Homecoming is always a special time when Ducks all over the world flock home to our campus “pond.” Seeing our alumni connect with each other and reconnect with our ever-changing campus are two aspects of my job I enjoy most. You’ll enjoy these few examples of the special encounters I had this year.
Right before the nostalgic student parade was to start, I talked to Anne Marie Levis, one of the parade judges and the immediate past president of the UO Alumni Association (UOAA) board of directors. “It’s fun to see everyone so ‘into’ the spirit,” she shared. And it was. It also was wonderful to reconnect with her and a number of other alumni as we watched the beautiful floats roll along.
The UOAA invited all members of the Order of Emerald (UO alumni who graduated fifty or more years ago) back to their alma mater for a Homecoming luncheon and tour of the campus. This was held in conjunction with the class of 1963’s reunion and induction into the Order.
As our UOAA team welcomed these valued alumni into the Lee Barlow Giustina Ballroom at the Ford Alumni Center, I had the pleasure of visiting with Janie O’Donnell. Janie goes to just about every Duck football game, and I am always pleased to see her at our UOAA pregame events when we are on the road. How great it was to see her at Homecoming and welcome her back and show her around campus. After the campus tour I asked her what she thought. “Wow!” she proclaimed. “The campus is so beautiful and has changed so much. I am so glad I took the tour.”
On Friday night of the Homecoming festivities, my wife, Lisa, and I had the pleasure of attending the third annual Multicultural Alumni Reunion. What an incredible evening! We met so many terrific alumni who were all so very excited about being back on campus and reconnecting with old friends.
Sitting at our table that evening was the Ahina family, who drove down from Seattle just for the reunion. They came to see the campus, find old friends and meet students at the various student groups. As we broke bread and got to know each other, we shared stories of our lives at the UO and beyond. Lisa and I told of adopting Carson, our son. We reminisced about our UO experiences from the eighties. And they talked about their mission group, Yucatan Helping Hands and how their experiences at the UO helped direct them into this endeavor.
In the chair at my right was Jordan Brown, a senior in the UO School of Journalism and Communication. “What’s your emphasis?” I asked. “Advertising,” he shared. “Mine was too,” I said, and the conversation continued. By the end of the evening, everyone at our table felt a strong connection between the new friendships we had formed in just a few short hours. The University of Oregon was the common bond that allowed us to make this connection.
That’s what Homecoming is about. Yes, the parade is fun, the pep rally is exciting, the events are engaging and the game is always a blast, but it’s the time spent with alumni and students – the relationships strengthened and formed – that makes it extra special. I am thankful for the friendships I personally got to reinforce and make during this year’s Homecoming because they helped to renew my passion for the UO.
I hope you had the opportunity to come back to campus this last Homecoming. If you didn’t, you still can. You don’t need to wait for another one to flock home. Make time to visit the campus, connect with old friends from the UO and meet some new Ducks. You’ll find it refreshing, and it will ignite a passion for your alma mater. Why are you waiting? See you soon!