Stormy weather fails to dampen Highlanders’ Homecoming spirit
A handful of songs into what would become a three-hour set, The Voltage Brothers’ singer belted out “I got sunshine on a cloudy day.”
The merrymaking had already begun, but those seven words zapped a charge into the revelers inside Kyle Hall Saturday, giving them permission, it seemed, to fully celebrate with old friends in the cozy indoor environment while heavy, dark clouds loomed over campus and raindrops raced down the grand windows of what is, on most days, the business college.
Homecoming 2022 for Radford University had gone through an enormous and extensive planning process, as it always does, with expectations that alumni, their families and friends and the entire Highlander family would be spending a couple of sunny, early autumn days basking in the beauty of the campus. However, a storm formerly known as Hurricane Ian brought wind and rain from the south and forced the activities inside.
No worries. As the mid-week campus alert read: Nothing stops the Highlander spirit!
The truth to that statement was increasingly evident this Saturday afternoon on the first day of October. The spirit moved freely from the second floor of Kyle Hall – where the band played and folks hugged, shook hands and danced and swayed – to the third floor, where there was more of the same. Certain sections of the VIP area on that floor boogied more than others. Looking at you, women’s lacrosse alumnae.
Happy alums, from years way back before Radford became co-ed to recent graduates, flooded the scene. The Presidential First Dog, Bainne, dapperly decked out in a tartan scarf, even made an appearance, getting head rubs and ear scratches, with First Lady Kay Danilowicz in tow.
The occasion was the first time Matt Powell ’06 had been back to campus for an alumni event since he graduated with a computer science degree and launched a successful technology company in Maryland. Powell and his wife, Allison – she’s also a 2006 graduate – brought their three kids to Radford for Homecoming so “they could see where their mommy and daddy lived and hung out and learned,” Powell said, standing with his family and close friends in a quieter region of the building, just outside the Davis College of Business and Economics dean’s office.
“My oldest, Emerson – she’s 8 – has been asking tons of questions about what college is and what she needs to do to go to college and what she wants to study in college,” Powell said as Emerson stood, arms folded, in front of her father.
A perfect example of two student role models stood just 15 feet away from Emerson and her father. There, working the Homecoming event as student alumni ambassadors, were Adian Lacy, a junior political science major from Stuart, Virginia, and Mya Jackson, a senior foreign languages major – Spanish is her concentration – from Chesterfield, Virginia.
Lacy was enjoying the networking aspect of the event, and Jackson, who is on target to graduate in December, said she was ready to soon join the growing contingent of Radford University alumni.
“It’s all starting to feel real now,” Jackson said with a nervous laugh. She was thrilled, too, to see all of the alumni gathered on campus, particularly the Black Alumni Networking Group.
That group honored 16 Black alumni trailblazers at a brunch in the Bonnie Hurlburt Student Center and held a social gathering later in the night.
The group also organized a service project in which it collected children’s books to donate.
In true Highlander spirit, Homecoming week was filled with service projects, such as Radford Gives Back on main campus Tuesday and Radford University Carilion on Wednesday. The two events collected food items for the Bobcat Backpacks program and the Food Service Ministry of the Roanoke Rescue Mission, respectively.
On Friday and Saturday, the university’s Career and Talent Development team held a clothing drive for the Career Closet, which provides free professional business attire to Radford University students to wear for job interviews.
Homecoming week also gave alumni and friends a chance to explore many facets of campus. There were opportunities to virtually leave planet Earth via shows at the Radford University Planetarium, explore the wonderful world of plants in the Greenhouse and dig into our planet’s many natural wonders in the Museum for the Earth Sciences. The brand new Esports Center opened its doors, too, allowing visitors to step into one of the most eye-catching and innovative spaces on campus.
Speaking of new, the reimagined Law Society held mock trial demonstrations in the courtroom inside Hemphill Hall, showing the potential of the space and highlighting a new legal studies minor.
There was yoga, too. It was originally scheduled to take place by the soothing flow of the campus fountain, but schedule flexibility allowed the activity to be moved inside to the Student Recreation and Wellness Center.
Art lovers could see the university’s collection inside the Covington Center Art Museum. And on Friday morning, the university held an inauguration ceremony for its eighth president, Bret Danilowicz, Ph.D.
And then there were reunions, lots of reunions among sports teams, academic majors and, of course, the Golden Reunion, a Thursday evening gathering of the Class of 1972 to celebrate 50 glorious years as Radford alumni.
On Saturday, during the early afternoon, while The Voltage Brothers were still tuning their instruments and vocal cords, scores of women, elegantly attired in dresses and colorful, chic hats, flocked to the large gathering room on the third floor of Kyle Hall for the Women of Radford celebration, reuniting, sharing glories and stories and songs from of their college days while watching models parade stunning garments created by Department of Design students, and listening to alumna Jennifer Summers Stanford ’93 speak on kindness and emotional intelligence, all while dining on delicious servings of chicken, roasted potatoes and carrots.
“It is great finding old friends and seeing all the things they are accomplishing is remarkable,” said Polly Wirt ‘63 of Abingdon, Virginia, a former chemist, CEO, social worker teacher and part-time mail carrier who was celebrating her 59th reunion. “Radford is a special place, and they always make us feel special when we come back.”