“Kids seem to be the admission ticket for making new friends in strange places,” says Kirk Williams, who figured he was the only Vanderbilt alumnus living in the small coastal village of Sumner, New Zealand, until one day his wife took their children, Ruby and Kirk, to the library.
“Little Kirk was wearing a Vandy sweatshirt when a woman came up to my wife, Breda, and asked if she had gone to Vanderbilt,” Kirk recalls.
“No,” Breda replied, “but my husband did.” Turns out the other woman’s husband was Billy O’Steen.
“I couldn’t place the name, but when Billy arrived at our house, the recognition was instant,” Kirk says. “We swapped many stories. He was a Sigma Chi and I was a Beta. It seems we even dated the same girl along the line.”
The Williams children became fast friends with the O’Steen girls, Lawson and Stewart, as did Breda and Billy’s wife, Susan. And then they found a third Vanderbilt graduate living in Sumner–Betsy Butera Macdonald, BS’90. “Betsy has a daughter, Virginia, and little boy, Gus,” Kirk explains. “She met a Kiwi, Andrew, while living out in Aspen. They married, and he wanted to move home to Christchurch.”
The three determined that their paths had crossed before, at fraternity houses and Nashville music venues. “We have since all become best of friends and even had Thanksgiving at Betsy’s house this year,” Kirk says. “I find it very bizarre that three people from a Southern school unwittingly followed such a similar pathway.”
Any untapped Vanderbilt Kiwis would be most welcome at small but lively gatherings of the Christchurch, New Zealand, Vanderbilt Alumni Chapter.
© 2015 Vanderbilt University
Conversation guidelines: Vanderbilt Magazine welcomes your thoughts, stories and information related to this article. Please stay on topic and be respectful of others. Keep the conversation appropriate for interested readers across the map.