December 1, 2023

High School Friends Reunite at CSU Alumni Gulf Coast Chapter Event

By Sonya D. Lavett

When Ms. Gamel Hawthorne heard a lady calling after her, “Gamel! Gamel!” at the CSU Alumni Gulf Coast Chapter event at Cayman Grill on Feb. 26, she immediately knew it was someone who must have known her because the woman pronounced her name correctly.

Ms. Hawthorne chuckled, “Hardly anyone pronounces my name the right way.”

As Ms. Hawthorne turned to see who was adamantly calling her name, she almost fell out. It took her a few seconds to connect the dots and recognize the woman from her past, someone she hadn’t seen in more than 30 years.

When they pulled away from a tight hug, Ms. Hawthorne stepped back to see that her good friend from high school, Penny Robinson, as well as Penny’s sister, Tammy O’Cain, were both standing there grinning. Gamel and Penny had been good friends before graduating from Williamson High School back in 1982.

“Where have you been?”

“What have you been up to all these years?”

“Are you back in Mobile?”

“How did we lose track of each other?”

Ms. Tammy O’Cain, who earned her bachelor’s degree in health care administration from CSU in 2014, was equally surprised and pleased to see her sister’s friend from high school on the back deck of Cayman Grill at the CSU Alumni Gulf Coast Chapter event.

After many hugs and the initial shock of finding one another again several decades later, the ladies began a conversation and discovered that Ms. Hawthorne and Ms. O’Cain were both graduates of Columbia Southern University. While Ms. O’Cain’s degree program was health care and Ms. Hawthorne’s degree program was business administration/HR, each agree that they could have been in the same class together but not aware of it at the time.

It is a small world, after all.

Inevitably, each time the CSU department of Student & Alumni Engagement hosts a networking event, people will show up and recognize others from work, the neighborhood, a friend of a friend, or the past. It’s not until they spot one another in person at these events that they soon realize that they share the CSU connection as well.

Will these longtime friends get together again? Ms. Hawthorne replied, “We are planning on getting together soon for dinner and then again at the chartering event coming up in June. We won’t miss it.”

These events are only successful because of the esteemed CSU students and alumni who come out and show an interest in wanting to get involved and meet one another face-to-face. To find out if CSU is coming to a city near you, please visit .

If you would like to know more about CSU regional chapters, please visit