Class of 1996 Makes History During 25th Reunion While members of the Class of 1996 could not celebrate in person during their reunion, nothing could stop them from coming together to set a new record for 25th reunion giving.
“To break the 25th reunion record in a year without being on campus was a great feeling. I can’t imagine how great our class would have done if we could have made it to Lexington.”
~ Russell Croft ’96
While members of the Class of 1996 could not celebrate in person during their 25th reunion, nothing could stop them from coming together and making a big impact. With reunion co-chairs Josephine Covington and Russell Croft leading a dedicated committee of their peers, the Class of 1996 broke the W&L record for overall giving for the 25th reunion and raised more than $4.7 million. The class also raised the largest Annual Fund total of any 25th reunion class, surpassed its $500,000 fundraising goal to support the Student Health and Counseling Center, and nabbed two reunion trophies — all in a year when there was no in-person reunion due to a global pandemic and the W&L community was examining the university’s name.
“To break the 25th reunion record in a year without being on campus was a great feeling,” Croft said. “I can’t imagine how great our class would have done if we could have made it to Lexington.”
Covington concurred, “Cheers to the Class of 1996!”
The alumni and development offices worked with the 25th reunion committee to schedule Zoom meetings that helped the group stay connected and focused on their class goals. Together, an online Reunion Calyx was developed. Covington described it as fun and easy to update.
Even with discussions of the university’s name fragmenting into a spectrum of divided opinions, the reunion committee remained focused on connection. “We worked hard to unify our class based on shared experiences and by focusing on the many reasons why we love W&L,” Covington said.
Living in a COVID-19 world has brought greater awareness to the increasing mental and physical health needs across the country. The critical importance of supporting students’ health and well-being in facilities designed to address those needs resonated powerfully with the Class of 1996 reunion committee and was adopted as the class project. Located in a new building on Washington Street, the expanded center will be better equipped to provide collaborative care across medical practice, counseling and psychiatry services. The Class of 1996 will be recognized for its generous support within the facility.
Fun was also on the agenda, and the Class of 1996 delivered, holding W&L’s largest virtual reunion — 83 classmates attending a party that lasted more than two and a half hours. The committee worked with the Office of Alumni Engagement to create a Spotify playlist of favorite jams from their time as students and a slideshow of yearbook photos that brought back many memories. Using Zoom, the committee hosted breakout rooms to facilitate conversation among smaller groups of classmates.
“We threw out questions for the group to answer and laugh about,” Covington explained. “It was so much fun seeing familiar faces!”
Croft agreed that the format worked nicely. “People really shared and spoke up.”
The class looks forward to an in-person celebration on campus scheduled for March 2022. “A big thank-you to everyone, especially the committee members, who made this process so much fun,” Croft said. “The record was just icing on the cake.”