For the first time ever, Homecoming at Radford University was held virtually

Homecoming weekend at Radford University looked very different in 2020 with no in-person gatherings being held on campus. Keeping the Highlander spirit alive despite the COVID-19 pandemic was important to the Office of Alumni Relations, which hosted its first ever virtual Homecoming this year.

Nearly 2,200 alumni, faculty, staff, students and friends registered for Zoom events during virtual Homecoming, which kicked off the week of October 1 with contests and events continued through October 17.

Alumni were excited to share their Highlander spirit in the three virtual photo contests: the Alumni Highlander Pet contest, the Show Your Highlander Pride: Office Edition contest and the Women of Radford Hat contest.


Winner of the Alumni Highlander Pet contest – Abby Morrow ’18 and “Paisley”


Winner of the Show Your Highlander Pride: Office Edition contest – Janice Linkous ’83


Winner of the Women of Radford Hat contest – Michele Messner ’88

Other events leading up to Homecoming weekend included a virtual alumni golf tournament, Women Entrepreneurship Week, a legacy admission information session, the Highlander Wisdom Planned Giving webinar and a virtual alumni paint night.

Alumnus Lee Blackwell ’04, MFA ’08 hosted alumni paint night via Zoom on Thursday, October 15. Highlanders joined the fun with paintbrushes and canvases in hand, ready to learn how to paint the Radford University fountain in the style of Van Gogh.

Painting by Kendreana Crawford ’20

Radford University senior Kendreana Crawford ’20 was one of the virtual alumni paint night participants. She described the event as “therapeutic” – a way to connect with fellow Highlanders in a stress-free way.

“We shared stories as we painted, and I was even able to learn a little history about Radford from some of the alumni,” said Crawford. “I could tell that everyone enjoyed paint night as much as I did. The artist did an excellent job in showing us different techniques on how to paint and make the experience enjoyable for everyone. Being able to meet some of the alumni was an amazing opportunity to have, and I love being able to hear all about them and their journey at Radford University.”

Homecoming weekend kicked off on Friday, October 16 with events like the Alumni Association Awards, in which six new members were welcomed; college advisory board meetings; a webinar on extending the vegetable gardening season; and the virtual alumni social with DJ Shock.

The Class of 1970 also began to celebrate their 50th Golden Reunion celebration on Friday with a special behind-the-scenes virtual tour of Radford’s Schoolhouse Living and Learning Community and a webinar focused on Golden History from the 1970s.

Their celebration continued on Saturday, October 17 with a warm welcome from the College of Education and Human Development, a virtual campus tour with a Radford University student guide and the Golden Reunion Zoom celebration, which included the Office of Alumni Relations reflections and induction ceremony, greetings from President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D., and a live chat with classmates. Registrants also were mailed a special Golden Reunion-themed box filled with goodies and their Golden Reunion medallion.


The McConnell Library Golden History from the 1970s Zoom webinar

Highlanders started Saturday morning with a 30-minute restorative yoga session led by alumna Susan Peters Wisman '85, followed by virtual events like the college open houses, coffee with the coaches, Radford University Carilion’s Keeping on with the Science webinar, a panel discussion on the diverse experience at Radford University and the first ever virtual Alumni Village.

The virtual Alumni Village presented an opportunity for alumni affinity groups to connect through Zoom reunion meetings hosted by the Office of Alumni Relations team. Affinity groups included sports teams, Greek organizations, residence halls, clubs, class years, majors and more. Alumnus Charlie Steele '75, M.A. '77 hosted a Zoom reunion for music majors who graduated in the 1970s. When Steele saw the opportunity to connect with his classmates during Homecoming, he knew he wanted to participate.

“This event was a very positive and heartwarming experience. The feedback I have received from many who participated was the same. There were comments along the lines of needing to do it again and of having this type of event available at Homecoming in the future,” said Steele. “I did find it gratifying that the current chair of the music department attended the event, which allowed him to hear of our experience at Radford in another century and how it had helped shape our lives in a very positive way. All in all, it was a terrific way to spend a Saturday afternoon. It proved to be a blessing.”

Homecoming weekend concluded with virtual trivia and the “Chrusties” bake off hosted by the Office of Alumni Relations, which received almost 6,300 views on Facebook.

Executive Director for Alumni Relations Laura Turk '87, M.S. '90 CFRE was thrilled with the overall participation in Homecoming this year.

“While we missed welcoming Radford alumni to our beautiful campus, Homecoming 2020 provided an opportunity for us to have broader alumni reach, engaging alumni from across the country – 32 states – and 12 other countries including Jordan, Italy, Hong Kong and Canada,” said Turk. “The safety of our Highlander Family played a critical role in planning this broad-based virtual experience. We wanted to keep our alumni connected even from the comfort of their own homes.”

Oct 20, 2020
Bailey Black