Queen's University

QUAA President's column: The return of a grand alumni tradition

Principal Woolf has announced that Homecoming Weekend celebrations will resume this fall on a trial basis

A belated Happy 2013. The New Year offers a fresh start, and many people see January as a liberating clean slate. Personally, I still feel that September is the start of the “new year.” Each August I yearn for such antiquated things as fresh notebooks, pens, and binders – but now I’m dating myself.

A new year is also a time to reflect on relationships, especially those with family and friends. This is a time to celebrate closer ties and continued caring, to acknowledge the storms that have been weathered, and the adversities that have been overcome. It is also a time to appreciate those who are still in your life, and to remember those who are not. Over time, every family grows, evolves, and changes. Some families go through rough patches, and that makes them stronger. One of my favourite quotes comes from Welsh-born English poet George Herbert (1593-1633), who wrote, “Storms make the oak grow deeper roots.”

"I commend Principal Woolf for his decision to reinstate Homecoming this fall on a trial basis, and for his challenge to our community to make it a better, more positive experience for all."

The Queen’s community is an extended family that’s also very much like an oak tree. Like any family, we celebrate each other’s accomplishments, and we grow, change, and evolve. Our community has weathered storms. We faced a huge challenge when Homecoming was suspended in 2008 due to dangerous situations that were affecting students, alumni, visitors, and the University’s neighbours here in Kingston. Many people were sad that we had lost such a longstanding tradition, and that the “dark side” of the Homecoming Weekend was having a negative impact on Queen’s reputation – especially when many of the mischief makers weren’t affiliated with Queen’s.

[The half-time parade of senior alumni at the Gaels' Homecoming Weekend football game]The half-time parade of senior alumni at the Gaels' Homecoming
Weekend football game is one of the many popular traditions
being rekindled.

The first Class reunions began informally in the years prior to WWI. When the Alumni Association was formed in 1926, one of its first official events was an alumni reunion that was scheduled to coincide with a home football game. The annual weekend quickly became one of the most anticipated events on the Queen’s social calendar. Thousands of alumni returned to campus for class reunions, the football game, and the chance to revisit their student hangouts. Alumni loved to see the changes that had taken place on campus and in Kingston, to interact with students, and to celebrate with their classmates.

After Homecoming was suspended, some alumni still returned for unofficial fall weekends; others attended sanctioned Spring Reunions, which were held in May. Thank you to all those alumni who changed their reunion plans during this time, or who missed out on a larger reunion. We appreciate your sacrifices.

I commend Principal Woolf for his decision to reinstate Homecoming this fall on a trial basis, and for his challenge to our community to make it a better, more positive experience for all. Thanks, too, to those who dedicated so much time to ­develop a new vision of Homecoming. Our reunion working group, led by QUAA Vice-Chair George Jackson, Artsci’85, and AVP (Advancement) and Executive Director (Alumni Relations) Judith Brown, Artsci’76, MA’79, had representation from students, alumni, and campus and Kingston community (please visit bit.ly/quaa2013 for the full list of names) and actively sought feedback from many others.

And so, we invite all alumni celebrating a reunion in 2013 to come home this fall. Homecoming ’13 will include the return of some well-loved traditions, but it will also have some great new programing, including student-run activities for alumni and community events.

Homecoming’13 will be celebrated over two weekends. We invite alumni marking a fifth, 15th, 25th, 35th, or 45th anniversary to return on the weekend of October 4-6. Those marking a 10th, 20th, 30th, 40th, and 50th or greater anniversary are invited for the weekend of October 18-20. The implementation of two weekends gives us the opportunity to bring together generations of alumni, while easing the stress of finding suitable accommodation for all returning visitors.

With the successful implementation of two safe and enjoyable reunion weekends in the fall, we can start planning for Homecoming events in 2014 and beyond.

If your class or group is returning for Homecoming in October, I’d love to hear how your plans are going: email me at QUAA.President@queensu.ca.

Please visit the Homecoming 2013 ­webpage at bit.ly/homecoming2013 for Class and group reunion plans and the ­latest updates.

Queen's Alumni Review, 2013 Issue #1Queen's Alumni Review
2013 Issue #1
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Last updated at 4:38 pm EDT, Thu August 28, 2014
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