A New Tradition Begins at Mason: Alumni Weekend

Posted: September 28, 2009 at 1:01 am, Last Updated: September 25, 2009 at 2:45 pm

By Robin Herron

071120103+Mason alumni now have two special opportunities to “come home” to their alma mater—during the traditional Homecoming celebrated in February, and now, during Alumni Weekend, set to debut Oct. 2-4.

The fall weekend is not meant to replace or supplant Homecoming, says Chris Clark-Talley, associate vice president for alumni affairs, but to complement it. “After 12 years, Homecoming has come into its own,” she explains. “Now it’s time to introduce a new tradition.”

Nearly two years have gone into planning the three-day event, and it was a university-wide effort, Clark-Talley says. Alumni were surveyed, and a committee with representatives from various departments, schools and colleges, Development, Athletics, University Libraries and Alumni Affairs steered the planning. The Alumni Board of Directors has provided support and leadership—its members, led by President Ted Arnn, will be hosting many of the events.

The result is a selection of activities that should cover every alumnus’ interests.

In fact, according to Carol Swigart, associate director of alumni affairs, registrations so far indicate that the schedule has wide appeal, with graduates from every decade since 1970 signing up. And the number of graduates attending is spread fairly evenly among the schools and colleges.

New Places to See

historic_mason_006 72This year is a particularly good one to have a weekend alumni gathering because of all the changes at the Fairfax Campus, Clark-Talley notes.  “It’s really an excellent time to celebrate the growth of Mason,” she says. “Even alumni who were here just a year ago will find something new.”

One of the biggest additions to campus—literally—is the new Engineering Building, and it will be dedicated on the first day of Alumni Weekend at 3 p.m. Open to all, the event features food and refreshments as well as guided tours of student and faculty exhibits throughout the building.

During the weekend, alumni will have several opportunities to tour the campus and hear about Mason’s $500 million worth of construction projects, not only on the Fairfax Campus, but also at Arlington and Prince William. Options for touring virtually, on a trolley or on foot will be available.

New People to Meet

Although everyone will undoubtedly ooh and aah about the new buildings and facilities, Alumni Weekend is really about making personal connections.

Lots of events are geared toward introducing alumni to current Mason faculty and staff, such as breakfast with President and Mrs. Alan Merten and “A-List Lectures” with Mason notables: Nance Lucas (New Century College), Jim Wolfe (Management), Jim Olds (Krasnow Institute), Susie Crate (Environmental Science and Policy), Peter Stearns (Provost), Gary Dittmer (Alumni Association treasurer), Garett Jones (Economics), Coach Jim Larranaga (Athletics), Tom Calhoun (Facilities Management) and Andrew Flagel (Admissions). Alumni can also meet and tour the observatory with astronomer Harold Geller.

Reconnecting with the Past

historic_mason_013 72Of course you can’t have a reunion without savoring memories of the good ol’ days. So University Libraries Special Collections and Archives has pulled out memorabilia from Mason’s past and will display photographs, yearbooks and other archived items to jog one’s memory. For those who enjoyed “The Rat” during their Mason days, they can visit the new/old pub and enjoy music and refreshments with friends.

Most of the schools and colleges will be hosting affinity receptions or special programs for their alumni as well—offering another opportunity to reconnect with old friends and former professors.

Finally, there will be first-class entertainment each day—the amazing psychic Evasons on Friday night; a Saturday barbeque with The Monster Band, an all-star group that performs high-energy funk and rock from the ‘70s to today; and ‘80s tribute band The Legwarmers on Saturday night. Not to mention film screenings and sporting events to watch: Mason women’s soccer and volleyball, and even club football.

“We think this will be an excellent opportunity for alumni to develop a renewed and stronger connection with their alma mater,” concludes Clark-Talley.

For more details, see the Alumni Weekend web site.

Write to mediarel at gazette@gmu.edu