The Columns

Classes Gearing Up for Alumni Weekend 2018 For the Classes Ending in 3 and 8

— by on December 5th, 2017

As we near the end of 2017, Washington and Lee reunion classes are preparing not only for a festive and memorable Alumni Weekend, but also for making a significant impact on current students. Alumni Weekend 2018 is April 26–29 and will include special reunion events for members of the 15th through 50th classes with graduation years ending in 3 and 8. Reunion class co-chairs and their fellow committee members encourage reunion participation and giving. Strengthening relationships among classmates and with W&L is a top priority.

Many consider reconnecting with their classmates a primary draw of Alumni Weekend. Typically, more than 500 alumni return to campus to celebrate reunions each spring. In the last two years alumni have traveled from at least 40 states, including Hawaii, and a number of foreign countries. In 2008, W&L established the Reunion Traveller Award to recognize the alumna or alumnus who traveled the farthest to attend. Last year, Paul Cheever of New South Wales, Australia, became the first alumnus to win the award two times. He made the 10,000 mile journey to Lexington for his 40th and 45th reunions.

“For our 45th reunion, my co-chair, Lat Purser, and I agreed that our primary goal is to get as many classmates as possible back to Lexington for our reunion,” said Class of 1973 co-chair Don Eavenson. “We have planned a full slate of activities, including a cocktail party before the Opening Assembly, a class dinner at Belfield (former home of Dean Gilliam) with a special guest, and a class gathering next to Wilson Field for the men’s lacrosse game. The best reason to come back for our reunion is to reconnect with classmates and old friends. It is sure to be a fun time.”

Another essential part of reunion committee work is fundraising to support W&L. The tradition of organized reunion gift campaigns began at W&L in 1986, when the classes of 1936 and 1961 were celebrating their 50th and 25th reunions. Today, gifts and payments made on reunion pledges are essential to W&L, accounting for about 65 percent of the total that undergraduate alumni give each year. All of that giving, with the exception of the 25th and 50th reunion class projects, supports the Annual Fund.

Alumni Weekend is also a prime time for donors to see firsthand the difference that their gifts make to the university. Scholarship donors have an opportunity to connect with student recipients, and Annual Fund donors see improved buildings, enhanced technology and classroom resources, and the high caliber of students on campus today. “The improvements and developments on campus since the Class of 2003 graduated are almost too numerous to list,” said Class of 2003 co-chair Wynne Sharpe. “If alumni have not been back to Lexington in the last few years, they will just be astounded and incredibly proud of the school’s improved physical plant. However, the more exciting things they may discover during their trip back will be the pronounced energy on campus and apparent quality and depth of the student body.”

Participation in reunion giving is a key part of the Annual Fund’s success each year, which currently provides 8 percent of the university’s operating budget and reduces educational costs for every student by nearly $5,000. But giving during reunion isn’t just about the numbers — it is an emotional experience unique to the donor, with the purpose of reconnecting with the past to impact the future.

“Passionately supporting W&L both financially and with my time feels like the only appropriate way to give back to a place that has so greatly enriched my own life,” Sharpe said. “I believe W&L is a real force for good in this world. The lessons of honor, civility and integrity our university teaches its students has helped to carry generations through our complex and ever-evolving society. The world needs places like W&L, and donating to the Annual Fund is a meaningful way to ensure the values and lessons we all learned while in Lexington will be secure for current and future generations.”

If you are in a reunion year and have questions, feel free to contact one of your class co-chairs or contact the Office of Annual Giving at 540-458-8420.

To make a reunion gift online, visit www.wlu.edu/support. Reunion pledges can be made online at support.wlu.edu/reunionpledge.