Families, Alumni, Students Gather for Homecoming/Family Weekend 2021

Steve ScarpaNovember 1, 20219min
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There was no shortage of ways to find community, enlightenment, and a deep sense of the Wesleyan experience this Homecoming/Family Weekend, which took place Oct. 29-30.

Lectures were given on recent glacier-related flood events in high mountain environments and the uncertain future of the Senate filibuster. Graduates of Wesleyan’s Center for Prison Education told their personal stories. “What Happened to Baby Jane?” screened at the Jeanine Basinger Center for Film Studies. There were two sold-out dance performances in the ’92 Theater and exhibits at Olin Library.

The campus was alive with activity, with parents, alumni, and students connecting over the weekend’s activities. “Education is the opposite of isolation,” President Michael Roth ’78 told parents at a talk Saturday morning.

Athletics was certainly a centerpiece of the festivities with wrestling, hockey, lacrosse, squash, and baseball teams all offering exhibitions. The women’s soccer team continued their successful run, defeating Bowdoin 2-1 on Saturday to advance to the NESCAC semifinals for the first time since 2012.

The family of the late Director of Athletics and Head Football Coach Don Russell gathered at Wesleyan’s Homecoming football game on Oct. 30 as part of Homecoming/Family Weekend activities.

The football team wasn’t so lucky. Due to a new NCAA rule allowing each team a shot at a two-point conversion in overtime, rival Amherst converted in the fourth overtime, upending the Cardinals 16-14 and giving them their first loss of the season.

The glum, rainy weather might have tamped down the size of the crowd, but certainly not its spirit. Each Wesleyan first down prompted a raucous reception. A pair of Wesleyan touchdowns in waning moments of the second quarter sent the crowd into a revelry. Even a father in the crowd who caught a shanked punt without dropping his beverage earned a round of applause.

An older Wesleyan alumnus watched the game from the Amherst side of the field. “It’s a little quieter over here,” he said. A Wesleyan Public Safety officer wandered over to the fence next to the field. Wesleyan’s offense had been stagnant up to that point, but he had just the idea to set the running game right. “We should just put on those long cleats and show them how to do it,” he said.

The athletes weren’t the only ones showing off over the weekend. Over in the basement of the Exley Science Center, a group of students was displaying a different kind of prowess. The students from the class IDEA170: Introduction to Mechanical Design and Engineering engaged in an intensive build session in the IDEAS Lab, a maker space on campus filled with the latest technology.

President Michael Roth keeps dry while he watches the Homecoming football game.

“This is a space where the rubber meets the road; where the digital files become a physical reality,” said Shawn Lopez, the IDEAS Lab coordinator. “If you are designing something in the real world, this is where the prototype comes together.”

Students built cranes as a team-building exercise. Each team was given a small set of components and pieces of wood and attempted to lift as much weight as possible before failing. Some of the wooden contraptions lifted 50 pounds. One crane lifted 200 pounds. The goal is for students to extend their proficiency from the digital world into the tactile one, marrying the skills of the design with those of construction.

For many parents, the weekend moves beyond demonstrations and talks. It’s a way to experience what their kids live on a daily basis, to place faces to names, and to see the special spaces where their loved ones’ lives are evolving. “It’s amazing how open the other parents and the students are,” said Scott Shifrel P’25, father of Ben Shifrel ’25.

Carolyne Gadaleta ’91, P’24 huddled under an umbrella with her daughter Shelby ’24, an aspiring government major, to take an alumni parent photo behind Olin Library. “It’s weird, but it is exciting to see my daughter here,” she said.

Carolyne noted that some things remain quintessentially Wes—the study sessions, the extracurriculars, the social experience. “None of that has changed,” Gadaleta said.

Milan Yorke ’25 and her family were excited about sharing the football game and proud of her accomplishments on the women’s golf team, a sport she learned with her dad Michael. She is the first woman in the history of the Wesleyan women’s golf team to qualify for the NESCAC tournament. “It has been a really good experience. I get to travel (with the team) most weekends and we are having fun almost all the time,” Milan said.

Underneath the fun is a serious enterprise. Yorke is planning to be a double major in neuroscience and psychology and hopes to become a neurosurgeon. “I love the brain. I just feel like fixing it and learning more about it, just being able to help, would be amazing, she said.

“We have such joy for her,” Michael Yorke P’25 said. “We just hope she continues doing good things. We are already proud of her, she doesn’t need to do anything else.”

All throughout the weekend parents wearing newly purchased Wesleyan swag were led around campus by students excited to share their classes, their friends, and their newfound experiences. “It has been awesome. I loved Wes. I love my daughter and to see the two of them come together is pretty cool,” said Bonnie Walsh ’95.

Photos of the 2021 HCFW are below and in this Wesleyan Flickr photo album. (Photos by Olivia Drake and Tom Dzimian)