On Wednesday morning, a purple welcome banner was hung on the Goshen College sign. A large white tent popped up on the lawn outside Kulp. All over campus, signs of preparation for Homecoming Weekend, held this Friday through Sunday, were taking shape.
Goshen College expects to welcome back an estimated 400 alumni in an annual event that has occurred for decades. Kelli King, director of alumni, church and parent relations, estimates that gatherings have been held for more than 90 years, since the Alumni Board formed in the 1920s.
The weekend boasts a full schedule of events, kicking off with a convocation Friday morning; the Alumni Board will present the 2013 Culture for Service awards to Tony Brown (’71), Arden Shank (’74), Lynda Hollinger-Janzen (’78) and Fred Litwiller (’62).
The weekend is planned in a year-long process by a number of people, including the Alumni Board, the Institutional Advancement office and the Office of Conferences and Events. King and Jan Ramer, constituency relations administrative assistant, are the main event coordinators.
“We’re seen class reunions grow over the last few years, especially younger classes, which is exciting,” said King. “For alumni, it’s about reestablishing new relationships and making new friends, as well as keeping in touch the college and what students are doing now.”
To make admissions grow, the planners took out the 5th and 15th year reunions to encourage attendance at the 10th and 20th . The younger classes have been showing stronger numbers compared to five or six years ago.
A play inspired by the true story of “Mennonite rebel” Sam Steiner, who helped to start the underground newspaper, Mennopause in the 1960s, will make its Goshen College debut on Friday. Gadfly: Sam Steiner Dodges the Draft will show at Umble Center; Sam Steiner himself will also return for the event.
Shirley Showalter, former president of Goshen College, will also return to present her new memoir, Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World. There will be several book signings on Friday and Saturday.
Other highlights, such as an alumni bike ride, a 60th anniversary celebration for the department of nursing, a number of class reunions – the youngest is 2003, the oldest 1948 – an ultimate Frisbee tournament, a homecoming hymn sing, the homecoming music gala featuring all three choirs and orchestra, and a picnic on the lawn will keep attendees busy.
King said there were several changes made to this year’s homecoming, including making the weekend coordinate with First Friday and establishing special class gifts, an idea that has been developing for three years.
The 50th reunion class is contributing to the SST endowment; the 30th is giving to the Charles Peachy Scholarship. The 60th reunion class will give a picnic table and umbrellas for students to use outside the Leaf Raker.
“For students to see what fun the alumni have coming back to campus, to see the excitement and energy they bring back is really positive experience,” said King. “To see people really loyal to their alma mater is important.”