This weekend's 120th anniversary celebration for UW-Madison's The Daily Cardinal student newspaper drew alumni from San Francisco, New York City, Seattle, Amsterdam, Italy and elsewhere.
More than a few came because of the untimely loss of a dear friend: paper alumni and Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid, whose death in February shocked the Cardinal family. For this small core of alumni, the event helped transform the tragedy into a chance to reconnect with college friends many had not seen in more than 20 years.
Ticking off the list of alumni who flew in from across the globe, Shadid-era staffer Sue Evans says, "I don't think this trip would have happened if it wasn't for him."
When government forces in Libya captured Shadid in 2010, around 40 alumni from the late 1980s reconnected online, forming a private Facebook group under the name "Shadid Brigade, Daily Cardinal Division."
Following his death, the group became a place of public mourning, mutual support and, eventually, a way to reunite with long-lost friends.
"Everybody was sort of supporting each other," says Jennie Anderson, a campus writer under Shadid in the early 1990s. "We all kind of reconnected at a very basic level."
The brigade took this weekend's 120th anniversary event as a chance to reunite "at least one time," says Evans, now a public relations consultant and founder of the Seattle-based public relations firm Northwest Media Allies.
Evans says her experience at the Cardinal was profound. "The Daily Cardinal taught me more about the world and myself than any class at the UW-Madison," she says. "Even after the Cardinal, we have experienced and shared in each other's emerging careers, personal passions, weddings, growing children, divorces and, sadly, death. My Cardinalistas will always be my family."
The group paid tribute to its fallen comrade during Saturday night's gala, hosted by The Daily Cardinal Alumni Association at the Orpheum Theater. Speaking before more than 100 alumni and current staffers, former Cardinal reporter Christina Pretto recalled Shadid's warmth, kindness, ambition and humor.
"He was so, so alive," she said.
Pretto, now senior vice president of corporate communications at AIG, said she and fellow "brigadiers" from Shadid's era "all knew [Shadid] wanted to become a foreign correspondent," and took comfort knowing he achieved his goal and loved his work.
She read an excerpt from an email Shadid sent her during the Arab Spring: "Such a remarkable moment. So glad to be here."
The Brigade is currently working with UW-Madison's School of Journalism and in consultation with Shadid's family to create opportunities for aspiring foreign correspondents at UW, particularly those working for the Cardinal.
Although his work frequently took him halfway around the world, Shadid never forgot his time at the Cardinal, frequently citing his experience at the paper as formative years.
He was a member of the paper's alumni association, a donor and a staff mentor who went above and beyond, according to Anthony Sansone, president and founder of the alumni association.
"He did these things he had no need to do," Sansone says. "Whenever we needed him, he was there, even though he had every reason and every excuse not to be."
In the early 2000s, the alumni association named him "Alumni of the Year" and Shadid skyped in to receive the award.
"He told us the Cardinal was 'the hardest job he ever had,'" Sansone recalls, adding, "And this was after being shot in Ramallah."
Founded April 4, 1892, the Cardinal is the nation's sixth-oldest daily student newspaper. Over 200 past and current staff members attended the anniversary, in part because of their shared commitment to the paper and its teaching mission, says Allison Sansone, vice-president of the alumni association.
"It's the same mission, it's the same work and it has the same effect on everybody," adds Sansone, who is married to Anthony Sansone.
This weekend's anniversary celebration also included a showcase of 120 years of staff photography, panels featuring the paper's Emmy and Pulitzer award-winning alumni and an office open house.
Alison Bauter is the news manager for The Daily Cardinal.