Coming home to reminisce with Alma Mater
By Kimberly Butler
Ask any bar or restaurant owner in the Forest City about one event during the school year which rings up extra cash in the till and a certain reunion bash rings a bell Homecoming. One just has to look at local bar lineups to know that anyone who has ever cared about their Alma Mater has returned.
"Homecoming is a chance for people to come back and see Western as it is today," says Gerry Roberts, alumni relations and development coordinator. "It is a time allowing for the reunion of former classmates to gather and talk about old times the good things they did and the bad. Here they can reminisce and have a bit of fun at the same time."
The tradition of Homecoming at Western can trace its origins from the medical class of 1919. This was the first time in the school's history that a graduating class decided to bring back alumni for a reunion of friends and classmates and to visit the grounds of their favourite campus.
Similar reunions would then become annual events with gatherings at the former Hotel London in the spring of 1929 and 1931. However, it was not until the mid-1940s that Homecoming became a formalized event centered around football, recognition of past alumni and celebration.
Today, Western's alumni association takes special care in putting on a formalized spectacle for former graduates from as far back as 1932. This year, about 75 reunions will be held upon Western's grounds the young and old will represent a 'Purple Fusion of Generations.' The weekend's events include an open purple fusion party on Concrete Beach and the annual Homecoming Parade through the streets of London. It would seem that Western could out-celebrate any Canadian university's Homecoming but what about our neighbours south of the boarder?
As Michigan State University is perhaps one of Western's closest American neighbours, it's not hard to believe their Homecoming doesn't differ greatly from our own: they have a football team, marching band and a large amount of alumni as well.
"Since the founding of MSU in 1855, the university has focused upon placing great emphasis upon the alumni programme. Our Homecoming is very much like yours, it is a part of our tradition," affirms Harry Carswell, director of university relations and Homecoming committee co-chair at Michigan. "It allows people to come back and celebrate their Alma Mater.
"Yes, it does centre around the football season, but in general Homecoming is a time of celebration, to enjoy our alumni," says Carswell.
Homecoming committee co-chair and MSU First Lady, Joanne McPherson, reinforces that in the spirit of tradition, Michigan State University is going all out for Homecoming.
MSU's Homecoming will officially kick off today at 6 p.m. with a little Hollywood muscle flexing its stuff. James Caan, an MSU Alumni who is best known for his critically acclaimed acting performances in The Godfather, Misery and Eraser, will be this year's Homecoming parade grand marshal.
Immediately following the parade, a huge fireworks display will light up the sky over the IM East Field where the Spartan fans can wind down in preparation for the MSU auditorium to party with Sparty.
Before the MSU football team plays the Minnesota Golden Gophers at 1 p.m., with the sponsorship of the local Puffin's Pastry Shop, the students will prepare to do a little snap, crackle and popping into the Guinness Book of World Records with the creation of the world's largest Rice Krispies treat.
In Ohio however, they've been celebrating all week long. "Homecoming at bowling breen is an 85-year tradition," says Wendy Vanderwall, university activities organization, the group responsible for the university's Homecoming activities.
She adds, "it's a chance to come back and see how [the school] has remained the same and how it has changed."
Each Homecoming does emphasize celebrating tradition and honouring alumni. It doesn't matter whether one school is knee deep in marshmallows, puffed rice and Hollywood glitter while the other is having purple fusion.