Wheaton Hosts In-Person Homecoming, First Since 2019

By Phoebe Shin COVID-19 protocols meant class reunions were held outdoors in tents.

Future Wheaties and their alumni dads enjoy the game. Photo: Sanya Holm.

The Oct. 8-9 Homecoming Weekend events marked the first in-person alumni reunions that Wheaton has hosted since 2019. Despite continued COVID-19 mandates that caused most activities to be held outside in tents, alumni were able to attend a variety of open houses, a fall festival, a choir concert and several athletic events as they connected with their former classmates and professors.


This year’s Homecoming follows the cancellation of the last three reunion events due to COVID-19 protocols, including Alumni Weekends in Spring 2020 and 2021 and Homecoming in the fall of 2020. The Alumni Weekend reunions are held every Spring for alumni celebrating their 40th-75th reunions, while the fall Homecoming events focus more on younger alumni.

In the Homecoming football game, held on Saturday, Oct. 9, Wheaton defeated Augustana College 45-0. The volleyball team also won against Augustana 8-1 on Friday Oct. 8 and the men (L 2-3) and women’s (W 2-1) soccer games occurred at Wheaton’s Joe Bean Stadium on Saturday Oct. 9.

Wheaton football team runs off the field after a successful first half of the game. Photo: Sanya Holm.
The volleyball team high-fives a player after being substituted in for another. Photo: Claire Feeney.

Over the course of the weekend, alumni class reunions were held outside in five large tents set up around various parts of campus, including outside Meyer Science Center, in front of Edman Chapel and in the Armerding Quad. This year’s reunions featured the graduating classes of 1991, 1996, 2001, 2011, and 2016, with the class of 1991 celebrating their 30th reunion and the class of 2016 celebrating their 5th. 

Some events were also live-streamed in order to accommodate those who might have been unable to join the gatherings in-person. The Homecoming Choral Showcase Concert, held indoors at the Armerding Center for Music and the Arts, was live-streamed on the Homecoming 2021 webpage on the evening of October 8th. The sold-out performance featured choral pieces from masked students in the Women’s Chorale, Men’s Glee Club and Concert Choir.

Homecoming and other reunions are celebrations for whole alumni families. Photo: Sanya Holm.

Madeleine Preston ‘18, the associate director for reunions, noted that while the alumni events were different due to COVID protocols, the team was determined to facilitate the best experience by maintaining the most important aspects of the festivities. 

The important thing about reunions is that people want to see their friends and they want to be back on campus,” she said. “Homecoming is just a really great time to share the ways that God has worked in your life and to be encouraged by that.”

The presence of alumni on campus encouraged current students who were able to discuss future endeavors and aspirations with them. Janice Park, a current junior Communications and Studio Art major, gave a tour of Adams Hall to a former alumni, Jean Shim, who also graduated with a studio art degree in 1991. 


“I was able to connect with Jean Shim and she shared her experience as a fellow Korean-American and her job producing films in Los Angeles,” Park said. “Meeting her was an encouragement to see the possibilities I could carry on with my major and the clarity in how I could achieve those goals.”


Many alumni visiting campus for the festivities noted the impact their time at Wheaton had on shaping both their personal and professional lives.

Conner Bourne, a former Wheaton football player and Communications major who graduated in 2011, highlighted the impact that his friendships with his teammates had on his personal and relational life during and after college. 


“The relationships that I made on the football team were so incredible that one of my big things was to find a great community after I left college,” he said. “Being a part of the Wheaton football program really helped set my standards for what it looks like to be in a community of folks that are serious about their faith.”

The men's swim team poses for a picture with alum Tyler Dobelbower '06 and Sam Gyorfi '06. Photo: Claire Feeney.

Eric Rubio, who graduated with a degree in music education in 2011 and now lives in Arlington, Virginia, emphasized the value of his Wheaton education.


 “I’ve come to appreciate the value of the liberal arts-focused education here. I’ve changed jobs a couple times,” said Rubio, “but I’ve always been able to learn the new skills that I needed. Because of the liberal arts education, I know how to learn, how to pick up new things, how to be a curious and critical thinker and how to resource myself.”

Women of the class of 2001 make new connections through alumni events from all over the world. Photo: Sanya Holm.

Despite COVID restrictions, Homecoming 2021 allowed alumni and students to celebrate their shared experience of studying at Wheaton. 


“Wheaton is a place people want to stay connected to afterward and reinvest in,” Rubio said. “I found that meaningful as a student; that the alumni wanted to come back and reinvest. That makes it more meaningful for me to come back and do that now.”

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