Homecoming 2016 celebrates Elon's past, marks big steps toward the future
More than 2,000 alumni returned to Elon University for Homecoming 2016 to reconnect and celebrate.
The chill in the weekend air was a sure sign fall has arrived, and the flood of alumni to campus left no doubt it was Homecoming at Elon. And while the weekend focused on celebrating those who are part of Elon's history, events and announcements throughout the weekend helped pave the way for what Elon will be in the future.
More than 2,000 alumni representing classes stretching back to at least 1945 converged on Elon for Homecoming 2016 held Oct. 21-23 to head back to the classroom, "rock the block," reconnect during Homecoming tailgating and be reminded how special it is to be part of the Elon family.
Reunion events throughout the weekend and tailgating before Saturday's football game against the University of Richmond were just a few of the ways alumni, faculty, staff and current students were able to celebrate Elon during Homecoming.
Dennis Clinton '66 returned to Elon from Plymouth, Massachusetts, to celebrate his 50th reunion this year along with his daughter, Kelle Clinton Sisk '03, and their family. Clinton was living in Massachusetts when he enrolled at Elon, and came to play basketball as a nonscholarship athlete. He was also a member of the golf team during his time here, and fondly remembers competing at Alamance Country Club.
"It's so great to be back to see the place and see how big it's become," Clinton said. "I would recommend Elon highly to anyone thinking of coming here. The education is great. The campus is always expanding. They're thinking beyond the immediate future."
One visit to Elon was all it took for his daughter to want to attend — and then remain in the local community after graduation. Sisk is a detective with the Burlington Police Department, and said the growth at Elon "speaks a lot for the school and the alumni that gave to the school to see it expanding. I love walking the campus and talking to people."
This year's Homecoming including a number of new offerings for alumni, with new programs and gatherings added to what has traditionally been a weekend filled with ways to reconnect with old classmates and the campus, as well as honor those alumni who are so important to the Elon family.
New this year was "Classes Without Quizzes," an offering of mini-classes with eight different Elon professors who spoke on a broad range of topics. The 45-minute sessions on Friday afternoon in classrooms around campus drew dozens of alumni to learn about microbiomes, childhood development, polling and politics, engaged learning, civil discourse and more.
Hundreds of alumni, faculty, staff and current students turned out for the new "Rock the Block" celebration on Friday night that offered live music, lawn games, inflatables, artists drawing caricatures and plenty to eat and drink with seven food trucks lining a closed stretch of East Haggard Avenue through campus.
Stephanie Longenbaker Ponzio '98 was back at Elon with her husband, Andy Ponzio '96, to celebrate his 20th reunion. The two, now living in Atlanta, were gathered with friends Saturday tailgating before the football game, with Stephanie Ponzio saying that "Rock the Block" was a great way to connect with Elon friends.
She hadn't been back to campus in about 15 years, and said the changes are striking, but the Elon community is welcoming when alumni come back. "It's a beautiful place that has great academics, and is a place that can offer a lot of what bigger schools can," she said. "It's so great to come back."
The good food and music wasn't the only thing celebrated on Friday, with hundreds gathering by Hunt Softball Park to mark the official groundbreaking for the 5,400-seat Schar Center, the new convocation center and arena that will serve as a home to Elon's basketball and volleyball programs. The 161,000-square-foot center, to be completed in mid-2018, is being built thanks to the support of a host of donors led by benefactors Dwight C. and Martha Schar P'16, P'19.
Another major building project on Elon's campus received a Homecoming boost Friday, with the announcement of a $2.5 million gift from Elon alumna Gail LaRose '64 and her daughter, Trustee Michelle LaRose, to name a new student gathering space planned for the historic part of campus. The LaRose Student Commons will provide much-needed gathering and study space for students living in the Historic Neighborhood, which includes West, Sloan, Virginia, Smith, Carolina, and Hook, Brannock and Barney residence halls.
Back again for Homecoming was the Brick Run 5K Run/Walk, an event that was introduced in 2015 and returned this year, with participation doubling to close to 100 entrants. The event, with a course that wound along the brick-paved sidewalks through campus, was organized by the Office of Alumni Engagement and Elon Campus Recreation.
Saturday morning saw nearly 40 members of the Class of 1966 in attendance to be inducted into the ranks of Golden Alumni, and for the first time, Elon saw its first 55th reunion organized, with five members of the Class of 1961 reconnecting. Close to 400 members of Elon's most recent class of alumni—the Class of 2016—returned to campus for Homecoming.
Homecoming was also time to honor alumni, with Elon presenting awards to seven distinguished alumni during a reception and ceremony on Friday, and on Saturday, the Elon Black Alumni Network and Elon's LGBTQIA Alumni Network presenting awards at brunch events.
Homecoming also saw the return of a piece of Elon's history with the reinstallation of a recently restored chandelier that hung more than a century ago in Old Main, the university's former administration building that was destroyed in the 1923 fire. A dedication ceremony for the historic chandelier, restored thanks to the generosity of Elon donors, was held Saturday afternoon in the Archives Reading Room at Carol Grotnes Belk Library, where the chandelier now hangs.