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A film with class

Nisky’s 50th reunion spurs documentary shot across country

Four Niskayuna Class of 1962 gradutes worked together on a documentary featuring 25 classmates for their 50th reunion. From back left is Bob Van Degna, Donald Wilcock and Randy Johnson and in the front is Anna VA Polesny.

Four Niskayuna Class of 1962 gradutes worked together on a documentary featuring 25 classmates for their 50th reunion. From back left is Bob Van Degna, Donald Wilcock and Randy Johnson and in the front is Anna VA Polesny. Submitted photo

— It started as an idea to produce a video for a class reunion, but ended up as a documentary chronicling the struggles and triumphs of a generation.

Once Niskayuna Class of 1962 graduate Bob Van Degna heard his classmates were about to mark their 50th reunion, he wanted to do something special. Also, he didn’t feel “that old.”

“I wanted to do something a little different and I thought it would be a good way to reconnect with my classmates,” Van Degna, now an Arizona resident, said. “For me, high school was a good experience.”

What he did ended up being very different. He expanded on the original idea of a video featuring a few classmates telling then-and-now stories to a 90-minute documentary featuring 25 intimate classmate portraits.

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Filmmaker Bob Van Degna interviews fellow Niskayuna Class of 1962 gradute Marilyn Mullin Cairen at her home in Madison, Wisconsin.

“There are a lot of stories that you are going to hear that are going to stick with you, but I think it is how people overcome problems,” Van Degna said. “There are just lots of different stories and they are all very interesting.”

One class member has conquered cancer four times and another has climbed some of the world’s tallest mountains. One works as the CEO for a group of 80 lawyers providing legal aid to destitute residents in Chicago’s inner city. The film also focuses on the only classmate who died in Vietnam, Robert Cragin Jr. Many of the former classmates are spread across the country.

The film, “Turning Pages,” is premiering on Saturday, Sept. 29, at 2 p.m., on the big screen at the Mainstage at Proctors. The screening is open to the public and admission is free. After the film, there will be time to meet the filmmakers for questions, discussion and to provide feedback.

Van Degna’s vision guided the project, but three other classmates helped him create the film. He used his photography skills alongside artist Anna VA Polesny, journalist Don Wilcock and human resources consultant Randy Johnson.

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