Shannon Jaeger: Remembering Eugene Chovanes ’50

Gene Chovanes ’50, otherwise known as “Gene, Gene, dancing machine,” for his incredible dance moves and vibrant spirit at Lehigh reunions every year, passed away on October 29, 2016. (Photos by Ryan Hulvat)

We all know of a legend. Chances are, we all remember the first time we heard of or met a legend. I remember the first time I met Eugene Chovanes ’50 or – excuse me – “Gene, Gene, the dancing machine.” It was Lehigh Reunion Weekend 2012.

Gene was a fixture at Reunion. He always wore a full suit and a fedora with a feather tucked into the band. No disrespect to our other Reunion guests, but Gene was always the most dapper man in the room. It couldn’t all be attributed to his attire, however. His vibrant spirit and unwavering cheerfulness is what drew people to him. His dancing is what impressed and inspired all who saw him.

He danced with the lightness and joy of a man who was in his happy place. Indeed, Gene liked to joke that Lehigh was the only place he ever fit in. He would dance with anyone willing and spread his joy like sunshine in a wheat field.

Gene passed away on Saturday, October 29 at the age of 90. He was at home, surrounded by the family he cherished.

I felt inspired to write this brief tribute to Gene because he has made such an impact on me personally and because he cared for Lehigh and all those associated with it. Gene shared incredible stories with me and other members of this Lehigh family. We will never forget them. We will never forget him.

Reunion this coming May will not be the same without him, yet it will be the perfect time to honor him and all those we lost this year.

One of the incredible privileges of my job is meeting wonderful and exceptional people. The Lehigh family is a special one. I consider myself extremely lucky to be a part of it. I am lucky to have shared so many stories, laughs, and celebrations with so many incredible people. People like Gene. May he keep dancing.

Shannon Jaeger
Director, Volunteer Engagement, Lehigh Univeristy

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