A case of Bud Light with a note scrawled on the side brought past and present Zags together as Gonzaga alumni traveled back to campus this weekend.
Dallas Cooney, a 1999 graduate from GU, left the case on the porch of the house he lived in his senior year with a proposition for the current residents: to strike up a deal so that he and his former classmates could take a stroll down memory lane during their 20th reunion.
The house that Cooney and four others lived in can now be recognized by a large sign reading “Bar and Grill” that is posted on the front of the house. This staple of Sinto Avenue, however, was not always there said Ruth Donohue, one of the five who occupied the house 20 years ago. When they lived there, they knew it simply as 507, she said.
“When I think about 507, I remember that the five of us were all open to it being somewhere that all of our friends could come and hang out,” Cooney said. “It had a great big porch that we’d hang out on, or we’d barbecue in the front yard.”
“The door was always open,” Donohue said.
The 507 five were all friends before living together, but Cooney said it was the final year spent in the house that really connected them.
If she were to sum up what made their experience, Donohue said she would attribute it to the lifelong friendships that were made.
“The people I lived with and the people I met at GU are still my dearest and closest friends,” she said. “They’re the people I care most about.”
Now 20 years later, the friendships remain even as the house and the GU campus have gone through impressive changes, Cooney said.
Both the kitchen and the bathroom of the 507 house were carpeted when they lived there, Cooney said. Though the kitchen carpet remains, the bathroom is now tiled.
They also reminisced about changes to the neighborhood. What is now well-known by students as Star Bar was formerly The Chef, a poker and karaoke lounge frequented by students, Cooney said.
Donohue is most impressed by advances all over campus.
“It’s so cool to see the campus and the new buildings,” Donohue said. “It’s especially cool to see the different opportunities that students have now.”
“It’s amazing. Being able to sit up on the patio [at The Bulldog] and have our lunch watching intramural sports is mind boggling,” Cooney said. “We never would have dreamt of being able to have that kind of social experience back then.”
Despite wanting to see the campus, it is 100% the friendships that keep them coming back, Donohue said.
“I’ll go a little bit Jesuit on you,” Donohue said. “When St. Ignatius founded the Jesuits, one of the founding tenants was a sense of community and living in community with your companions. One thing I think Gonzaga did really well, and continues to do really well, was intentionally building that community.”
Cooney agreed with this importance of community.
“I would say to the current students to stay connected, make sure that you make the effort to maintain at least some connection to your friendships because it’s more than just the benefits of friendship, it’s community,” he said. “It’s feeling like you have a place where you can always rely on your friends.”
The goal for Alumni Weekend became reuniting that community.
Cooney said the important thing was “just making sure that we were able to have, as 507 was for us back then, a location where friends could come, hang out and enjoy each other’s company. Being able to relive that again.”
The current residents of 507 helped them out, agreeing to let Cooney and Donohue use the house for a couple of hours Saturday night.
Despite this, Cooney stressed the importance of enjoying the company of your friends in the moment.
“You can never recreate a moment in time with the same people,” he said. “Yes, you can get the same five or 10 people together again, but they will have different experiences 20 years later than we had 20 years ago.”
Even so, when it comes down to it, in any moment, the people you meet here are the important part of the experience, Donohue said.
“The location is nice, but it’s more than just location, it’s the people,” Cooney said. “To be able to enjoy tonight with this group of people from 20 years ago and to hear their experiences and to share who we are today, that’s what makes this so special.”
“These people will make you who you are,” Donohue said.