Brisk weather, bright autumn foliage and a plethora of pumpkins provided the picture-perfect backdrop for a Homecoming & Family Weekend that drew a record number of attendees this year.
With fall's snap in the air, more than 3,000 students, parents, alumni and Franklin & Marshall community members enjoyed the warm and welcoming atmosphere that prevailed for three days of fairs, tours, dinners and the always popular Saturday Tailgate and football game (the Diplomats defeated Moravian College, 42-12).
Total registration for Homecoming was 30 percent higher than last year, and walk-in traffic was more robust than usual, said Donna Pflum, Associate Director of Alumni Relations in the Office of Advancement.
"There is a buzz about the weekend. Our attendance continues to grow year after year because faculty, staff and students are invested in the success of the weekend," Pflum said. "As committed supporters of the College, alumni, parents and friends are excited to celebrate F&M's fall tradition."
In his remarks during the African-American Alumni Council (AAAC) breakfast Saturday morning, alumni Joaquim Hamilton '06 seemed to capture the general mood of everyone on campus.
"I love this place," said Hamilton, recipient of the annual Sydney N. Bridgett '51 Award for outstanding achievement in a professional endeavor. "I don't think you guys realize how much I love this place."
Hamilton, the founder and president of IMPACT Inc. (intelligent Men of Color Purposefully Accomplishing College Together) and director of college connection at Philadelphia Futures, was one of four recipients of the Bridgett Award. The others were Wanda Austin '75, president and CEO of The Aerospace Corp., Donnell Butler '95, senior associate dean for planning and analysis of student outcomes at F&M, and Horace Madison '88, founding principal and managing member of Madison Financial Group and Madison Strategic Integration. Austin and Madison were unable to attend, but Austin appeared via video.
"As an educator and as a student, Mr. Bridgett broke down barriers," Austin said. Now it's our job to build on his legacy and make sure those barriers are broken down for good."
Shadoe Tarver '10, the AAAC's vice chair who works at an extension of IMPACT in New York City, received the Gold Award for his significant service to F&M in the years since his graduation.
'Great Minds Doing Research Together'
The weekend picked up steam Friday with the Nevonian Society Luncheon, where Assistant Professor of Art History Kostis Kourelis discussed his exhibit, "Building Memory: Architecture and the Great War," at the Phillips Museum of Art highlighting five architects from World War I. The exhibit is part of F&M's centennial commemoration of the epic conflict that was fought between 1914 and 1918.
Kourelis also gave tours of the exhibit. "It dawned on me that there were students who went to the war who were exactly the same age as our students today," he told one of the tour groups.
Friday also featured the Autumn Research Fair, which displayed the broad array of faculty-supervised student projects at the College, ranging from senior physics and economics major Sarah Robitaille's "Spectroscopy of Combustion Synthesized Nano-Ruby" to junior government major Dylan Cunningham's "Does Adjusting for Nonresponse Using Response Propensities Improve Election Forecasts?"
"This is part of our identity as an institution," F&M President Daniel R. Porterfield said at the event. "We have a tradition at F&M of faculty and students, great minds, doing research together."
During a Saturday morning panel discussion with parents at the Barshinger Center for Musical Arts, Porterfield told parents and alumni that F&M's liberal arts curriculum, committed faculty, and robust programs serves its students well.
"Our core strengths are deeply relevant to the world today," Porterfield said.
On the panel with Porterfield was junior Kelsey Leigh Reber, an animal behavior major, who last summer was in Grenada researching sea turtles. She told the audience, "One of the best things about this College is your ability to participate in research with faculty and independently."
Homecoming weekend also was a time for the Klehr Center for Jewish Life and the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House to celebrate their fifth and 10th anniversaries, respectively.
"I think we fulfilled our original goal," said Writers House Director and Adjunct Assistant Professor of English Kerry Sherin Wright. "We created a space where writers and readers can engage one another outside the classroom."
Tailgating and Memories
Pumpkins, gourds and bales of hay decorated the Tailgate tents around Hartman Green. Among the fare: fried chicken, Caesar salad, and sweet potatoes. Tailgaters dined to a variety of musical numbers from the Jazz Me band, and F&M community members strolled under the big tent, stopping at tables to chat with members of academic departments, student organizations, athletic teams and alumni groups.
As they relaxed after their lunch at the Tailgate party, Don Folajtar '78 and Janet Johnson Folajtar '78 fondly recalled their experiences at F&M, where they first met. They married in 1981.
"The people we met on our freshmen dorm floor have been our friends for 40 years," Janet said, as Don, a linebacker for the Diplomats football team, nodded in agreement.
"It's really nice to be back, and we're really amazed to see what's happened to the College," Don said. "I think the growth and the execution of the strategic plan is really positioning the school well for the next 40 years."
The Folajtars were joined by friends Barry and Patty Weibel, parents of Jennifer Weibel Gnall '01 and Courtney Weibel Gibbs '03. Jennifer was with her 4-year-old twins, Gabriel and Grayson, both sporting F&M sweatshirts.
"It makes you proud to say you went to F&M," Jennifer said, reflecting on the College's growth and expanding national profile. "It's nice to actually spend time on campus and share it with my family."