VOLUME 22 #2

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mug night, alumni weekend
Photo by Evan Krape

Lasting Connections

Alumni celebrate the past with a commitment to UD’s future

ALUMNI | There were those who hadn’t been to campus in decades and those who never left.

There were members of the University of Delaware’s newly minted Class of 2014 and “Gold Guard” graduates celebrating their 50-year anniversary—and alumni from every decade in between.

Bob Parsons and Terry Girdon
Photo by Evan Krape
As a student in the early 1960s, J. Robert “Bob” Parsons ’64 (at right in photo) worked for a local laundry washing, drying and ironing clothes. “That’s when shirts had to be pressed, and boys wore trousers to class,” he remembers. Thanks to the job, he says, “I graduated debt free, and that’s a debt you pay forward.” Today, he’s a member of the University’s Delaware Diamonds Society. The last time Parsons saw his Kappa Alpha fraternity brother Terry Girdon ’64 was after a UD-Temple basketball game, the night before Girdon—who would spend the next 30 years in the Army—was deployed to Asia. The two friends reunited for the first time in 50 years at Alumni Weekend 2014.

Some made the five-minute walk from their Main Street apartments, while others carpooled or boarded buses—one couple even flew in from Puerto Rico—to come back.

From June 6-8, the University celebrated its sixth annual Alumni Weekend, and as any of the 5,000-plus Blue Hen attendees can attest, Newark was the only place to be.

honors group
Photo by Duane Perry
Blue Hens return to campus on Alumni Weekend for a variety of reasons and types of celebrations and reunions. The UD Honors Program draws a large and loyal following to its annual reception, attended this year by more than 150 former students and their professors and advisers. Avi Amon ’08 is just one of those proud Honors alumni. As a student, he “switched majors 100 times” before graduating with dual degrees in economics and history. He sang with the Deltones and UD Chorale, was a Blue Hen Ambassador and studied the tango in Madrid with the support of an Alumni Enrichment Award. He calls the faculty and Honors Program advisers his team—and the reason he’s made gifts to the program every year since graduation.

Tim Dalby, EH99, 11M, and Mary Pinkston, AS91, EH95M, kicked off the weekend at the College of Education and Human Development’s alumni reception. Both have received the Presidential Award for Excellence in Math and Science Teaching, the highest honor awarded by the U.S. government to K-12 STEM teachers, and both credit UD with an exceptional education.

“I was prepared as a ‘highly qualified teacher’ before that was even a term,” said Dalby, referring to the federally designated title.

Gilbert, Shuller, Wompler, Esser
Photo by Duane Perry
Alan Gilbert ’86, Michael Shuller ’86, David Wompler ’85 and Stephen Esser ’85 have stayed in touch since their days as Honors Program students, getting together once a year for UD football. Now, they come to Alumni Weekend on alternate years, when they “live in the dorms, stay up till 5 a.m., and relive the glory days,” says Gilbert.

He and Pinkston spent their Friday evening meeting former professors and classmates. “My heart bleeds blue and gold,” Pinkston added. “Some of my best memories here are of the people.”

Indeed, the weekend was rich in the diversity of UD’s people—Blue Hens from different backgrounds, different ages, different experiences but all with one shared bond: time spent at their beloved alma mater.

Keeley and Imani Powell
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson
As students, Keeley Powell ’02, ’11EdD, and her husband, Imani Powell ’02, ’07M, used to have breakfast dates at Russell Dining Hall “because Russell had the good pancakes!” This year for Alumni Weekend, they got a babysitter for their 2-year-old son so they could enjoy their alumni reception.

Alumni Weekend is a tradition for Lance Kaufmann, AS83. From Mug Night on Friday, to the Wall of Fame induction ceremony on Saturday, to the Sunday morning 5K race, the entire weekend serves as an opportunity for him to expand his Blue Hen circle. “Every year, I make new friends and new connections,” he said.

Then there are alumni like Avi Amon, AS08, BE08, who comes back to reconnect with classmates and colleagues. “This is my favorite weekend of the year,” he said, as he began his festivities at a reception for Honors Program alumni.

Mary Pinkston
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson
Mary Pinkston’91, ’95M, is a nationally recognized math teacher who says, “I came back to UD for grad school because I knew I’d get a good education here.” Reminiscing at Alumni Weekend, she says, “My heart bleeds blue and gold.”

“This was my team,” said Amon, who attended the University on a DuPont Scholarship and now makes gifts to support the Honors Program. “These were the people rooting for me, and I’m rooting for them, too.”

It was a sentiment echoed throughout the weekend—attendees who celebrated the past but remain committed to UD’s future.

Hafner group
Photo by Evan Krape
Kaitlin Hafner ’09, ’11DPT, and a large group of family and friends save the first weekend in June every year to reunite. “We all make time for this,” she says. “We could meet somewhere else, but coming to UD is special. It’s fun to see the campus and visit our favorite spots on Main Street.”

Bob Parsons, AS64, for instance, is a member of the Delaware Diamonds Society, the University’s leadership annual giving society. As a student, he worked for a local laundry, and today he calls that job his scholarship, allowing him to graduate debt free. “That,” he said, “is a debt you pay forward.”

As the weekend kicked off, Parsons sat on the side portico of Memorial Hall, waiting to reconnect with a former Kappa Alpha fraternity brother. The last time he had seen Terry Girdon, also AS64, was the night before Girdon flew to Asia to serve in the military. The two reunited for the first time in 50 years at Alumni Weekend.

Pi Kappa Phi
Photo by Kevin Quinlan
Friends from Pi Kappa Phi stay in a residence hall each year, and their numbers have grown from three years ago, when the group took up a quarter of the rooms on a floor, to this year, when an entire floor was filled. To make sure others found the right location, 15 brothers set up this pyramid in front of the dorm.

“It’s wonderful to be back,” said Girdon, who attended the College of Arts and Sciences reunion and President Patrick Harker’s State of the University address. “So much has changed, but the KA house is still there!”

Other alumni with strong ties to Greek life commended the recent cultural shift by UD administrators to strengthen support for fraternities and sororities.

Lyman Chen
Photo by Kathy F. Atkinson
Lyman Chen ’93 says he got his first job on Wall Street because of an alumni connection: “I would have never, in a million years, got that job were it not for UD.” Now, he works to partner Lambda Chi Alpha alumni with current students in a program that is a model for the national fraternity.

Lyman Chen, BE93, and his wife, Caroline, BE90, were both active in Greek organizations, and Lyman attributes his first job on Wall Street to his strong fraternity ties. Now, he works to partner UD’s Lambda Chi Alpha alumni with current students.

It is that palpable gift back to UD—of time and talent and treasure—that helps propel the University forward, Harker said.

Tony Allen
Photo by Lane McLaughlin
Tony Allen ’93, ’01PhD, a member of the UD Board of Trustees, calls Alumni Weekend “just another reason I love the University. “ Blue Hens work and play hard, especially the first weekend of June, he says, “And for a lot of us, it’s a family affair.”

“This is a University operating from strength,” he told the audience at his State of the University talk. “And with your support, we’ll have everything we need, right here, to take UD from great to even greater: the people, the brilliance, the relationships and the will.”

He began his presentation by welcoming the six reunion classes to the stage, along with “newly hatched” alumni from this year’s class. Together the classes of 2014, 2009, 2004, 1999, 1994, 1989 and the newly inducted Gold Guard members of 1964 donated $1,082,370 to the University.

“We’re good to UD because UD was so good to us,” said William Gamgort, BE04, whose class increased total giving from the previous year by more than 51 percent. “Now that we’re in positions to give, we want to give back.”

Of course, that spirit is not limited to alumni. Jan Seitz calls her nine years as director for Cooperative Extension at UD “the most wonderful time of my life.” She had long sought to establish an endowment to support the Extension Scholars Program in her estate plan.

“But then I woke up at 2:30 one morning and thought, ‘Why not do it now?’” she said to a colleague at the President’s Champagne Brunch (a new Alumni Weekend event to recognize leadership donors and supporters). “It’s all about the feeling. And making this gift, supporting UD, being such a strong part of this community—it just feels awesome.”

Article by Artika Casini, AS05

timeline art of alumni weekend
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