Bearcats head back to Willamette for 2016 Alumni Weekend

by Jennifer Johnson,

  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Eric Friedenwald-Fishman ’88 and John Donovan ’88, the original founders of the Bistro, reunite to celebrate the campus hotspot’s 30th anniversary.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Alumni celebrate the Bistro’s 30th anniversary.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Blitz works the crowd during Alumni Weekend 2016.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Alumni gather in the Quad during Alumni Weekend 2016.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Rich Buck ’66, from left, and Steve Jackson ’66 present President Steve Thorsett with a check from their class that will further endow the Class of 1966 Scholarship.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Alumni gather at the Willamette University Athletic Hall of Fame induction dinner and ceremony.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Sen. Bob Packwood '54 visits with Conner Mertens '17 at the Alumni Weekend session "Willamette's Political Papers Collections."
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Members of the class of ’61 reconnect at the Half-Century Plus Luncheon.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    President Steve Thorsett speaks at the Half-Century Plus Luncheon.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Dean Wentworth, botanical garden and greenhouse curator, gives a tour of the Martha Springer Botanical Garden to Terry (Albright) Thorsos ’66 during Alumni Weekend 2016.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Alumni reconnect on the Quad during Alumni Weekend 2016.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Alumni reconnect on the Quad during Alumni Weekend 2016.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Ed Luttrell ’74, MBA’76 and Andrés Oswill ’15 converse on the Quad during Alumni Weekend 2016.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Blitz poses with an alumnus during Alumni Weekend 2016.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Tom Bartlett ’51 and Rich Litchfield ’63 pose for a picture during Alumni Weekend 2016.
  • Alumni Weekend 2016
    Alumni reconnect at Alumni Weekend 2016.

The university offered food, festivities and special events.

Whether reminiscing over “house moms” at residence halls or listening to professor-led panels, Bearcats of all generations found several ways to reconnect on their old stomping grounds Thursday through Sunday.

At Alumni Weekend 2016, past graduates sat in on classes to find out how college has changed over the years, watched the induction of outstanding former athletes into the Athletic Hall of Fame and headed off-campus for excursions downtown and beyond. They learned about how the university has advanced since their departure and mingled with current students, faculty and staff. In the evening, they reconnected at celebratory dinners and mixers, where some joked they were happy they could recognize their former classmates.

At one event, current sophomores held an informal discussion with alumni about their careers. The sophomore year is an important one for students because they are encouraged to declare their major. Kevin Alexander ’19, who already declared a major in creative writing, said the discussion was helpful because he’s still trying to figure out his minor.

“I think it relieves some anxiety I have about careers and the career search,” he said. “It’s the freedom to talk to someone who not only has experience, but who is also on a similar path. They can maybe forecast what’s ahead in your life.”

The class of 1966 may have set an attendance record for a single group, with over 80 members celebrating their 50th reunion. The group organized special tours, get-togethers and a rousing dinner where they sang the university’s alma mater and the “Bearcat Fight Song” accompanied by kazoos.

Adam DuVander ’01, president of the alumni association, said returning home to Willamette is “a great reminder of the importance of lifelong learning.”

“The critical thinking and focused communication used in my daily life were skills I first learned here,” he says. “Between my many friendships and the foundation of education, I feel the impact of Willamette on my life every day. Coming back to the place where it started really enhances that feeling for me.”

More than 500 alumni registered for the event, making it one of the best-attended Alumni Weekends. James Lippincott, executive director of alumni and parent engagement, says, “The alumni engagement team sincerely thanks the campus community for making our alumni feel so welcome.”