Union University’s 2017 Homecoming Week is set to get underway next week, promising many fun events for current students as well as alumni. There are three aspects to this year’s homecoming: current students, alumni and Union’s Class of 1968.
Various student activities have been planned for the week. Homecoming Week will kick off Friday, Oct. 27, with Residence Life’s annual event, Costume Coffee House, at 8 p.m. in the Bowld Gym.
On Monday, a corn hole tournament will be held behind the Bowld at 7 p.m. Cookies and hot chocolate will be served, and the winning corn hole team will receive two free UU blankets.
On Tuesday, a banner drop will be held in Brewer Dining Hall at noon.
On Wednesday, students will get the chance to play football with frozen turkeys in an event called the “Turkey Bowl” behind the Bowld at 4:30 p.m. Each member of the winning team will receive a $15 Amazon gift card.
On Thursday, the senior class will host the Bulldog Olympics in the Bowld Gym at 8 p.m.
Teresa Rosson, assistant director of alumni and annual fund for Union, is in charge of organizing homecoming week. She says that this year’s homecoming is different because more student events have been planned. She hopes that the whole week of student events will get more students to stay on campus and be involved during homecoming weekend.
“I think homecoming has kind of just been something that they really didn’t make an effort to stay on campus for because there wasn’t a lot for them,” Rosson said. “So we’ve really tried to change that this year and really get our students involved and to be a part of the weekend and all the way through the week to build up to the weekend. Lots of people and lots of fun: that’s my goal.”
Friday night’s festivities will be geared more toward students but will also be geared toward alumni.
A Forever Bulldogs Celebration will take place on the Great Lawn from 5 to 10 p.m. The celebration will include a pep rally introducing Union athletes, 17 campus organization tents, food trucks, free cotton candy and popcorn, a climbing wall, a photo booth, corn hole, face painting and inflatables. Coopertheband will perform at 7:30 p.m., and a fireworks show will be held at 9 p.m. The Lady Bulldog volleyball team will play against the University of Alabama-Huntsville in the Fred DeLay Gymnasium at 7 p.m.
While current students are encouraged to participate, Saturday’s activities will have more emphasis on alumni.
Alumni will have the opportunity to visit and reminisce on Saturday from noon to 3:30 p.m. at class reunion tents arranged by decades on the Great Lawn. Food trucks, a petting zoo and family goofy Olympics are just some of the many activities offered.
A Forever Bulldogs Tailgate will be held for students on the Great Lawn from noon to 3 p.m., with the Lady Bulldog volleyball team facing the University of North Alabama in the Fred at 1 p.m. A spirit walk to the basketball games will follow at 3:30 p.m.
The Lady Bulldog basketball team will compete against Martin Methodist College at 4 p.m. The 2017 Homecoming Court will be announced and the 2017 Homecoming Queen will be crowned during halftime. The men’s basketball team will play a game against Freed-Hardeman University at 6 p.m. Mr. and Miss Union will be announced at this game, and the Presidential Cup will be presented to a student organization that best demonstrates community service.
Rosson is excited about the week’s fun atmosphere and the time people will have to visit and reconnect.
“Homecoming is about people and about relationships,” Rosson said. “It’s really just all about keeping people connected. You know, just to really instill in students the idea of being a Union University alum and also just keeping our alumni connected to Union. That’s really our goal: get feet back on campus, make our current students aware [that] there’s a day that they’re going to be an alumni and [that] we want them to come back.”
This year’s homecoming theme is Forever Bulldogs. Rosson says that the theme is appropriate because a student’s connection to Union goes beyond their college years. She also notes that most students receive scholarship funds to fund their education and that she hopes students are encouraged to give back to Union after they go on to get a career.
“Once you’ve been at Union, it’s not really just about your four years,” Rosson said. “It’s really about what you do when you leave here and how you still stay connected to the university. When [students] graduate, we want them to come back and be a part of homecoming. We want them to give back to the university.”
Campus tours will be available throughout the weekend so that alumni can see how their campus has changed over the years.
“If you haven’t been on Union’s campus since 2008, this is a different place,” Rosson said.
Rosson is a graduate of Union and has been working for the university for ten years. Although she graduated from Union and lived two miles from campus, she didn’t realize just how much Union impacted the community until she started working on campus.
“To bring people back and to really show them what our mission is, how we live that mission out every single year, all of the mission teams that we send all over the world, these are things that people really don’t know about Union a lot of times,” Rosson said. “We just want to spread that word: our mission, what we’re all about.”
Union’s Class of 1968 will celebrate their 50-year class reunion on Thursday and Friday, beginning with a welcome dinner on Thursday at 6 p.m. This will be a time for class members to visit with one another, share their favorite Union stories and enjoy entertainment by an Elvis impersonator. 34 members are expected to attend the festivities.
“They’re just really going to have a lot of fun that night reconnecting,” Rosson said. “A lot of these people have not been back on campus since they graduated in 1968.”
Members of the Class of 1968 will be leading a special homecoming chapel on Friday. Rosson says that homecoming chapel will be different this year. In the past, alumni have walked across the stage as their biographies were read and received medallions to recognize their 50-year reunion. This year, the Class of 1968 has decided to receive their medallions at a private luncheon after chapel in order to shift the focus from themselves to the current students.
“That’s kind of a different approach, but I had to really respect the fact that they really didn’t want chapel to be about them,” Rosson said. “They really wanted to share with the students what Union has meant to them.”
5 alumni from different career fields will each speak for about 3 to 4 minutes about how Union has changed their life. Jerry Drace, an evangelist and the chairman of the reunion committee, will be giving a 10-minute sermon to students about the past, the present, and the future.
“He wants to kind of share how are you going to make your 50 years count and how you are going to take what you’ve learned at Union and make a difference in the world,” Rosson said. “I think it’s going to be really good, and it’s going to be kind of different.”
Following chapel, members of the Class of 1968 are invited to attend a 50 Year Medallion Luncheon, where Union’s president, Samuel W. “Dub” Oliver, will recognize each member and give them their 50-year medallions. Student ambassadors will lead campus tours beginning at 1:30 p.m., and members will gather for coffee and dessert in Modero at 3 p.m.
For Rosson, working with the reunion class is the highlight of her year.
“They’re just so full of wisdom and funny stories,” Rosson said. “You know, they came to Union at a time when girls could not even wear pants. Their curfews were 10:00. It was just a very different day, of course, than what we have now, but their memories are so wonderful. How much fun they have had and how they have had such deep relationships from being at Union.”
An alumni awards banquet will be held at 6 p.m. on Friday night in the Grant Center. Those receiving an award include Dr. J. Kenneth Newman, Dr. Ashley Pugh, Dr. Fred Shackelford, Dr. John C. Jennings (M.D.), Robert Dailey, Linn Stranak, Lyda Kay Ferree, Rev. Lawrence Ragland, Dr. Haylie Mulliniks, John Carroll, Richard and Barbara McDade, Luis Ortiz, Mandy White, Dr. George Guthrie, Steve Beverly, Norm Hill and Harry Smith. Beverly, Hill and Smith are not alums, but they have made a significant impact on Union through their gifts and leadership.
While “Coming Home” has been Union’s homecoming theme for several years, Rosson is certain that Forever Bulldogs will be Union’s ongoing homecoming theme.
“To me, it says everything about homecoming- that once you’re a bulldog, you’re forever a Bulldog,” Rosson said. “It does say ‘come on back because you belong here’ I think. I think Forever Bulldogs is a little bit more fun and kind of really sets the tone for the whole weekend.”
Ali Keck, freshman social work major, will be twirling during Saturday’s spirit walk. She remembers homecoming being one of the biggest weeks at her high school.
“Although I have only been here at Union for about three months, I already feel so much pride for being a part of such an amazing school,” Keck said. “With this week being my very first Union homecoming, I’m excited to be able to participate in all of the fun activities and show my team spirit for one of the greatest teams there is.”
Keck has dreamed to be a collegiate twirler ever since she was a little girl but knew that she would most likely have to give up her dream when she fell in love with Union. She finally worked up the courage to ask the Olivers about twirling for Union and was ecstatic when they said yes.
“Twirling this week is not only living out my dream, but also being able to represent what I consider the best university in the country,” Keck said. “To be given the opportunity to be a twirler for the bulldogs means the world to me.”
Homecoming t-shirts, designed by Jessica Newendyke, will be sold next week during lunch and at several different sites on campus. Students are encouraged to wear their t-shirts on Friday.