More than 3,000 members of the Franklin & Marshall College community enjoyed summery weather for autumn's three-day Homecoming & Family Weekend, as new features marked many aspects of the Oct. 4-6 event on campus.
From handing out reusable water bottles to arriving parents and alumni, to moving the Tailgate Extravaganza to Hartman Green, to showcasing the College's increasingly diversified student body, organizers offered an experience welcomed by many attendees.
"It's dramatically increased in diversity, and I think that's real progress," said the Rev. Louis Butcher '65, one of five recipients of the Sydney N. Bridgett '51 award, bestowed Saturday morning at the annual African-American Alumni Council (AAAC) breakfast. "It's an enhancement of the educational experience for all students. It's a chance to immerse yourself in cultures different than your own."
This was the AAAC's second year recognizing alumni for distinguished accomplishments in their fields, said Chair Tony Ross '91. F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield bestowed the honors at a Saturday morning breakfast. Other recipients were Donald Marsh '79, Helen Cannady Saulny '82, Modia Butler '95, and Cherise Hamblin '03. Marsh, assistant basketball coach at University of South Florida, was unable to attend, so F&M Men's Basketball Coach Glenn Robinson and College Trustee Art Taylor '80 accepted the award on his behalf.
"This brings to 11 the total recognized," said Porterfield, counting last year's six recipients. "We're going to have many more recognized a few years from now."
At the "An Hour with the President" event in Hensel Hall of the Ann & Richard Barshinger Center for Musical Arts Saturday, Porterfield emphasized the importance of building a nationally and globally diverse campus, noting that nearly 17 percent of this year's incoming first-year students are from outside the United States. "We have assembled here a global village of super talent," he said. "Our international reputation is incredibly strong."
On stage with Porterfield were four students who spoke to the audience, composed primarily of parents, about their academic experiences in which educator and student work together on research projects. "My ideas are taken very seriously by my professors," said sophomore Mackenzie Dix. She then discussed her faculty-mentored research project, which involved studying the effect of drought on high-altitude plants.
Student-faculty research projects were highlighted at Friday afternoon's Autumn Research Fair in the Frey Atrium of the Ann & Richard Barshinger Life Sciences & Philosophy Building, where more than 70 projects from across the curriculum were on display.
Opening the fair, Michael Billig, associate dean of the faculty and professor of anthropology, said the work the students completed reflects the qualities and benefits of a liberal arts education.
"You can't do this with online MOOCs," he said, referring to the massive open online courses that some colleges are adopting. "You have done something extraordinary. What you have accomplished here with dedication and hard work is a source of pride for your alma mater."
As alumni and parents started to arrive Friday, the final day of F&M's Sustainability Week, they were handed blue water bottles they could fill at newly installed water stations scattered around campus. The bottles, along with trash compactors and containers for single-stream recycling, are part of the latest sustainability efforts by the College.
George and Eileen Council of King of Prussia were attending Homecoming & Family Weekend for the first time. They were eager to see their son, Jonathan, a first-year student, who was still in class when they arrived. "It'll be interesting to see him in his new environment," Eileen said. "He was excited to come here."
The Councils and Jonathan attended Saturday afternoon's football game between the Diplomats and Dickinson College's Red Devils in the annual "Battle for the Conestoga Wagon." Since 1963, the teams have battled for the Conestoga Wagon Trophy, a miniature replica of the wagon used to transport players between the two schools when they first met on the field of play in 1889.
It was a hard-fought game in the early going. The Diplomats scored two touchdowns within the first 12 minutes, but the Red Devils came back to tie the game at 14. The Diplomats then broke through with 21 unanswered points to notch a 35-14 victory and keep the wagon on home turf.
While the Diplomats were dominating on the gridiron, other events were going on across campus, such as tours of a rare exhibit of Hudson River School paintings at the Phillips Museum of Art.
Nancy Siegel '88, an associate professor of art history at Towson University who specializes in the Hudson River School -- and in particular its women painters -- was among the tour guides for the exhibition "The Hudson River to Niagara Falls: 19th Century American Landscape Paintings" from the New-York Historical Society.
"As you know, here at F&M so much is about serendipity; you explore," Siegel said, before leading the group into the Sally Mather Gibson Curriculum Gallery to view a select group of 24 landscape paintings from the 19th century. "These are beautiful scenes of the American landscape to inspire Americans for centuries."
Friday's Nevonian Society Luncheon, reserved for those who had celebrated their 50th reunions, drew a dozen alumni who capped the event with a singing of F&M's alma mater. None missed a beat, all the way through the closing line: "Our hearts shall hold, a love untold, for dear old F and M."
On Friday afternoon, Nevonians, parents and other alumni filled a room at the Steinman College Center to hear Associate Professor of Government Stephen Medvic lecture titled "Why Americans Hate Politicians, But Shouldn't." One parent, Ken Kind of Philadelphia, said, "It's a timely subject, if there was a week to hate politicians," a reference to the federal government's 4-day-old shutdown.
Kind and his wife, Sharon, came to campus to see their son, Sam, a junior sociology major, and introduce him to the family's new rescue dog, a poodle mix. "He's bonding with the dog right now," Kind said.
Many alumni, students, parents and faculty gave a thumbs-up to the decision to move the Tailgate Extravaganza from last year's location of the parking lot next to Sponaugle-Williamson Field to Hartman Green this year, where the athletic and social clubs, Greek houses, academic departments, and College Houses all had tables of representatives under a massive tent.
"It seems like there's a much easier flow," said Ennis Fonder '08.
At F&M's Tribute Dinner Saturday evening, the College honored its most generous donors. The Founders Society, which recognizes those whose gifts total $1 million or more, inducted nine new members, and the John Marshall Society inducted 99 new members who have donated more than $100,000.
"All great national institutions have a deeply engaged community of alumni, parents and friends, and F&M is extraordinarily fortunate in that regard," Porterfield said, looking around the room. "Thank you for making F&M one of your top priorities, and for investing in our educational mission, in our students and in our success."