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Homecoming weekend seeks to include students, alumni

Homecoming weekend seeks to include students, alumni

COURTESY OF KENYON ATHLETICS

Although Homecoming is a staple at many American high schools, the tradition is generally regarded as an event for alumni and athletes on college campuses. This year, however, Kenyon plans to incorporate current students into the festivities as well, with a packed-weekend schedule that will appeal to the diverse student life on campus. 

Kenyon’s first Homecoming celebration took place 100 years ago, according to a 1923 issue of the Collegian. “The [Case Western] Reserve [University]-Kenyon contest will be chief attraction of Homecoming day festivities,” a headline from November 1923 reads, the earliest mention of a Kenyon Homecoming from the Collegian archives. According to Dean of Students Brian Janssen, Homecoming has had fewer attendees in recent years. “People didn’t know that it was a thing. It wasn’t advertised,” Janssen said in an interview with the Collegian

Janssen hopes that turnout will increase with this year’s festivities, which will be an event for the whole Kenyon community. “The goal for this year was to try and create options for both alum[ni] to come back and students, but also places where both populations could interact with one another,” Janssen said. Such options include networking events like the Friday “Career Networking Reception” at 4:15 p.m., the “Four Kenyon Friends on the Power of Networking” panel at 4:30 p.m. and numerous other panels that are listed on the Homecoming weekend schedule. These events are designed to engage current Kenyon students, rather than solely seeking to reunite alumni. 

Student organizations have been involved in the planning process as well: The Homecoming Kickoff event is the Greek Council Philanthropy Fair from 5 to 7 p.m. on Friday on the Peirce Dining Hall lawn. In addition, Social Board is hosting a bonfire from 8 to 10 p.m. on Friday adjacent to the Mount Vernon Fire Department and behind Gund Commons. 

Janssen explained that the idea to expand Homecoming began with discussions between the Division of Student Affairs and Athletics and Alumni Parent Engagement; it soon picked up momentum as it became clear how eventful Homecoming could be if all corners of the campus and Kenyon community were brought together. “As we started kind of putting ideas out there, it really grew. So [the] Office of Community Partnerships, Social Board [and] Career Development Office [have] a bunch of alum[ni] who are coming back to do different things. And so as the idea kind of burgeoned, I think people were getting excited about maybe having a little bit more this year and making it a thing at Kenyon,’’ explained Janssen. 

According to Janssen, if enough students on campus enjoy Homecoming now, it may encourage them to return for Homecoming weekends post graduation. Fond memories of ghost tours and wine tastings are likely to do the trick. This year, there will be two wine tasting events on Friday night, both of which have already reached the maximum number of registered guests, for alumni and students over 21. A spooky Saturday event, “Hauntings & Histories of Kenyon: Over the Hill and Under the Hill to Philander’s College We Go,” will take students on a guided supernatural tour around the Kenyon campus. There are also two athletic games on Saturday: The Kenyon field hockey team plays DePauw University at 11 a.m. at home on Saturday, and the Kenyon football team follows at 1 p.m. versus Hiram College. Finally, the College will be hosting a tour of Bexley Hall at 2 p.m. on Saturday, which has been under renovations to expand and is set to open as a residence hall in spring 2024.

For Janssen, the hope is that Homecoming weekend will stretch beyond a student’s four years at Kenyon, inspiring students with fond memories to return to campus in later years. “When you all five, six years from now, [are] alum[ni], you’re like, oh, maybe I’ll go back on Homecoming weekend and visit with people. We have reunions and a lot of other great activities. But this is something that we haven’t had a strong presence for. And I think it will make a really nice addition to our Kenyon community,” said Janssen.

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