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A record 850+ alums come home to Willamette for Reunion Weekend

by Paul McKean BA'11,

group photo of reunion class

Bearcats from far and wide converged on Salem to reconnect with classmates and friends at Willamette's largest Alumni Reunion Weekend on record.

After a two-year hiatus and despite unseasonably wet weather, the return of Alumni Reunion Weekend gave alums an opportunity to finally gather together in person and celebrate the strength of their connections to each other and to Willamette.

At reunion dinners, campus and museum tours, lectures, and fun gatherings across campus, alumni took the time to catch up and exchange hugs or elbow bumps.

Throughout the weekend, Bearcats could be seen exploring the Willamette campus — some for the first time in fifty years. Some even chose to relive the full college experience by lodging in Doney or Lausanne, where celebrations continued late into the night.

Alumni weekend dinner

José Alvarado BA'12 and friends enjoy their tenth reunion dinner

Marking Milesones

At the center of the celebration were the 50th reunions of the classes of 1970, 1971, and 1972. Each class shared memories over dinner and were inducted into the Heritage Club in recognition of this significant milestone.

In addition, thirty reunion classes — from the class of 1959 to the class of 2020 — marked reunion milestones and enjoyed dinner under the big tent on the quad.

The College of Law and Atkinson Graduate School of Management were also represented at events throughout the weekend. The College of Law held celebrations for the classes of 1976 and 1990. Atkinson also welcomed back its inaugural class of alumni, the class of 1976. Some reunions for Law and Atkinson are planned for later this year.

Exceptional Alumni Recognized

During the 2022 Alumni Awards ceremony, eight distinguished alumni were recognized for their exceptional work in scientific research, education policy, business, and more. The awards were given to Bearcats for their professional accomplishments, service to the Willamette community, and for living out the Willamette motto, “Not unto ourselves alone are we born.”

The Lestle J. Sparks Medallion was awarded to Martin Wolf BA’57, JD’60 for his lifetime loyalty and service to Willamette.

“Receiving the Sparks Medallion is something I did not expect. And it’s an honor,” Wolf said. “I plan to contribute to the law school as long as — at my tender age — I can.”

Martin Wolf

Martin Wolf BA'57, JD'60 accepts the Lestle J. Sparks Medallion

Five alumni were also inducted in the Athletic Hall of Fame in recognition of their athletic performance on campus and off. Four entered the Hall of Fame as student-athletes and Melvin Henderson-Rubio BA’74 was awarded for meritorious service to the university.

A Special Weekend

Other highlights of the weekend included a discussion on public health with former Oregon governor John Kitzhaber, Jeff Heatherington BA’65, and Professor Sammy Basu; a special Bistro Reunion and open house; a Theatre reunion, an alumni version of the Wulapalooza arts and music festival; the Winning Hand Casino, and much more.

“The entire university was honored to play a part in this special weekend for so many alums,” said Tyler Reich BA’06, associate vice president for advancement and executive director of university relations.

“There's nothing quite as special as seeing classmates reconnect, delve into intellectual and artistic opportunities, cut a rug on the dance floor, and relive their college days with such joy. It's the best time of the year for the alumni engagement office!”

All Willamette alumni are invited to next year’s Alumni Reunion Weekend, June 15-18, 2023.

View Photos from the Weekend

Alumni Award Recipients and videos

Martin Wolf BA’57, JD’60 - Lestle J. Sparks Medallion

In 1959, Marty Wolf helped catapult Willamette Law into the national spotlight when he and his team won the National Moot Court Competition. Since then, Marty has served in the Booth Society Committee, his reunion committee, and as a member of the Law Leadership Cabinet. He has also sponsored scholarships every year and meets with the recipients when he can.


Tyler Starr BA'12 - Distinguished Alum of the Year Award

Tyler Starr is a Damon Runyon Research Fellow at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Washington. Since 2020, he has pioneered experimental methods to model the evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and develop vaccine and antibody therapeutics that counteract this virus’ evolution.

Allison Muhlendorf BA'05 - Non Nobis Solum Award

Allison Muhlendorf’s advocacy has helped more than 88,000 four-year-olds gain the opportunity to enroll in Alabama’s nationally-recognized, high-quality pre-kindergarten program. Allison worked with business and community leaders to develop a visionary set of recommendations for expanding high-quality, voluntary pre-k to all Alabama families.

Heather Flynn BA'65 - Non Nobis Solum Award

Heather Flynn was the director of Alaska Women’s Resource Center (AWRC) and the Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC). Her knowledge, passion and advocacy for women and children, and tenacious fund raising, grew and stabilized both organizations.

Jim Cuno BA'73 - Professional Achievement Award

Jim has lectured and written widely on museums and cultural and public policy. Since 2003, he has published three books with Princeton University Press. Jim is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, where he serves on the Council and as International Secretary.

Liani Jeanheh Reeves BA'98 JD'01 - Professional Achievement Award

Since graduating from Willamette University College of Law in 2001, Liani has represented clients ranging from victims of sexual violence as a staff attorney at the National Crime Victim Law Institute to the Governor of Oregon as General Counsel to the Office of the Governor.

Nick Footer MBA'11 - Innovative Achievement Award

Nick’s experience at Willamette helped shape his approach to building company culture, one where ongoing learning is required, teams work together in a collaborative environment, and employees are encouraged to grow both professionally and personally.

Samantha A. Klausen JD'20 - Service to Willamette Award

Upon graduating from Willamette University College of Law in 2020, Sam organized and led bar exam petition efforts on behalf of recent Willamette graduates in response to the inequitable challenges posed by the first stages of the pandemic, successfully petitioning the Oregon Supreme Court to grant diploma privilege.

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