One of the things Nick Bell remembers most about TIP is how hard it was to leave each summer.
“You become so close with a group of people in a short period of time, and when it’s over, it feels like it’s cut off so quickly,” he says.
Bell attended TIP in 1986, 1987, and 1988. He and his friends started having reunions in the Atlanta area around that same time – usually in the fall. These were typically weekend get-togethers to reconnect and pick up where they left off.
“Getting together provides some follow-up and almost a sense of closure. It helps you keep in touch.”
These were the days of writing letters and talking on the phone – landlines, of course, he recalls. But for Nick’s two sons, both TIPsters, it’s a completely different experience when it comes to staying connected to their TIP friends. Both attended TIP at Duke East. Zachary (his oldest) attended Summer Studies in 2014, 2015, and 2016, while Michael attended the program in 2016, 2017, and 2018.
“In the current age of social media, it’s never been easier for TIPsters to keep in touch,” Nick points out. And he’s right. When the program ends, and everyone heads home, new technologies allow conversations to continue in group messages and on social media outlets. But this heightened connectivity doesn’t seem to curb the desire of TIPsters for continued face-to-face interactions. So Nick came up with an ingenious solution: sleep-overs.
Bell’s sons now participate in their own informal TIP reunions near Houston, where they reside. TIP friends from places like Kansas, Georgia, and Tennessee make their way to the lone star state, usually in December. “We had people at our house over the course of the week,” Bell said. “They spent time hanging out, going to dinners, and finding things to do to relive their memories.”
The Bell household is “busy” during these times. But Bell doesn’t seem to mind the company. In past years, he’s pulled out old TIP yearbooks he’s held onto, and the younger TIP alum get a kick out of seeing Quadfest group photos and moments from decades ago.
Being around these gatherings allows him to draw similarities between his and his son’s TIP experiences. The dances are similar. The overall schedule of the program is familiar. Some of the courses that have stood the test of time – like John Kane’s economics course. Quadfest, too, resembles what it was for Bell decades ago.
“It’s cliché to say, but things have both changed and stayed the same,” he said.
Other aspects of his son’s experience seem more unfamiliar to him. He doesn’t recall a set list of songs that “had to be played at dances” when he was at TIP. Songs like American Pie weren’t yet the iconic traditions they’ve become over the years. Bell wonders why others like Cat’s in the Cradle didn’t stick as well – a story for another time, perhaps.
“Things we just did back then have now become traditions.”
Bell said his sons are working on plans for another reunion around the same time this year. They’ll pick up right where they left off – just like their father did decades ago. Of course, not even a reunion can capture the full magic of TIP.
“TIP is still a great place to have a hyper-intense three weeks where you can reinvent yourself,” Nick says. “You meet new people – try on new ideas for yourself – learn about yourself – and leave your comfort zone.”
We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.