Homecoming gives alumni the chance to reconnect with the campus, SHSU

As Homecoming weekend approaches, current students will join together in celebrating SHSU and cheering on the football team as they battle McNeese State. However, as the name Homecoming implies, this weekend is also a chance for Bearkat alumni to return to their old stomping grounds.Kevin Hayes, director of Alumni Relations and a 1989 graduate of SHSU, said Homecoming is one of the most exciting times of the year for past graduates.”Homecoming is very important to us and our alumni,” Hayes said. “This weekend is our opportunity to bring people back to campus and reconnect them with the university. There are a lot of exciting changes taking place at SHSU; we have a new president and new buildings going up. This is our chance to show all of that to our alumni.” Hayes said while exact numbers are hard to come by, the Homecoming festivities never fail to attract a large number of former Bearkats.”In past years, our pre-game activities have drawn between 400 and 500 people,” Hayes said. “The R.S.V.P. list for our Distinguished Alumni Gala is at 275 people.”Our goal is always to bring back as many former students as possible,” he said. “We send out Homecoming information in the alumni newsletter “Legacy” to all Alumni Association members. For non-members, we count on local media like Today at Sam and the Huntsville Item to get the word out. We also hope that events like this will bring back alumni that may want to become a part of our growing Alumni Association.” According to Hayes, several events open to all SHSU alumni are planned for the weekend.Homecoming for former Bearkats will begin Friday at 2 p.m. with the dedication of the newly completed Alumni Garden.The garden features stones purchased by alumni or friends of the university and engraved with the names of graduates, professors or others with special meaning to SHSU. The completed Alumni Garden is intended to provide a quiet, serene place where current and former students, professors and staff can visit and reflect on their experiences at SHSU. Following the garden dedication, all alumni who returned an R.S.V.P. can attend the Distinguished Alumni Gala Reception at 6 p.m. in the LSC Ballroom. The reception will be followed by a dinner at 7 p.m.Homecoming events continue Saturday morning with an Alumni Coffee held at 8 a.m. in Austin Hall.Hayes said alumni are also encouraged to attend the Homecoming Parade beginning at 10 a.m., then follow the crowd to Bowers Stadium for various pre-game activities beginning at 11:45 a.m. Capping off the festivities is the football game at 2 p.m.Hayes said the Alumni Association is also hoping former students will take advantage of a popular community event and attend the Texas Outlaw Music Festival at 7 p.m. at the Walker County Fairgrounds.While Homecoming is undoubtedly a meaningful time for former students, those currently attending SHSU also feel it is important.”I think Homecoming is important to the students,” senior Jennifer Jones said. “The school does a really good job of putting together events all week and it gets the students involved and ready to the Homecoming game.”Other students said while the festivities are fun, Homecoming is more meaningful for alumni who may get to visit SHSU only once a year, if that often.”Homecoming is more important to alumni than to students at this school,” senior Stacy Young said. “A lot of students will go home this weekend instead of going to the game. I think once they graduate and get away for a while, coming back for Homecoming will be more important to them.”In the meantime, Hayes said returning to campus and visiting with old friends can be a precious opportunity for Bearkat alumni.”I think alumni should attend and take the chance to get caught up with the university,” Hayes said. “We all get so busy with our own schedules that we can forget where we got started. “This is the best opportunity for alumni to reconnect with friends, professors, faculty and staff that may have impacted their lives,” he said. “This is their chance to reconnect with SHSU.”

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