Alumni Reconnect at Reunion Dinners
By Madison Boboltz, Staff Writer
Certain Hardin-Simmons University alumni who are present for homecoming have the opportunity to reunite and reconnect with people from their graduating classes at reunion dinners, which take place on Saturday, Oct. 19.
This year, members from the class of 1999 will celebrate their 20threunion, the class of 1979 will celebrate their 40threunion and any person who has celebrated their 50threunion or more will gather for a Golden-Lariat Society dinner, which takes place every year. The class of 1969 will be the youngest group in the Golden-Lariet Society dinner, and alumni who graduated in the late 40’s or early 50’s will make up the oldest group.
Those attending the Golden Lariat dinner will meet in Connolly Missions Center at 5:30 p.m., where they will enjoy chicken fried steak, while the other dinners will take place around 6:30 p.m. in Moody Center and Johnson Building, where fajitas will be served. Jenn Waldmann, assistant vice president of Advancement for Alumni and Donor Engagement, explained why reunion dinners are meaningful.
“The point of reunions is to let everybody come back together as a class. Especially in the older generations, you really were close as a class. Now, you are probably closer to your social clubs, people in your department or people you met in your residence halls who you’ve stayed friends with. People don’t even necessarily graduate in that four-year time block like they used to. But back then, if you graduated in 1969, you came in together, you knew each other and you left at the same time. There also weren’t all of these things to do in Abilene, so they were close as a class. We still do the reunions to bring them back together and to keep them connected,” Waldmann said.
Allison Goodwin, director of Alumni and Donor Engagement, said they are especially excited for the Hispanic alumni to connect with HSU’s Latin Student Union. “Another group meeting this year is our Hispanic alumni. It’s probably the best job we’ve done of connecting students to an alumni group. It’s a big year for them. They are going to have a mariachi band come, so if you are in Moody at the time, you will hear the fanfare of that. Our Latin Student Union group is going to be present with our Hispanic alumni in their morning event. The officers are also going to show up to sit and talk with our Hispanic alumni at dinner that night,” Goodwin said.
Goodwin said that in addition to meeting with old friends, alumni enjoy socializing with current students, so she is grateful for the work that our Hispanic students and alumni put in to make this event possible. “One of the things we hear from our alumni most often is that they want to talk to our students. They want to hear about what the school is like now compared to what it was back when they were students. So, to be able to put them in a room in an intimate setting like that, where they can share their stories, is something that we could not have orchestrated ourselves. We had to have both parties willing to put it together, and I think both parties are excited,” Goodwin said.
Last year, the musical theatre department performed a few numbers from their show “Anything Goes”for attendants at the Golden Lariat dinner. It was such a hit that they will once again be back to perform. Victoria Spangler, associate professor of theatre, has arranged a 15 to 20 minute program in which students will perform numbers sung at the event Pops at the Pond, which took place Friday, Sept. 7.
Waldmann explained how alumni are informed of whether or not a reunion dinner for their graduating class will be taking place. “We have an alumni database, which tracks where they are and what they’re doing. We send out emails and Facebook posts at the beginning of the year, letting them know it’s a reunion year. We do a survey to gage who may come back, who wants to be a part of it, who wants to be involved in planning it, etc. From there, we take that information, and if nobody responds, or if nobody wants to come, then that class won’t have a reunion. But, for those who respond with interest, we give a space, we loop them together in a conversation and then kind of plan it from there. But it’s up to them to register,” Waldmann said.
Furthermore, once it is confirmed that a reunion dinner will take place, they send out reminders to the classes invited throughout the months leading up to homecoming. “We send out a postcard at the beginning of the summer. We send out a brochure in August right before registration went live. We’ve been dropping them constant emails and social media posts letting them know that it’s coming and reminding them to register,” Waldmann said.
Goodwin said that while reunion dinners may not seem like a huge deal to current students, it is nice that they may look forward to a day when they will be invited back for the opportunity to reconnect with their graduating class at HSU homecoming.