December 2, 2013

For SMU alumnus Kent Hofmeister ’73, ’76, studying abroad as a student through SMU-in-Spain was a life-changing experience. Forty years later, he gathered former classmates for a trip down memory lane at an SMU-in-Spain Mini Reunion during Homecoming Weekend.

Kent Hofmeister '73, '76 (seated on the grass in the foreground) organized the SMU-in-Spain Mini Reunion held during Homecoming Weekned.

Kent Hofmeister ’73, ’76 (seated on the grass in the foreground) organized the SMU-in-Spain Mini Reunion held during Homecoming Weekend.

Hofmeister, an attorney and founding partner of Brown & Hofmeister in Dallas, was already serving as co-chair for the Class of 1973’s Centennial Reunion when he decided to organize the Mustang Mini Reunion. The “minis” are alumni-driven gatherings that bring together classmates who shared a distinctive connection while at SMU.

“People were absolutely thrilled with the idea,” says Hofmeister, who earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Meadows School of the Arts and a Juris Doctor from Dedman School of Law. “They’d say things like, ‘I can’t believe you’re calling me! That’s wonderful!’”

With alumni showing such keen interest, he quickly assembled an unofficial committee. Tobie Hayes Sasser ’73, ’74 jumped on board to host while Sally DeWitt Spurgin ’74 took charge of nametags.

Barry Hobbs ’73 and wife Gwen Dawson Hobbs ’74 volunteered to do a slideshow of old photos, and Hofmeister contributed video footage of street life in Madrid and surrounding villages. The multimedia presentation was a hit with the SMU-in-Spain alumni, he says. “People were amazed to see photos of themselves at that time.”

Approximately 40 students who studied in Spain in spring 1972 attended the get-together October 25.

Even those who couldn’t make it to the party had an opportunity to participate. Hofmeister had sent a short questionnaire to everyone before the event and compiled the answers in a scrapbook format. “That was really fun,” he says, as it conjured up memories from his time abroad as well as from his days on the SMU campus.

Hofmeister and his fellow celebrants are among the more than 2,000 alumni of the SMU-in-Spain program. Established in 1969, it is the University’s longest-running education abroad program.

While reconnecting and reminiscing was the main focus of the mini reunion, the event also served a philanthropic purpose with a Spanish flavor: Hofmeister led the “Goya Gives” drive, which raised about $5,500 for the Meadows Museum from the alumni group.

When he thinks back to his semester abroad, Hofmeister recalls being out of the country for the first time without cell phones or email to keep in touch. His memories of riding trains from Madrid to Barcelona, hitchhiking with buddies to castles, monasteries and caves, and taking a ferry into Morocco remain vivid. But what makes those recollections so special are the SMU alumni who share them.

“This was a special experience and a special group of people, and, collectively, everybody felt that way,” he says, “I don’t want to sound corny, but bringing the group back together was a labor of love.”

— Sarah Bennett ’11