Friends and fellowship at the heart of Elon Homecoming 2018

About 3,000 alumni joined Elon students, faculty and staff on campus for a variety of events celebrating their common connection to the university, each other. 

Each year, Elon Homecoming is marked by good food, music, games and the wide variety of gatherings that celebrate the common connection alumni have to the university. 

But what is it that keeps people coming back year after year? Ask an alum, and chances are they’ll respond as Larry Brooks ’66 of Madison, N.C., did on Saturday during the All-Alumni Tailgate. He pointed across the table to classmate and longtime friend John Sellers ’66 of Harrisonburg, Virginia. 

“It’s the people. It’s the friends,” Brooks said. 

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That’s what drew 3,000 alumni back to campus for Homecoming 2018, as they reconnected with people they hadn’t seen in years, caught up on each other’s lives and reminisced about the time they spent — five years, 20 years, or more than 50 years ago — at a place called Elon. “Last night, I bumped into a fraternity brother that I hadn’t seen in 50 years,” Sellers said. “Homecoming is always such a great time to catch up.”

Alumni found ample opportunities throughout Homecoming to foster those friendships with a variety of events throughout the weekend and while tailgating before Saturday’s football game against the University of Rhode Island. Awards ceremonies, open houses and reunion events on Friday were followed by the “Rock the Block” celebration in the new Schar Center, moved from East Haggard Avenue and Young Commons after wet weather moved into the area. 

But by the time runners had lined up outside the Martin Alumni Center for the Homecoming Brick Run/Walk, the skies had cleared and the brisk weather made for a perfect November day for activities indoors and out. Dozens of runners and walkers wound their way along the brick pathways through campus, which offered an opportunity for some to catch up on changes at Elon that included the opening of seven new facilities this year. 

By 10:30 a.m. the crowds by Lake Mary Nell and Rhodes Stadium began to build in the All-Alumni Tailgate Village. The scene was punctuated by squeals and salutations amid handshakes and hugs as classmates came back together to celebrate.  It was a time to introduce new children born since the last gathering, to share about new jobs taken, and to describe new homes moved into. 

Meghan Schwindaman and Amanda Arnet, both returning to campus for their 10th reunion, were catching up near their former dorm — the old Staley Hall — used to stand, an area of campus now home to the Global Neighborhood. The pair were roommates during their first year at Elon, Schwindaman having come to Elon from Pennsylvania and Arnet from Ohio. Both have remained in North Carolina, with Arnet in Charlotte and Schwindaman in Raleigh. 

“It is so nice to see the campus and how it’s grown,” Schwindaman said. 

She had parked near Schar Center, the 5,100-seat convocation center that opened this fall, and said she was amazed. Saturday night, the center would play host to Jesse McCartney, Sean Kingston and Quinn XCII for Elon’s Homecoming Concert. 

Arnet was anxious to go see the new Schar Hall, an expansion of the School of Communications that opened in 2017. “That’s where I spent all my time when I was here, so I’d love to go see how the school has changed,” she said. 

Despite the changes around campus, there’s a lot that has stayed the same. Schwindaman said.

“Everybody is walking around and waving and saying hello to one another — I said, ‘Oh yeah, this is Elon,'” Schwindaman said. 

Cheers went up as the Fire of the Carolinas marched into the tailgate village and began to play the Elon fight song before continuing on to Rhodes Stadium in advance of kickoff. 

At the tailgate check-in table, Senior Alumni Engagement Officer Scott Leighty was asked what he was hearing most from alumni. “People say it’s so good to be back,” Leighty said. “They’re quick to talk about all the growth and changes, and how remarkable they are.”

When Brooks and Sellers were students in the early 1960s, Sellers said Elon was not what it is today. “The leadership at Elon has just been so great,” Sellers said. Brooks agreed. 

“President Emeritus Leo Lambert did such a wonderful job, and we’re looking forward to what President Connie Book will do as she leads Elon,” Brooks said. 

Along with plenty of football, the contest against Rhode Island offered the chance to continue the Homecoming celebration, with Elon seniors Tres McMichael and Hope Koene announced as Homecoming Royalty and the contributions of alumni to the university recognized. Check presentations during halftime were part of the announcement shared Friday night at “Rock the Block” that alumni contributed more than $6 million this year as part of their reunions.