A Brief History of the Save the WILD Life Fund (SWLF)
For over 30 years, the mission of Save the WILD Life Fund has been to increase attendance at Reunions and other on-campus events that are open to all Classmates while reducing fees to attend by providing financial support for “nice to have extras.” SWLF has funded a variety of 1971 Class events, saved Classmates fees, improved our Reunions and made them more memorable, and became part of 1971’s Wild Life “brand.”
As early as our Tenth Reunion in 1981, our Reunions co-chair, the late, great Ed Milne, envisioned that someday, somehow Reunions and some other class gatherings would be free, or largely free for the Class of 1971. This has since become a reality for Class of '71 off-years Reunions. Stu Rickerson co-chaired the 10th with Ed. He dreamed about finding a way to accomplish what the 25th Reunion Classes from our College Days did: Bring back the “bands of their times” to Reunions stages. As undergraduates, these bands were led by Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Duke Ellington, and Artie Shaw. Stu watched them play under tents, in all kinds of weather, entertaining Tigers of all stripes or blazer pattern, from different classes, and across generations.
Before Ed died in 1995, he and Stu had many conversations about their shared vision. They agreed that 1971 was an excellent Major Reunions class, but in other areas like class cohesiveness, connection, off-year gatherings, Dues, and AG, we lagged some of our peers. We had few and irregular Class gatherings. Most of what 1971 did took place only every 5 years at Major Reunions. They co-founded SWLF in 1991 and set a mission for this new arm of the Class. They began by conceiving and providing seed funding for the Fall Football Reception, the off-year Class Luncheons and the off-year Class Reception, until the Class took over funding responsibilities a decade or so later. All were and still are free to Classmates, their families, and friends. Cohesiveness, connection, and attendance grew, evolving into a class brand or identity.
Things evolved, when thanks to the generosity of a handful of 1971 Classmates, an unannounced act took our 25th stage in 1996. The performer was listed in 1971’s printed program simply as “Special Guest.” Stu did not even name the “Big Act” at our Class Meeting in Alexander Hall, instead urging that everyone should be on the dance floor well before the scheduled starting time because “something special” was about to happen. It did.
Smokey Robinson arrived on a specially constructed stage, resplendent in his 1971 Class Blazer, backed by his own famed orchestra and supplemented by a 16-piece string section hired from the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Smokey entertained more than 6,000 Princetonians spanning 60 graduate classes for over 2 hours. SWLF pledges paid all Smokey’s fees and expenses.
Smokey Robinson h71
The fact is that through the years not a single dollar of Reunions registration fees went to bring what is now 5 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees to the 1971 Reunion stages: Smokey, Creedence Clearwater, Oscar-winner Darlene Love, or Mike Love and The Beach Boys (twice). Nor did registration fees pay for the world-class sound systems required for these great bands — and which were also used to enhance the sound of 1971’s other stage acts at those ’71 Major Reunions. Those costs have all been borne entirely by SWLF, and thanks to gifts made by several hundred Classmates and friends.
Stu Cook (l) and Doug "Cosmo" Clifford (r)
Surviving co-founders of Creedence
Darlene Love h71
Mike Love h71
SWLF began with two dreamers trying to foster a stronger class identity, while increasing Reunions attendance by reducing fees Classmates paid. As Bill Zwecker details in our 50th Reunion Yearbook, Class President Steve Powers elevated SWLF’s vision, shaping 1971’s reputation as the place to be to see “Bands of our College Times.”
Others can judge how SWLF measures up against its goals, but it’s been a good run, extending far longer and accomplishing far more than we ever dreamed. SWLF thanks all those who helped along the way, financially or otherwise, and the thousands who attended 1971 Class Reunions and gatherings over the years.
Most things come to an end eventually. After thoughtful consideration, SWLF’s Board plans to sunset after the curtain comes down on our 55th Reunion. Before then, Reunion Chair Jeff Hammond thinks that SWLF can help make our upcoming off-year Reunions more special, leading to a rewarding 55thin 2026. At his urging, SWLF provided about $20,000 to keep registration fees down at our first Fall Retreat (largest Class gathering on or near Campus in 2021) and at our 51st Reunion in 2022 (“largest 51stReunion in history”). So SWLF is not quite finished. After the 55th, the plan is that remaining SWLF funds, if any, will transfer to 1971’s Reunions account to assist Classmates who can still attend.
We hope we can still count on your support in any amount you are comfortable giving.
Please click here and give what you can or give an amount that represents what the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Reunions memories SWLF have delivered to you, your families, and your friends.
The University advises that, because expenses of the Class and the SWLF are primarily for Reunions and similar activities, dues and SWLF contributions are not tax deductible. If you have any question in this regard, however, please consult your tax advisor.
If you have any further questions about SWLF -- or “nice to have” suggestions -- please contact Stu directly. Many thanks for your continuing support.
Stu Rickerson '71 P21
Founding Chair, SWLF