Kathryn Kimura Mlsna (WCAS74, L77) plans to return to campus this fall to celebrate her 35th reunion. That in itself is hardly unusual — the co-chair for the reunion class of 1974 has not missed one of her five-year reunions yet.
What might come as a surprise is what she considers her most memorable reunion experience. It did not occur at a class party, football game or any event on an official schedule.
Instead, Mlsna looks back most fondly on the opportunity to room again with her Northwestern dorm mate and fellow class co-chair, Edie Howard Bostic (SESP74).
"We stayed up all night talking exactly as we did when we were in school," Mlsna recalls of their 30th reunion. "These opportunities to catch up are not on the agenda, but there are many things like this that can create a rich and personalized reunion experience. Northwestern provides the setting for a weekend of connections."
As always, there will be no shortage of well-planned festivities for alumni of all ages at the 2009 Reunion Weekend, Oct. 23–25, with most events on the Evanston campus. From Friday's alumni panel moderated by new Northwestern President Morton O. Schapiro to Saturday's football game and class parties, the framework for an enjoyable visit is in place.
Most graduates who return to campus come seeking a personalized experience — and they rarely leave disappointed.
Kip Kirkpatrick (WCAS94, KSM97), co-chair of the class of 1994, has noticed members of his class beginning to find reunions more appealing because of changes in their lives. Many who are 15 years out have established themselves professionally or started families in recent years, which often curtails the ability to socialize regularly with old college friends.
"I think the ability to take a break for a weekend and go back to campus [becomes more important] as you get older," Kirkpatrick says. "When we were younger, we had more free time, and if you were local, you could just go up to a bar and have drinks with some people. Now I think it's more of an event where you bring your spouse and you spend the whole weekend reconnecting with friends."
Not surprisingly, the desire to reconnect is a common sentiment for most alumni. Of the more than 500 attendees of the 2008 reunions who responded to a survey conducted by the University, 85 percent said they returned to campus to see old friends. A closer look at the survey numbers revealed younger alumni may have other opportunities in mind. Among those who responded that the reunion presented a chance to network, nearly 60 percent were from the five- and 10-year reunion classes.
The opportunities for socializing on Reunion Weekend are numerous: Friday features a Reunion Welcome Reception on Deering Meadow and the Deans' Receptions (undergraduate school open houses). Saturday includes an all-class Reunion Tailgate before the Homecoming football game against Indiana University, followed by class parties that night.
The newest event added to the schedule — Friday's Networking Naturally Luncheon — reflects the growing importance of career connections. Even in an age when online networking sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn (see "A Hot Link for Well-Connected Alumni," spring 2009) have become all the rage with young adults, class of 2004 reunion co-chair Julie Lissner (J04) says the opportunity for face-to-face connections is still important.
"Just reaching out to people to participate in the reunion, I've found so many people who decided to go into law just like me or are in law school now," says Lissner. "It's been a great opportunity to reconnect with them.
"I think young people come back for networking — I think it's the main reason."
Lissner considers the five-year reunion party on Saturday night to be the focal point of the weekend and expects it to be the event that draws the most participation among her classmates.
For others, reunions offer a trip down memory lane.
"You can really step back in time and remember that there was a time in life when your only responsibility was going to class and getting your homework done," says Bostic. "When I return home, I have a renewed appreciation for my college experience and renewed inspiration to face my current daily challenges.
"I think that's an important piece to the reunion experience. I can remember a time when I could just get up in the morning and go to the lakefront to watch the sunrise."
A lakeshore sunrise may not be on the official schedule, but don't be surprised if more than a few alumni have that one on their personal itineraries.
To find out more about Reunion Weekend 2009, visit alumni.northwestern.edu/reunions/fall2009.