Bearcats reconnect with alma mater

by Dan Johnson,

Alumni Reunion Weekend celebrates the Willamette community, people and place.

  • Four alumni smile with arms around one another
  • Mill Stream at dusk with cardinal light around trees reflecting in the water with ducks
  • four alumni do a goofy pose in a photo booth, one wears a white horse head
  • Two alumni talk to each other while smiling
  • Three alumni stand at a table smiling
  • chandeliers light a tent over tables of alumni eating a meal
  • Three alumni smile at a casino table with poker chips
  • a class of alumni stand on steps
  • alumni stand talking to each other in the lobby of Pelton Theatre
  • an alumnus gives a thumbs up to another
  • alumni smile and converse in the Montag Center
  • four alumni smile for the camera
  • alumni gathered ina  circle smile for the camera
  • the winners of the Alumni Awards
  • Blitz stands between two alumni
  • a speaker stands before a crowd

A few days of summer rain didn’t stop Bearcats from having a good time at Willamette University’s Alumni Reunion Weekend. More than 500 alumni gathered on campus for the annual event, which was held in June for the first time. From Thursday to Monday, attendees enjoyed more than 40 separate events before the reunion concluded with the FORE Willamette golf tournament.

“It was a great visit. I realized that even though I have changed over the years, Willamette is still home,” says Bre Stephens ’07. “The people were really what made the experience great. To see them, catch up and laugh was invigorating. I encourage everyone to come back and just enjoy. It has a great vibe being in June.”

Along with the customary reunion dinners and the popular Bearcat Happy Hour and Alumni Awards Dinner, this year’s weekend included a casino and gaming night, a tiki-themed bar in the Hatfield Library Fishbowl, a wine tour with stops at three Willamette Valley vineyards, a tour of the Hallie Ford Museum of Art led by Professor Emeritus Roger Hull, a panel with past Oregon Professor of the Year honorees, guest lecturers and other tours.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the effort made by our community,” says Tyler Reich, associate vice president for university relations. “With each warm smile, helping hand and thoughtful engagement, an important part of our family grew in their love for this special place.

“I thank Kim Burris and the alumni engagement team, the advancement team, the CLA admission team, student affairs, university services, the theater department, our faculty and student presenters, and the entire campus community for welcoming our alumni back home. An important thanks goes to a number of individuals who went out of their way to ensure a successful event, including Jack Barr, Matthew Wolpa, Mike Bergh, Rich Dennis, Gary Grimm, Jim Andersen, Tony Perez, Lindsey Leisinger and the team at Bon Appétit.”

Next year’s Alumni Reunion Weekend is June 7–9. Save the date to join fellow alumni, including Bearcats from the classes of 1969, 1974, 1979, 1984, 1989, 1994, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014.

Alumni Award recipients and videos

Brandon ’08 and Kara Adams ’08, Young Alumni Leadership Award

The Adamses gained leadership experience at Willamette University that molded their lives, careers and volunteerism today.

Russ Beaton ’60, Lestle J. Sparks Medallion

Beaton reflects on his multidecade relationship with Willamette University and continued commitment to teaching people to think critically and foster lifelong learning.

Mark Hanken ’93, Distinguished Alumni Citation

Hanken discusses his journey from Willamette University athlete to becoming the senior vice president of sports for Special Olympics Oregon.

Ashley Holmer ’02, Distinguished Alumni Citation

The passions Holmer discovered at Willamette led her to Tanzania and a career as the founder of the Red Sweater Project, a nonprofit that provides children with access to education.

Daniel Santos JD’86, Distinguished Alumni Citation

Santos’ experience at Willamette University College of Law taught him the importance of giving back and prepared him for a career serving four Oregon governors.

Jon Steiner ’63, Distinguished Alumni Citation

Majoring in French was the catalyst for Steiner’s lifelong teaching career and philanthropic work supporting education abroad and bringing water to a community in Kenya.

Colby Takeda ’11, Young Alumni Leadership Award

Willamette’s culture inspired Takeda’s desire to give back to the community as an administrator in an assisted living community. He also wrote a children’s book about aging and intergenerational relationships.

Willamette University

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