European Reunion: Alumni Enjoy 'Torero Bond' in Lisbon

Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, is a coastal city known for the winding alleys of its old town area, mysterious hilltop castles, palatial hotels, classic cuisine and melancholic melodies of Fado. From June 24-27, Lisbon served as a charming first-ever meeting place for the University of San Diego’s annual European Alumni Reunion summer gathering.

2016 European Alumni Reunion, Lisbon

Forty-five people, including USD alumni and friends from as far away as Estonia to as close as Spain and everywhere in between in Europe. Representing USD were President James T. Harris III and his wife, Mary, USD deans Jaime Alonso Gomez (School of Business) and Chell Roberts (Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering), Senior Director of Alumni Relations, Charles Bass, and International Constituent Relations Director Claudia Iracema Gonzales '99, '03.

The weekend was co-hosted by Portugal residents Laurent Goater ’92 (MBA), his wife Luiza, and Miguel Oliveira Martins ’08 (LLM) with help from both Gonzales and European Alumni Chapter President Jorge Pardo ’10 (LLM). Gonzales said the weekend was welcoming and enjoyable for all guests, who ranged from those who had been to multiple reunions to some present for the first time.

“It was so nice to have everyone here and to transmit our love of this wonderful country,” said Laurent Goater.

The itinerary provided meet-and-greet receptions, delicious meals, a sailing excursion, Mass and leisure time to explore Lisbon’s many treasures. Gomez gave a breakfast presentation connected to USD’s School of Business and for the first time, the reunion weekend included an optional fourth day — a private tour to the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima, followed by a visit to Obidos, a small, historic medieval town.

President Harris shared a glimpse of the Fatima visit on Instagram from the vantage point of the new Basilica behind a statue of Blessed Saint John Paul II looking toward the Shrine.

“Our trip to Portugal to be with USD alumni was memorable,” Harris said. “One of the moving experiences was our trip to Fatima. What a beautiful and holy place.”

Many attendees, Gonzales said, enjoyed their first opportunity to meet President Harris and Mary Harris, who are nearing completion of their first year at USD.

“I loved celebrating a year of working in Istanbul with USDers in Lisbon, spending time with the very cool President and Mrs. Harris and an eclectic and generous group of Toreros! Imagine sailing in Portuguese sunshine, an inspirational trip to Fatima, great food and fun conversation in a unique European setting,” stated alumna Glenda Gerde ’77, ’03 (ELDA Administrative Credential).

The annual European reunion was initially started a few decades ago by business student alumni. USD’s decision to organize the event ever since has been a fun opportunity for alumni to visit different cities and have a fun time while meeting new people who share a common thread. This year’s alumni attendees ranged from classes in the late 1970s to 2014. Two couples celebrated a wedding anniversary and another celebrated a birthday.

“It’s all about the Torero bond,” Gonzales said. “It's something that appeals to people and makes them want to restart their connection to USD or, for some like Guillaume (Girard ’95 from France), who has been attending the reunion each of the last 15 years with his wife, Xochitl, they just want to keep it going every year.”

One ritual near the end of the weekend has been to decide the following year's reunion location. The decision is typically announced at the Sunday brunch. At the 2015 reunion in Bilbao, Spain, Gonzales said “people were determined to go somewhere new” in 2016. Lisbon lived up to everyone’s expectations, including the newness factor. Gonzales, who has organized and traveled for other USD international events such as the Comité México event in Mexico City and trips to London and Hong Kong, enjoyed her first-ever visit to Lisbon, too.

So, at this year’s Sunday brunch, first-time attendee Matteo Arcari '00 (MBA) of Italy volunteered to be a host for the 2017 reunion, which will take place in Italy's Milan and Lake Como, June 23-26.

The announcement was met with excitement, especially from Alejandra Geiger ’02 of Germany, who said, “Lisbon is a magical place, but the best part was the Torero fellowship! We’ll see you in Como next year!”

— Ryan T. Blystone