On the weekend of October 11-13, Gracelanders were blessed with perfect fall weather as they celebrated Homecoming 2013: “A Strong Past, A Better Forever.” Alumni and friends returned to “the Hill” to enjoy a weekend jam-packed with activities, beginning with the opening of the high-energy musical Little Shop of Horrors and continuing with the alumni games, House competitions, student concerts, class reunions and much more.
The opening night of Little Shop of Horrors was a great way to kick off the Homecoming 2013 weekend. Graceland’s growing theatre department is now comfortably settled into the beautiful, newly renovated Shaw Center, which opened during last year’s spectacular Homecoming 2012 celebration, “Curtains Up On a Great Future.” “We have a lot of new talent this year, with half the cast of the musical being completely new to theatre at Graceland,” said Tracy Salter, Associate Professor of Theatre. This Homecoming’s production is special because Graceland only does a musical every other year, “and doing different types of drama is really important—it gives us a chance to grow and stretch our wings,” said Salter. “This year, the musical happens to be very silly and campy, very reminiscent of 1950s and ’60s horror movies like The Blob.” Salter spoke of the dedication of her students, who have committed since the beginning of the semester to six-days-a-week, four-hours-a-night rehearsals. This dedication is the backbone of Graceland’s theatre department and one of the reasons behind its success and continued growth, Salter noted, with the Film, Theatre and Performance Studies major dramatically increasing in enrollment from seven to 30 students in only four years.
The weekend truly kicked off on Friday afternoon with the alumni games, the Alumni and Friends golf tournament, student and alumni art show openings, and the 14th Annual Alumni & Emeriti Awards Banquet. This year’s award winners included Don Brown ’67, Randy and Laurie ’85 Heintz, and Harold Lambert. Don Brown, best-known for his work with the non-profit Hidden Harvest, received the Distinguished Service Award to recognize achievement in a chosen field, service to community, good citizenship, humanitarian service and contribution to society. The Graceland Award of Recognition went to Randy and Laurie Heintz for their special contributions of time, talents, resources and personal sacrifices to benefit Graceland. For the Heintzes, that has meant generous gifts to the Resch Science and Technology Center, the Coliseum movie theatre technology upgrade and remodel, the Maple Street wrestling facility project, and contributions to the general scholarship fund. This year’s Honorary Alumni Award, which honors individuals, living or deceased, who are not Graceland alumni but whose affiliation is beneficial to Graceland, went to Harold Lambert. Harold’s love and affection for all things Graceland has continued over the years with the guiding of the Lambert Foundation’s financial gifts to the prestigious GU School of Nursing. Many a young, financially strapped nursing student owes thanks to the foundation for making the “Graceland Experience” a reality.
Friday 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 a variety of themes from the Hunger Games movies to Avatar and Narnia. In the end, Powell and Solah—known collectively as “Powlah”—prevailed with a Wizard of Oz theme, propelling them to win COSA’s overall Homecoming competition.
Saturday morning kicked off with the second annual 5K color run/walk “Changing Strides,” sponsored by Outreach International and the Art Club. The day progressed with performing arts events (faculty recitals, a performance by the new Yellowjacket drumline, choir and jazz concerts, skits by the Graceland Players Improv Troupe), alumni congregating for class reunions, honor class dinners, prospective students touring the campus, a presentation of Graceland’s new hoop house garden, and many other events and activities. 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. Afterwards, Paul Davis, Director of Alumni Programs, handed out the awards for Graceland Homecoming King and Queen to Alex Carr and Karli Conrad-Davis. Alex, son of Brad and Sharon, and Karli, daughter of Paul and Evelyn, are both graduates of Lamoni High School.
Later, thousands gathered at the Huntsman Field to watch the Yellowjackets football team take on Missouri Valley. During halftime, Tom ’55 and Terry ’56 Freeman handed out the Freeman Student Athlete Medals (an award given to senior student-athletes in each varsity sport who achieved the highest GPA in their junior year), and Graceland inducted Christel Brown ’77 Olson and Russell Hampton ’54 into the Hall of Fame.
Saturday evening concluded in the Shaw Center Amphitheatre with the Graceland’s Got Talent Show, with alumni and students enjoying music, dance, poetry, jokes, and s’mores in the crisp, cool autumn night.
The weekend drew to a close Sunday morning as Campus Ministries hosted a morning worship service in the Shaw Family Auditorium. Apostle Stassi Cramm was the speaker this year.
For many alumni, the weekend served as more than just a chance to reconnect with old friends—it was a chance to see how Graceland has grown. Last year, Homecoming visitors saw the completion of the $16 million renovation of the Shaw Center and the state-of-the-art Fitzgerald Fitness Center. This year saw growth in the performing arts as students flock to the stunning new Shaw Center to perform, and the music department added a percussion faculty member to lead the newly created Yellowjacket Drumline program. This year also saw the beautification of several facilities, such as a landscaping project outside Marietta Walker Residence Hall and the new-and-improved football locker room in the Hampton Center. Truly, Homecoming 2013 lived up to its theme of “A Strong Past, A Better Forever.”