Homecoming & Family Weekend: A Taste of Everything

Submitted by Lisa Calderone MFA '11 on October 14, 2011

Some things never change: the Glee Club concert, Family Mass, Sunday brunch, routing for the Stags. And yet, every year something’s different – this year it’s a series of chemistry and biochemistry alumni gatherings and the unveiling and dedication of the new St. Ignatius of Loyola statue. Whether it’s a return to tradition, a glimpse at the growth of Fairfield University in a year’s time, or a much-needed visit with a son or daughter – alumni, parents, and siblings happily flock to campus on Homecoming and Family Weekend every October.

“This is a terrific opportunity for families and alumni to come together and learn from each other about the Fairfield experience,” says Elissa Carroll, assistant director of university activities who oversees the weekend’s varied and entertaining events. “I particularly love the Taste of Fairfield event, where 11 restaurant favorites of our alumni and students offer tastes of their menus. It’s always a big hit.”

Nora Slowey ’77, P ’06,  P ’08, P ’14, remembers last year’s Taste of Fairfield well. “It’s a great way to reconnect with people, moving around the various vendors,” she says. Slowey has been returning to campus on and off since the 1990’s, when Homecoming Weekend in the fall or the Dogwood Festival in the spring would bring her and her husband Vincent, also an alumnus, back to Fairfield. “I noticed over the years that there’s always something new, and love to watch how the University is growing physically,” she says. “When I was a student, the chapel was in the basement of the Loyola dorm, then one year I saw the beautiful Egan Chapel on campus. We didn’t have an athletics center, and now we do. Last year they unveiled a new locker room for the women’s lacrosse team, this year it’s the St. Ignatius statue. It could be a new bed of flowers, a bronze Stag, the Bellarmine Museum, new residential halls – the campus is always beautiful, familiar, and new!”

Homecoming and Family Weekend can also be an opportunity to advance academic fields of interest for both students and alumni. To celebrate the International Year of Chemistry, the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry is taking the occasion of Homecoming/Family Weekend to host a gala alumni gathering – bringing together alumni, current majors, and faculty to reflect upon the career opportunities available to chemistry and biochemistry students.

“We’re bringing in alumni who have had long illustrious careers in the pharmaceutical industry, chemical instrumentation, secondary and higher education, as well as current graduate school/medical school students,” says Dr. L. Kraig Steffen, associate professor of chemistry and chair of the department. “The event will feature numerous panels of alumni talking about how their courses at Fairfield mattered in their careers, the paths they followed throughout their careers, and how their expectations of graduate and professional schools compared to the realities they actually faced.”

The chemistry alumni gathering will also feature a special talk honoring Joseph J. Breen ’64, given by Paul Anastas from the US EPA. Breen and Anastas where instrumental in the development of Green Chemistry, an approach to chemical manufacturing that minimizes waste and environmental degradation.

Weaving affinity groups into the weekend’s schedule is aimed at bringing more alumni back, explains Maria J. Bolis, director of reunions. “Chemistry alumni spend quite a bit of time together in labs and in the Bannow building,” she says. “But we also have events for our athletes, who are tied together in their Fairfield experience through all those practices and games, and the arts, for those who felt the arts were meaningful to them. This year the Ignatian Residential College is celebrating its 10th anniversary, so all graduates of that program will want to be here for Ignatian Heritage Week which kicks off on Homecoming/Family Weekend.”

In attendance for the dedication and blessing of the new bronze sculpture of St. Ignatius Loyola on Saturday, Oct. 22 will be the New York artists who designed it, Jeremy Leichman and Joan Benefiel. Also joining the special festivities will be University President Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J., and the Fairfield University Glee Club.

While alumnus and parent Edward G. O’Connor ’80, P’14, P’14 (parent of twins Michael and Nancy O’Connor ’14), enjoys mingling with the President and other administrators, he especially likes to be taken aback at whom he’ll unexpectedly bump into. “For me, it’s surprising who you’ll see. I have found that the world of Fairfield is amazing since I’ve graduated. I don’t go anywhere that there’s not some connection.”

Last year O’Connor bumped into a classmate, Brian P. Hull ’80, P’13, who co-led the lacrosse team with him back when they were students. “I don’t think we’ve seen each other in 30 years,” says O’Connor, who was glad to find out what his old friend had been up to – including acting as a member of the Fairfield University Board of Trustees.

“I think the size of the school lends itself to people wanting to come back,” says Slowey of Homecoming and Family Weekend, which traditionally were separate happenings. “If anyone comes back from your year, you’ll recognize them. It was a close-knit group back then, and you know it will be every time you come back.”

For more information on Homecoming and Family Weekend, click here.

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