Alumni, Students Build Virtual Homecoming Moments

Monday, October 05, 2020
Image shows two students standing with a bonfire model. The model includes lettering saying "Speed 1."

Residents of the first floor of Speed residence hall earned first-place honors in the student category of the Homecoming Bonfire Challenge. A Florida-based team won the alumni category with a creative entry.

Homecoming may have had an entirely new feel and look this fall in a virtual setting, but alumni from throughout the world joined the campus community Oct. 2-3 in experiences that enriched their special bonds to Dear Old Rose.

This year’s event was conducted mostly online due to COVID-19. However, that didn’t prevent alumni from coming together to exchange stories while catching up with family and friends. They also built miniature Homecoming bonfires, played games, got a campus update and greetings from alumni from different eras, and added new decorative swag items to their treasure chest of Rose-Hulman mementos.

President Rob Coons welcomed nearly 650 alumni and guests to a special live broadcast on Oct. 2. He joined Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Rick Stamper, a 1985 alumnus, in providing information about how the campus community continues to deal with the ongoing ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic. These updates featured Sarah Summers, associate professor of English, and 1997 economics alumnus Kevin Lanke, assistant athletic director for sports information and communications.

Coons also gave online guests a tour inside the new 70,000 square foot academic building, scheduled to be open for the start of the 2021-22 school year—and next year’s Homecoming.

Alumni and students continued a Homecoming tradition by designing and constructing miniature bonfires for a Build Your Own Bonfire Challenge. Taking top alumni honors in the bonfire competition was a team of Florida-based alumni, which took it upon themselves to build a structure that nearly replicated the bonfire they constructed on campus as students. Team members were 2017 alumni Tim Balz, Aaron Jones and Shannon Litwin, 2019 graduate Connor Crenshaw, and 2020 alumna Michaela Kivett.

Second-place honors went to a bonfire set ablaze by 2017 alumnae Lisa Crump and Jackie Preston.

Meanwhile, the first floor of Speed residence hall won the students’ bonfire challenge, which had several high-quality entrees.

Special Homecoming gift boxes, purchased by nearly 400 alumni from throughout the world, mixed old and new elements about Rose-Hulman. Items inside included a Homecoming Bonfire Challenge kit, an RHIT-themed Sherpa blanket, a traditional Rose-Hulman Homecoming glass, a Rose-Hulman face mask and mask lanyard, a car coaster, a Rose-Hulman-logo magnet and laptop sticker, Rose-Hulman sunglasses, a Vision 2020 Tour eyeglass cleaner pack, and lip balm.

Austin, Texas-based nephrologist Alyssa Riley, a 2000 alumna, took to social media to exclaim her excitement in receiving her gift box: “Been excited all week for this package to arrive!!! No way your alma mater is as awesome as my alma mater, with a virtual Homecoming swag box, complete with a build-your-own bonfire.”

A total of 140 people participated in an online alumni trivia contest sponsored by the Graduates of the Last Decade (G.O.L.D.) group, from 2010 through 2020, and organized by 2011 alumni Marc Pardee and Bennie Waters. The winning team was appropriately titled Rose Rocks, followed closely by the Lil’Waukee Tool and C’s Got Degrees teams.

The Office of Alumni Relations is hoping that Homecoming activities can return to campus, in their normal setting, next fall.