May 24, 2004

First Emory Weekend earns gold & blue ribbon

By Michael Terrazas

Not bad for a first try. By all accounts, the revamped and relocated Emory Weekend was a rousing success, adding several layers of significance to what stands to become far and away the most important weekend of the year at Emory.

Held May 6–10 to coincide for the first time with Commencement activities, Emory Weekend offered alumni of all ages opportunities to connect with each other and to reconnect with their alma mater. From the Thursday golf scramble to the Saturday night Last Call Soirée, this first iteration of Emory Weekend went more smoothly than even its planners at the Association for Emory Alumni (AEA) hoped.

“I never dreamed that we could do as much as we did, as well as we did, the first time out. I’m just amazed,” said Bob Pennington, vice president for alumni affairs and special development projects. “But for the extraordinary cooperation and assistance we got from across the Emory community, we could not have pulled it off.”

More than 7,000 alumni participated in Emory Weekend events, more than double the number who typically attended the old Alumni Weekend in the fall, according to Gerald Lowrey, AEA senior director for campus relations. More than 2,100 people attended the Saturday afternoon Indigo Girls concert that followed the Block Party on McDonough Field, at which some 1,200 guests were served lunch.

When AEA announced its plans to move Alumni Weekend to the same weekend as Commencement, some were skeptical about the idea, fearing that all manner of logistical problems would arise from bringing in large numbers of alumni on the same weekend when the campus already is crowded with family and friends of Emory graduates.

But those problems never materialized, Lowrey said. The traffic and shuttle-bus arrangements worked well, there were enough hotel rooms, and there were plenty of seats at Monday’s Commencement for those alums who stuck around.

“We didn’t detract from the graduates’ experience but rather enhanced it by allowing alumni to celebrate their accomplishments and welcome them into the [AEA],” said Lowrey, ’81PhD.

Indeed, both Lowrey and Pennington said one of the highlights was the Last Call Soirée at the Emory Conference Center, attended by about 1,200 alumni, graduates and their families, faculty, and staff.

“Since my first association with Emory in 1972, I’ve never seen such a composite of the Emory community at one event,” said Pennington, ’74Ox, ’76C, ’81L, ’81MBA.

The folks at AEA were not the only ones pleased with Emory Weekend. Pennington said he has received nearly a hundred letters and e-mails from alumni extending their thanks and praising the events, specifically from those alumni from the Class of 1954 and earlier, who together were inducted in the new “Corpus Cordis Aureum” and, clad in golden robes, led the Class of 2004 onto the Quadrangle during Commencement.

“Being honored so royally during Emory Weekend and the Commencement ceremonies ranks among the highest highlights of my 75 years,” wrote Edwin Davis, ’54T, a retired colonel and chaplain for the U.S. Air Force.

“I and my classmates loved every minute of the celebration,” wrote Betty Marie Stewart, ’52N. “We felt so appreciated. In fact, one student thanked me for ‘paving the way.’ I felt humbled, yet proud to have been a part of the excellence that is Emory.”