Alumni returned to campus this past weekend, joining students and faculty to celebrate Homecoming and participate in a bonfire, tailgate, football game and other festivities.
“I would say Homecoming has always been about the football game and enthusiasm with alums coming back,” said Steve Bisese, director for student development. “But, in my past years, compared to my first year in 1985, students have taken much more initiative. … There’s more of a spirit to make Homecoming more of a week-long event.”
But the Homecoming game still brings everyone together, Bisese said. The Richmond Spiders defeated the Rhode Island Rams, 39-0, in front of a sold-out stadium Saturday night, he said.
At halftime, all of the Homecoming King and Queen nominees were introduced, and the winners were revealed, seniors Joey Greener and Piper Person.
Greener, a double major in leadership studies and political science and minor in Spanish, said that he had been elected by the Campus Activities Board, for which he was the vice president of campus relations.
“I had no idea I would even make the top three guys, so I was shocked,” Greener said. “I was more nervous about falling on the field.
“I am so honored to have received the votes of my classmates. It is a privilege that they think of me as a good representative of the University of Richmond.”
Person, an art major and business minor, was nominated by her sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, for which she is the public relations representative.
“I was motivated to run for Homecoming Queen because of the support from my friends and fellow KKG sisters,” Person said. “I also share certain similarities with the recent breakout reality TV star, Honey Boo Boo. She really inspired me that you don’t have to fit one certain stereotype to be a true winner.”
Greener and Person have been invited to crown next year’s king and queen.
Before the game, the nominees participated in a golf cart parade around the tailgaters, which both winners said had been their favorite part.
The tailgate has become a place for friends and hallmates to reunite, Bisese said. Although the game started at 6 p.m., he said that the parking lots had been full much earlier because of the number of people who had visited. Students and alumni also tailgated at the fraternity lodges.
Tailgating has become much more convenient within the last three years, Bisese said. With Robins Stadium, people can easily walk from the game to the tailgate, he said, without worrying about traveling off campus.
“The football stadium looks great, and it was nice to see them get a win for all the alumni,” 2010 graduate Patrick Fleming said. Fleming tailgated at his fraternity lodge and said that he had been impressed with the fraternities’ ability to accommodate their alumni.
The night before the game, there was a football bonfire on the intramural fields. It was well attended and similar to a pep rally, Bisese said. The bonfire built spirit for the game through fight songs and speeches given by players and coach Danny Rocco, he said.
The bonfire motivated the players, and they appreciated everyone who came to their events throughout the weekend, said red-shirt sophomore quarterback Michael Strauss. “It was nice to see all the students out there supporting us.”
On Friday, a gala also took place in front of the cottages. Members of each sorority attended the dinner, director of student activities Alison Bartel Keller said. This included those who had been part of the university’s founding chapters and initial project to designate on-campus space for sororities, she said. University staff and chapter advisers joined members to commemorate the 25th anniversary of sororities on campus, the 20th anniversary of Delta Sigma Theta, the first historically African American sorority at Richmond and the opening of the cottages.
The celebration continued the next day with a ribbon-cutting ceremony in cottage court, where most people toured the cottages for the first time. Students and alumni attended to hear speeches from Bisese, Keller and President Ed Ayers, and to watch Greek members from different a cappella groups perform together.
It was great for everyone to see the cottages after having heard about them for so long, sophomore Annie Gaines said. It was also a good opportunity to meet alumni, she said, after having met women from her chapter, Kappa Alpha Theta, who had been classmates with her aunt.
On Thursday night, the Westin Hotel hosted a Homecoming dance, sponsored by Richmond College Student Government Association. About 300 students, mostly first-and second-year students, attended the dance, Joe Boehman, dean of Richmond College, said.
The university hosted other activities during the weekend, including the young graduate reunion, which Laura Krajewski, director of alumni events, said had attracted one of the largest crowds all weekend.
Typically, about 2,000 alumni register to return for Homecoming, she said. And a little more than 64 percent of these alumni graduated between 2003 and 2012, she said.
Fleming and some of his friends have attended Homecoming every year since they graduated, each within the past several years. He and his friends plan on returning for years to catch up with good friends who they would not see otherwise, he said.
Older alumni continue to attend as well, Krajewski said. This year, alumni who graduated in the 1950s came to the pre-game picnic, she said. Homecoming is a time when these alumni can return to see how the school has changed, Bisese said.
This year, Homecoming activities seemed to begin before the weekend, Keller said. The two weeks leading up to Homecoming were probably just as exciting for students, she said, referring to the opening of the Student Center and Trick or Treat Street.
“When I think of Homecoming way back, it seemed like it was more about the football game, alumni gatherings and king and queen voting at halftime,” Bisese said. “And now we’ve expanded to so much more than that. I think there’s just more of a school spirit now. And, I think a lot of that came with the stadium being on campus.”
Contact staff writer Jamie Edelen at firstname.lastname@example.org