The single, campus-wide event will be designed to link generations of alumni to each other and to current students.
Students call Whitman their home for four years. The college wants them to know it will always be their home. Therefore, Whitman is encouraging alumni to return to campus by combining the fall and spring Alumni Reunions as well as the Fifty-Plus reunion into one large fall reunion weekend.
“Holding all reunions at once shows young alumni and current students that their connection to Whitman is a lifelong relationship,” said Kirsten Adams Gable ’01, vice president of the Alumni Association Board of Directors.
“It will make reunions better, because there will be an opportunity for more cross-generational relationships to form over the course of the weekend.”
Starting in 2014, classes that graduated from five to 25 years ago will still meet in the fall, but classes that graduated 35 to 45 years ago, along with those that graduated 50 or more years ago, will also meet at that time. The exception is alumni who will be marking their 50th Class Reunion – they will still gather Commencement weekend in May.
With such a large crowd of alumni returning to campus, the alumni association has planned some exciting events, such as a parade of classes. The parade will end up at a reunion convocation, where there will be a program to honor alumni award recipients and where reunion fund gifts will be presented to Whitman President George Bridges.
“We want to reunite the Whitman family all at once,” said Nancy Mitchell, director of alumni relations. “We want to encourage young Whitman alumni to remember that they are a part of a legacy of Whitman students. In order to do that, we’ll bring as many people together as possible.
“And fall is the perfect time to hold this reunion. The campus is beautiful. There is the excitement of the new school year and there is a buzz of activity all about Whitman.”
The cross-generational relationship-building at the reunion will be highlighted when alumni receive the Alumnus of Merit Award, the Gordon Scribner Award and the Pete Reid Award for Young Alumni, as well as the Sally Rodgers Award for Lifelong Achievement.
“This will allow us to honor our alumni in front of their peers, from youngest to oldest,” Gable said.
Before combining the reunions, the Alumni Association Board of Directors was consulted to get a better sense of how alumni felt about the idea. Board member Jim Dow ’71 said the move will help alumni learn from each other, both in terms of experiences shared during their years at Whitman and during their lives after college.
“Having a combined reunion will really help bring together alumni who may be separated by decades but have commonalities,” Dow said. “One of the special things about connecting with other Whitties is that they will always have the same bond of being a former Whitman student.”
In the past, Whitman hosted multiple reunions, in part, because of a lack of local hotel accommodations. But Walla Walla has grown. There are new hotels, restaurants and cafes, meaning there is ample opportunity to serve alumni and their families at one single event.
Reunion Weekend 2014
Dates: Sept. 17-21, 2014
Reunion Classes: 1949, 1954, 1959, 1974, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1989, 2004, 2008, 2009, 2010
Fiftieth Reunion: Class of 1964 – May 22-25, 2014
Dow said the once-a-year reunion activities will mostly be held at Whitman so alumni can interact with current students. The Office of Alumni Relations plans to use this change to showcase the college. There will be faculty lectures, sorority and fraternity open houses, varsity athletics competitions and career networking events.
“We wanted to remind alumni of a sense of belonging on campus, of coming home,“ Dow said. “For students on campus to interact with alumni is important in helping students to realize this is part of their future.
“I think that a one-reunion weekend will better engage the alumni, the students and the entire campus.”