“Changing Strides” participants pose outside ‘The Fitz’ after finishing the 5K race.
By Melissa Shephard
Rain clouds cleared and temperatures warmed just in time for Homecoming 2012’s “Curtains up on a Great Future.” October 19-21 alumni and friends flocked back to “the Hill” to enjoy a weekend loaded with activities, including everything from this year’s slew of Shaw Center dedication events to Graceland’s traditional favorites: the alumni games, student and guest concerts, the Homecoming play, class reunions and more.
The weekend launched Friday afternoon with the start of alumni games, the 13th annual Alumni & Emeriti Awards banquet, and the annual Alumni and Friends golf tournament. After a day filled with celebration, the night sky exploded with a Homecoming Fireworks Spectacular on the campus quad, truly one of the most fantastic displays “the Hill” has ever seen.
Saturday morning’s start was just as colorful, when the Outreach International club hosted its first annual 5K run/walk, “Changing Strides.” Participants were encouraged to wear white clothing to the race, and Campus Organization of Social Activities (COSA) members threw an assortment of colorful paints. After 3.1 miles, Outreach International raised money for their fight against global poverty, and participants were dyed an explosion of color.
As the day progressed, alumni congregated for class reunions, dating back to the 60 Year Alumni Reception for the class of ’52. Perspective students toured the campus throughout the morning, eventually coming together for a sub and pizza party outside the Hampton Center.
Students and alumni gathered in the Shaw Amphitheatre to celebrate 50 years of the Graceland House System. While cupcakes were handed out and House members conversed, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Marian Killpack spoke warm-heartedly about the 32 Houses Graceland has hosted throughout the years, noting that over 900 students have served as House Presidents and 4,000 as House Council members.
“Our lives and our histories have been shaped by our time on “the Hill.” Our House System stands as testament to community and the inclusion of every student who enters Graceland’s doors,” said Killpack.
This year’s Homecoming King, Anthony Robinson ’14 and Queen Jamie Conley ’13 pose in the Shaw Amphitheatre.
After the Residence Life celebration, students and alumni shared barbeque on the Campus Quad at the Graceland Tailgate Party, and Director of Bands Frank Perez led the Yellowjacket Jazz Band in a thrilling concert in the Shaw Amphitheatre. As a special surprise, Jazz legends Jens Lindemann and Wycliffe Gordon played alongside students, encouraging thunderous applause, and even some dancing from the audience.
Afterwards, an energetic Paul Davis, Director of Alumni Programs, handed out the awards for Homecoming King and Queen to Anthony Robinson ’14 and Jamie Conley ’13. Davis explained that this year’s voting criteria had been modified, and that Robinson and Conley were designated by their peers and Graceland staff as exemplary members of Graceland values, with outstanding character.
Later, thousands gathered at the newly renovated, vibrant Huntsman Field to watch the Yellowjackets Football team take on #3 ranked Missouri Valley. The Homecoming game celebrated more than just Graceland athletics—it included everything from the unveiling of a new Sting costume, to a reunion for Gadets past and present, to an induction ceremony for Hall of Fame members Teri (Wessel) Rexroth ‘92, Darrick Jones ‘02, and the late Russell “Russ” Harney ’70, who passed away in 2005. Half time also honored student-athletes when Tom ’55 and Terry ’56 Freeman handed out the Freeman Student Athlete Medals, a reward given to the senior student-athlete in each varsity sport who achieved the highest GPA in their junior year.
(from left) Collin Barbour, Dane Mahi, Kory Brinlee and Caitlyn Barbour pose before Closson and Paloma’s airband performance of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Saturday evening concluded with Airband, the final event in COSA’s weeklong House competition. After Houses battled it out in everything from dodge ball to a scavenger hunt, Houses came together to perform choreographed dances based on everything from the Batman movies to Titanic. In the end, Closson and Paloma prevailed with their Pirates of the Caribbean theme, propelling them to win COSA’s overall Homecoming competition.
The weekend drew to a close Sunday morning as Campus Ministries hosted a morning worship in the Shaw Family Auditorium.
For many alumni, the weekend served as more than just a chance to reconnect with old friends—it was a chance to see how their home had changed in their absence. Throughout the weekend, alumni toured the renovations made across campus in the last year, walking through the $16 million Shaw Center, the Fitzgerald Fitness Center, and the Cheville Chapel (renovated last spring). Though it was impossible to attend every event the weekend had to offer, from alumni author talks and art shows to smores on the Alumni Brick Plaza, it was impossible not to notice the campus’ evolution. Truly Homecoming 2012 lived up to its name: it celebrated “Curtains up on a Great Future.”