Traditions and Innovations

Alumni reconnect on campus during Alumni Weekend 2014.

Alumni reconnect on campus during Alumni Weekend 2014. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Traditions—and surprises—mark a memorable Alumni Weekend

By MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson, video by Joe O'Neill

Alumni Weekend is a time to reminisce, reconnect and revel in time-honored traditions like the all-campus dinner and reception, class reunions, the McAndrews golf tournament and Sunday’s farewell brunch. But there’s always room for a little Dickinsonian innovation. And this year’s Alumni Weekend planners had a few surprises up their sleeves, beginning with a Saturday ceremony in honor of the college’s most senior alumnus, Ben James ’34.

Ben James '34 greets fellow alumni as President for a Day. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Ben James '34 greets fellow alumni as President for a Day. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

A former Red Devils football star, professor, coach and dean, James is a legend among Dickinsonians, and at age 101, he maintains an active presence on campus. To celebrate his 80th class-year anniversary—and his 50th consecutive year of giving to the college—President Nancy A. Roseman and Dickinson’s Board of Trustees declared James President for a Day during a surprise ceremony. Fellow alumni, former students and colleagues stopped by to wish him well.

Many also turned out to congratulate the class of 1964, which marked its 50th-anniversary year with a celebration and a parade down High Street, reminiscent of the jolly processions held each Homecoming Weekend at Dickinson in the 1950s and '60s. Other unique highlights included a discussion of Dickinson past and present with President Roseman; a new Alumni College program offering alumni the chance to experience Dickinson as a student again; a screening of the award-winning documentary Chasing Ice by James Balog, recipient of the 2014-15 Sam Rose ’58 and Julie Walters Prize at Dickinson College for Global Environmental Activism; a men's Glee Club/Octals reunion; and designated “class lounge” areas across campus, where classmates could gather in between scheduled events.

Alumni reconnect on campus during Alumni Weekend 2014.

Alumni reconnect on campus during Alumni Weekend 2014. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

Nine-time author R.O. Palmer ’74, who penned four novels last year, held a book-signing for fellow Dickinson bookworms. Others started Saturday morning with group yoga or enjoyed a flag-football game and football-alumni reception at Biddle Field. Foodies biked or shuttled to the College Farm for wood-fired pizza and organic goodies, sipped The Peddler's fair-trade coffee and attended wine- and beer-tastings. Arts-minded Dickinsonians visited The Trout Gallery’s current exhibitions

Alumni also brushed up on Dickinson history, networked with others in their field and toured the campus’ new and newly remodeled spaces. Those who wished to learn more about the college’s sustainability programming and initiatives stopped by the Center for Sustainability Education or traveled to the nearby College Farm via shuttle or bike. Saturday evening featured the Celebration Dinner, culminating in the presentation of reunion-class gifts, which totaled $2,857,667. 

The Red Devil presents the reunion-class gift total to Marsh Ray, ice president for college advancement. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

The Red Devil presents the reunion-class gift total to Marsha Ray, vice president for college advancement. Photo by Carl Socolow '77.

And while parents caught up with friends, the next generation of Dickinsonians also had plenty to do. In addition to attending family friendly events with their parents, teenagers could take part in college-application info sessions, campus tours and mock college interviews, while Dickinson’s youngest community members headed to Morgan Field to enjoy the Alumni Council-sponsored “Family Fun Zone,” complete with a bounce house, lawn games, face-painting and other activities. Children of all ages also enjoyed kids’ movies, popcorn, pizza and games or joined their parents for a movie screening on the Weiss Center lawn.

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Published Jun. 16, 2014