‘Elon is always home’: Alumni return to campus for Homecoming & Reunion celebration

School pride and high spirits were on full display for Elon's annual Homecoming and Reunion Weekend.

Elon alumni celebrating during Homecoming & Reunion Weekend on Oct. 21, 2023.

As Lisa Naatjes Harlow ’93 and Beth Brown ’93 stood in the Historic Neighborhood for this year’s Homecoming & Reunion Weekend at Elon, waves of memories began flowing back to them. They met during their first year at Elon, but this was the first time the two of them had been back on campus together.

“I used to live in Baxter House across the street,” Harlow said, “and it’s not there anymore. It’s now the McMichael science building.”

“I was in Carolina Hall,” Brown said. “It looks like the historic campus is the same.”

As they continued to reminisce, they realized that there was so much of Elon that was new. “I don’t know how I found out about Elon, honestly. But now, its name has become more popular for what all it offers. Elon has grown so much and there is a lot more to do here,” Brown said.

There was no shortage of things to do during this year’s Homecoming & Reunion Weekend as thousands returned to campus for a weekend of fellowship and community.

On Friday, the Elon community gathered on Young Commons for the annual Rock the Block celebration with live music, food and activities for all ages. The Class of 1973 Golden Alumni were also honored during a special luncheon and induction ceremony with President Connie Ledoux Book and presented with their medallions to commemorate the milestone.

Two girls dance with Elon cheerleaders during the Rock the Block celebration on Friday.

Other events and receptions such as the Night at Taphouse 15th-35th Reunion Celebration, various departmental social gatherings and open houses, the Oak Originals Pop-up and expansive tailgating allowed both new and seasoned alumni to connect and provided ample fun for the entire weekend.

Adam Leonard ’08 retuned to Elon for the first time in five years to celebrate his class’s 15th reunion. Reconnecting with old faculty, including President Book who was one of his professors in the School of Communications, was a top highlight of the day and a reminder that Elon connections run deep.

“She recognized me when we ran into her last night,” Leonard said. “She actually sent my wife and me a card when we got married.”

Fire of the Carolinas marching band strolling through campus on Saturday, Oct. 21.

Katherine Wise ’13 echoed this sentiment during her first visit to campus in nine years. During an alumni campus tour, the School of Communications alumna stopped by Schar Hall and ran into several of her former professors who spoke with her as if she had been in their classes only yesterday.

“It’s hard for alums at other schools to come back and have multiple professors still know them and be invested in their career,” Wise said. “I wasn’t reintroducing myself to people and that was very nice. The connections are real. It’s not just a fabricated thing that lasts for four years.”

On Saturday, Elon hosted the Elon Black Alumni Network (EBAN) Alumni Awards Brunch which celebrated EBAN’s achievements over the last year and the 30th anniversary of the founding of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc. campus chapter, and a 10th anniversary brunch for the Gender and LGBTQIA Center (GLC) at Elon.

Elon fans cheering in Rhodes Stadium during Elon’s Homecoming matchup vs. Monmouth.

The Phoenix were able to hold off the Monmouth Hawks 28-26 in Rhodes Stadium in a well-fought  Coastal Athletic Association victory. Mandi Lichtenstein ’24 and Chase Gurey ’24 received the most votes from their classmates and were crowned Homecoming Royalty.

This year marks a significant remembrance for the university with it being the 100th anniversary of the fire of 1923 that destroyed much of campus. All year, Elon has paid tribute to the devastating event that could have been the end of the institution and celebrated the fortitude of how Elon has evolved since then.

For Wise, returning to campus, with her younger cousin who lives in the area, was a reminder of some of the innovations at the center of the yearlong “Rising from the Ashes: A Century of Innovation” commemoration.

“I stopped by the Kernodle Center to share the impact that all the service learning had on me and to see now how they’ve expanded,” Wise said. “Additionally, the study abroad programs and opportunities here completely shaped my career and experience. I love to see that that’s continued to be promoted as a key part of Elon.”

Mandi Lichtenstein ’24 and Chase Gurey ’24 received the most votes from their classmates and were crowned Homecoming Royalty.

Jean Tyson ’99 P’23 and her cousin Pamela DeShazo-Brown ’86 both live in the area and return to campus often. The uniqueness of their Elon experience is what keeps them so connected to the university. As they’ve visited campus periodically in the years since their respective graduations, Elon has always felt familiar even as it grew.

“They draw you back,” Tyson said.

“Elon has always made you a priority,” DeShazo-Brown said. “I felt that way when I was here and I still feel that way now.”

Arianne McSellers ’03 was excited to return and reconnect with her line sisters from Delta Sigma Theta sorority. It had been seven years since she’d been back but Elon’s powerful sense of community remains.

‘”It’s not just a college. It’s an actual community,” McSellers said. “Elon is always home. Whether you come back every year, once every 10 years, it’s always home.”

Elon University Homecoming, October 21, 2023.