In the wintry months before Reunion 2007, I came to two small realizations: one about me, the other about my class, the Class of 1987.
First, it occurred to me that I am the last baby boomer to graduate from Colby—not the latest, mind you, but the youngest Boomer. Second, I realized that my class is one of the few in Colby history to contain two “generations.”
I was born New Year’s Eve 1964. Most of my classmates were either born earlier in 1964 or, by some definitions, a generation later, in 1965.
I came to reunion with a mission to answer this question—“So what?”
What’s the significance of being at the end of a generation, the beginning of another, or stuck somewhere in between?
So, into the imprecise science of generational classification I dived.
The baby boom was a statistical surge in births after World War II, from 1946 through 1964 according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Afterward there was a significant drop in U.S. births. All told, the baby boom produced 75.4 million Americans. The oldest Boomers turned 62 last year, and the youngest (including me) were 43 by the end of 2007.
Beverly Boose in Alumni Relations not only confirmed my title as Colby’s last Boomer, she also found that 6,495 Colby baby boomers made up 27 percent of 24,056 living alumni.
My research touched on hot Boomer topics—the evolution from hippies to yuppies, Woodstock and Watergate, and “Boomsday” predictions of Social Security’s collapse. None of this spoke to my peers and me, though.
Retirement? I’m still trying to get some traction in any one of my three careers. Hendrix, Morrison, Joplin? They were dead before we were old enough to go to their concerts. Empty-nest syndrome? My daughter isn’t even 2.
Instead of looking to those who came before me, I began to look at those behind. These were murkier waters. Wikipedia lists recognized U.S. generations and identifies four labels that could apply to those of us born in 1964-65. Generation X is the most familiar moniker, but most of my classmates thought his term applied to a younger generation.
I found three different timeframes for Gen X: starting as early as 1961; starting the day after the baby boom ends, Jan. 1, 1965; or starting as late as 1968.
Using a 1965-81 definition, Gen Xers make up more than one third of living Colby alumni, including about one third of the 520 members of the Class of ’87. But where does that leave us in relation to the other two thirds of our class? I never thought of myself as a Gen Xer before, but now I was curious.
So I put together a little two-page survey to find what Reunion 2007 alumni thought about this generation business. I asked about pop culture, economic power, and common traits of several living American generations. Not surprisingly, alums thought the baby boom generation dominated, both in terms of the economic and political power its members wield as well as in music, movies, and TV.
The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, and Led Zeppelin were as much a part of the soundtrack of our lives in the late ’80s as they were for alums a decade older. Even the relatively new stuff that defined our era—The Police, The Fixx, and Bruce Springsteen—was coming from the mouths and instruments of rockers who were born in the ’50s or earlier. Only Bono of U2—born in 1960—could reasonably be considered part of my class’s generation.