For many graduates of the College of William & Mary, having the opportunity to roam the brick pathways of their alma mater comes only once a year, during Homecoming. They embraced that chance to rekindle those memories last weekend.
Every year around October, for a weekend, alumni who graduated as far back as time immemorial or as recently as last May are able to reminisce about the four years of their lives spent at William & Mary. They often meet with old classmates, reminisce about life, and stop to remember a time when getting that final homework assignment done was the top priority in life.
But perhaps most importantly of all, it is a time for alumni, both recent and long past, to think about what it truly means to be part of the William & Mary Tribe.
“Being part of the ‘Tribe’ means being part of the William & Mary community,” Maryann Balint, ’06 said. “It means being proud of William & Mary’s heritage as well as the current students who will shape the future.”
To some, being a Tribe for life, means making and keeping friends that they will never forget for the rest of their lives. Homecoming is just an event that helps them reminisce and reconnect.
“It feels very good to be back on campus,” Pepper Lewis ’65 said. “It’s great to have an opportunity to be back here and see people that I have not seen for 45 years. I didn’t recognize anybody; they all aged, I didn’t.”
To others, being a Tribe member for life means homecoming is a time to recall what made being 3,000 miles away from home so special.
“Every time I come here, it’s a reinforcement of what a great place this is and how lucky I was to go to school here,” Bob Moore ’66 recounted. “I stuck it out, and I’m glad I did. All my high school friends, they’ve never left the (San Francisco) Bay area. They didn’t get to experience what I did coming here.”
To more recent alumni, it was an opportunity for looking at William & Mary from a different lens than that of a student.
“It feels comfortable,” Lauren Aadland ’10 said. “You know you don’t go here anymore, but it still feels like a part of you, especially being a recent graduate. You still remember it all, you still know all the buildings, you still visit your favorite stuff. It’s different from when you go here, but it’s a good different.”
Homecoming officially kicked off this year with a Friday night pep rally in Yates Field, complete with a bonfire and several hundred members of the Tribe screaming for a sound victory by the William & Mary football team over the University of Delaware Blue Hens the next day.
And of course, the Homecoming festivities this year also included the traditional parade from the far end of the Duke of Gloucester Street to W&M Hall. There were marching units of cheerleaders and bands from nearby high schools, and processions of cars with representatives from nearby alumni chapters. There also were the occasional bizarre floats that depicted, rather gruesomely, what we were going to do to the Blue Hens later that afternoon.
But Homecoming wasn’t only for the alumni. Current students also found ways to get involved in the festivities. There were acapella concerts, costumed ultimate Frisbee matchups, and tailgate barbeques, to name a few.
“All you gotta do is go to that sunset ceremony that we went to last evening, and it’s just so moving to hear a guy like President (Taylor) Reveley talk about how there’s so much history and tradition here,” Bob Moore said. “It makes you feel really lucky that you were able to take part in it.”
But perhaps the highlight of this Homecoming Weekend was the football outcome every Tribe member was hoping for: a 17-16 victory over the #2 ranked Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) team, the Blue Hens. As a last-minute field goal attempt by the Delaware kicker sailed wide of the goalposts, a sold-out crowd of more than 12,260 students and alumni soared out of their seats as Zable Stadium erupted in cheers.
As one enthusiastic alumni from the Class of 1990 said, “It was awesome and the Tribe won, so you can’t beat that. William & Mary alumni come back and they still do it in style.”
But in the end Homecoming, for many, was a brief respite from the chaos of modern life. It was a chance to go back to one’s roots, to rediscover a side of one’s past that, for some, had been shed a long time ago.
“It’s something that’s hard to put into words when you walk across campus and you think about how long this place has been here, and how many different famous people have gone to school here,” Moore said. “Not that I’m one of them, but it’s just amazing the traditions you have and how proud that makes you feel to be able to experience that.”
Greg Benson '11 contributed to this story