ACP Friends Reuniting

By Jessica Grandhomme / Created 2011-04-01

Barbara Williams Thorsen (’66) and Peter d’Aprix (’66) attended the American College in Paris in its early years – when classes were in the basement of the American Church, and the dress code was suits, ties and dresses.  At the beginning of this year, over 40 years later and living on different sides of the world, Peter and Barbara reconnected with the help of the Alumni Affairs Office and started a collection of subject groups for fellow ACP former students from the years 1962-69, through the social networking site, Facebook.

The Office of Alumni Affairs has enjoyed watching from the sidelines as these groups form and grow in true viral fashion, and with this in mind asked Barbara and Peter, along with other Facebook ACP group members, to reflect on their ACP memories and what their recent reuniting means to them.

Barbara Williams Thorsen '66

Moving into their sixth decade seems to have inspired this ‘ACP gang’ to reflect back on their lives, wondering what their fellow ACPers have done so far with theirs.  Discovering old photos from their Paris years, contemplating retirement and having more time to locate long-lost friends, hearing the sad news of the passing of fellow former students and realizing that time is not infinite, reflecting on how past experiences have influenced their lives today.  The reasons for reconnection may be different for each person, but the goal has been the same: to re-establish contact, to find out how their mutual ACP experiences may have guided their individual lives and choices, and if the ingredients that made a friendship then still hold today.  Barbara Williams Thorsen explains that her wish to reconnect was, “…a desire to learn about the post-ACP lives of those with whom I had shared the Paris college experience.  I had not understood at the time what a unique experience attending ACP turned out to be, and I regretted not having kept in close touch with those who shared it.”

Certainly one thing is true – the group remembers how, at the time, they felt they were experiencing something extraordinary.  They were living abroad, embracing a new culture, all without the modern technology that we take for granted today.  Traveling abroad?  It was a singular experience.  Email?  Forget it – not even a landline telephone within easy access.  Many of their college friends after ACP never understood “abroad.”  A group member notes that, “ACP friends from that generation understand the decade, the living abroad experience, and the experience of cultural immersion. I love the connection to others in the group.”

Peter d'Aprix '66

A few months after the launch of the ACP Facebook groups, it indeed seems to be the little snippets of memories that take the fore.  The smells, textures, look and feel of Paris; the study trips and professors; the music they listened to.  Other’s memories trigger those in the rest of the group that they thought had been lost forever.  Peter d’Aprix says, “As a group, these bits and pieces, like a jigsaw puzzle, begin to recreate a tableau of our early experiences in Paris.”

Reflecting on how the American College in Paris of the 1960s might differ from The American University of Paris of today, one common thought runs through the group.  The raw, fledgling college they knew then offered little institutional support other than classes and help with housing, but this was also what ‘made’ the experience. Students were thrown on their own resources. “Some felt lost, some reveled in it, and many were a bit of both. But it did make us learn to depend on our own selves for whatever we did,” remembers Peter.  And AUP today?  “Clearly it is larger, more organized, more structured and institutionalized.” When they look back together, the group feels that the small rooms, the basement of the Church, going between the Church and the Cathedral for classes, exploring and enjoying the city and Parisian culture, being left to their own devices for survival in Paris as foreign students, the opportunity to grow beyond themselves in the days when there was little TV, no computers or internet, no social networks – all of these things made it a totally unique experience.  “The cultural jolt was, as a result, probably a bit stronger (than for today’s students), but that jolt made us sit up and pay attention,” says Peter.

Networking serves a different purpose for this generation than for more recent graduates.  As Barbara explains, “I am past looking for professional networking, but appreciate AUP facilitation in re-connecting with fellow classmates.  We’ve reached an age when we no longer focus on achieving, accumulating, impressing. I think we all know that no one on his deathbed really regrets not working more, but we often regret not spending more time with those we care deeply about.”

Peter, Barbara et al are enjoying the fun and novelty of coming up with shared memories and rekindling forgotten ones, and they share a hope that this will enrich their lives.  Modern technology has provided them with an easy, non-intrusive and immediate medium of communication, enabling them to enjoy and deepen relationships that geographical separation may have prevented in the past.  As Pat Pierard (’65) says, “Our group is like a good, fast moving house party you can check into as you like, picking up on reminiscences and conversations about Paris then and now, favorite books and movies, art, food and wine, world events, travel adventures, life experiences, and how to skillfully navigate the ‘golden years’.”

Peter d'Aprix and Barbara Williams in 1965

Going forward, the founding group members hope to see an ongoing ‘club’ relationship between members who are relatively the same age.  Limiting the group to ACP former students from the years of 1962-69 not only reflects this, but will also keep membership small enough to ensure the ‘family’ feel.  Members enjoy exchanges not just about ACP and Paris, but are expanding to many other subjects.  As Peter describes, “We are also commenting on other experiences that have taken place in the intervening years and on what is happening in today’s world, with some reflections on how our early experiences have affected our outlooks today.”

Barbara adds: “We would love to encourage other 60s classmates to contact us if they are interested in joining us. We have tentatively agreed to limit the groups to classes 1962 through 1969 as that age group most closely shares our life experiences, and it has become quite apparent that our common history has been a significant bonding feature for this group.”  


If you would like to join any of the ACP Facebook groups started by Peter and Barbara, and attended The American College in Paris between 1962 and 1969, please contact us.



Jessica Grandhomme is the Manager of Alumni Affairs and Development at AUP.

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A Traditional
Gourmet Dinner for Two Starving Students in Paris,
circa 1964

By Cynthia Hale Gross ’65 / Created 2011-04-01


Posted on one of the ACP Facebook groups recently, the Office of Alumni Affairs loved this recipe put together by ACPer Cynthia Hale Gross ’65, who kindly agreed to share it with the AUP community.

Says Cynthia, “Below is the menu favored by myself and my ACP roommate, Perla Pultuskier. Having not so much as a hotplate and daunted to find an affordable restaurant in the 16th arrondissement, most nights we dined quite splendidly while perched on our beds sharing the following spread.


1 fresh baguette, split lengthwise
100 grams paté de campagne
1 kilo Belgian endive
100 grams champignons à la Grècque and/or
100 grams céleri rémoulade
2 tartes aux abricots or Napoléons
1 bouteille Côtes du Rhône (the kind you can take back and have the empty bottle refilled from the cask)


Chop endive and toss with olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Split baguette and smear with all the paté. Cut in half. Divide the remaining items equally. Guaranteed to help one gain at least 5 pounds over the course of a year.

This particular thread on ACP – The Early Years received no less than 53 responses!

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