way back here to Wheaton to celebrate your lovely tree. God bless you, Pam.”     

The tree, which is located beside Peacock Pond, near the front entrance to Clark Hall, is a flowering white Kousa dogwood. The plaque inscription reads: