SANFORD — It was a typical homecoming celebration, with a parade, barbecue and a dance. Alumni gathered for a group photo shoot Saturday afternoon and then dispersed in groups, chatting and catching up with old friends.

And although Nasson College closed in 1983, the school’s spirit is very much alive, as was apparent at Saturday’s festivities, held on the grounds of the former campus on Bradeen Street.

Connie Witherby, 1973 graduate and president of the alumni association, said there were 195 people signed up for Saturday’s barbecue. She said this year, attendance was stronger than usual because it was the 100th anniversary of the founding of the college.

The Nasson Alumni Association sponsors scholarships as well as educational and cultural programs; gives support to the Nasson Community Center; and maintains the Nasson Heritage Center, where college memorabilia is stored and displayed.

Witherby said she and other alumni have bantered about why the alumni association is so active, and she said she thinks it’s in part because of the small school atmosphere and the dedicated faculty.

“We created friendships that stand the test of time,” said Witherby.

Dotty Mullane of Salem, N.H. attended Nasson College for the 1957-1958 school year. She transferred to a college in Massachusetts after her freshman year at her parent’s urging because the school was not accredited ”“ although she said it became accredited the following year.

And even though she attended the college for just one year, it left a lasting impact.

The people she met at Nasson, she said, were “the best people in the world.”

“Everybody took everyone for who you were and not where you came from,” she said.

H. Pete Smith, a 1972 graduate, said the school attracted a diverse student body.

“I met a lot of interesting people here,” he said.

The college, he said, was smaller than the high school he attended in Worcester, Mass.

He said he and others could have gone to better-known liberal arts colleges, but Nasson was a place where a student was “not a number” and had the opportunity to really get to know the faculty.

“Some of us feel that something really special happened here,” he said. “It’s sort of hard to explain, but there’s a Nasson spirit that lives on.”

Although Smith majored in psychology, he went on to have a career in radio, then television. His interest in media started at Nasson College, where he was general manager of the school’s radio station. He recalled playing popular music such as the Beach Boys and the Beatles, and doing a cooking show with a psychology professor who was a chef at the professor’s kitchen.

Rick Schneider, a 1971 Nasson graduate, came from Virginia to attend the reunion and do a reading from his book, “College for Sale: The Fall and Rise of a Closed College Campus,” which chronicles the history of the campus and the alumni community after the college closed.

Schneider said that Nasson College was a place where “everyone could be themselves,” even those with “quirky personalities.” He said even though the campus was no longer in existence, and the former school buildings were being used for other purposes, he wasn’t sad because of the alumni association, which he said is one of the most active of any closed college.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535 Ext. 325 or [email protected]

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