Maroon on the inside

Both in person and via Twitter, UChicago alumni connected during Alumni Weekend.

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"For a minute I thought I was at Northwestern with all this purple," a khaki-clad alumnus said as he hurried through the Alumni Weekend hospitality tent on the main quads. The allium and color-coordinated meadow sage surrounding the center circle might not have been maroon, but there was plenty of that deep hue all over campus the first weekend in June, when more than 5,000 alumni and friends converged on Hyde Park. From my assigned post in the tent, I greeted passersby, attempted to answer their questions, and offered snacks, water, and a place to sit on a sweltering Saturday morning.

Shortly before 10:30 a.m., a father stopped in and snagged water bottles for his young son and daughter. Among the swag on the tables, he found some University of Chicago lip balm for the girl, around five years old and wearing a sundress.

"What's this?" she asked.

"What does it look like?" he asked back.

"Lip gloss!" she said with an excited jump.

"Well ... Chap Stick."

Soon we heard faint bagpipes as the alumni procession crossed 57th Street and headed toward us, winding its way to Rockefeller Chapel. The family watched and listened as the pipes grew louder and then faint again. "It just got quiet," the girl said. With that, the three walked toward the University bookstore café in search of ice cream.

At lunchtime Richard Sawyer, PhB'49, took a seat under the tent, biding his time until the UnCommon Core session featuring Chicago Booth economist Randall Kroszner, slated to speak about reforming financial markets. "I want to get a good seat up front," said Sawyer, who also attended U-High for a year. In the College, he told me, with World War II fresh in their minds, Sawyer and his friends said to each other, "If we're all here in ten years, let's get together." The group has reunited intermittently ever since.

While the tent provided a physical gathering place, alumni and staff also gathered in cyberspace. Using the hash tag #UCAW11 (University of Chicago Alumni Weekend 2011), Twitter users tweeted what they saw and heard over the weekend.

@Fashionistalab: "Getting ready for 5th year reunion at Carnivale! Can't wait to see @LauraO @Moni_in_NY and everyone else from the class of 2006!"

@lilWeezyG: "Only at UChicago: giant molecules at a science-themed party. Says it all."

@laurao: "All three bathrooms at Jimmy's are functioning. Things DO change."

@uchicagoalumni: "Big storm about to hit Hyde Park. Take shelter at Rockefeller for the Gala Concert at 4:30."

That last handle, @uchicagoalumni, is better known in our office as Tracey Swanson, web marketing specialist. Wearing a maroon "#UCAW11" T-shirt and running from event to event, Swanson tweeted responses to questions, quotes from UnCommon Core sessions, and even a shout-out to recover a lost zip card. The UChicago tent continues to expand.

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