The annual reminder of the UChicago alumni state of mind.
This spring associate editor Jason Kelly traveled to India to report on the opening of the University’s new Center in Delhi. Jason found the weekend festive and all parties in high spirits but was also reminded of what counts as celebrating for UChicagoans. The opening, he writes in his story, “stood on substance, not ceremony,” with expert panels on topics from early childhood education to public health. Social events merely punctuated the real fun to be had—taking in a new idea, challenging an assertion, refining an argument, putting it all together.
That’s the way we roll. I was reminded of Jason’s story looking over the schedule for Alumni Weekend 2014, just around the corner, June 5–8. Here too, there will be parties and partiers. But the weekend guide becomes truly compulsive reading, and the weekend truly Maroon, in the briefs for UnCommon Core sessions and other talks.
A Boys Don’t Cry screening followed by discussion with the director, Kimberly Peirce, AB’90? Sign me up. Fermilab tour? Yes, please. The atmospheres of alien worlds, the microbiome, alumni in political life, folklore in puppetry, UChicago economics, poetry? Tough choices. The participation of this year’s alumni award winners—a senator, an art collector, a pundit, beloved emeriti faculty, and more—is an extra enticement.
This Alumni Weekend will be a good one, and I should know. Working in alumni relations and development, one becomes a connoisseur of the event, where all of us in the department pitch in each year at a panel or party or tour, or two or three. This will be my ninth year.
My alumni weekend memories go back further than working the event. In 1997 I was a Hyde Parker, student, and alumna. The Ratner Athletics Center, now the site of Saturday evening’s UChicaGO party, was just a glimmer in someone’s eye. Dancing that night took place in a tent on the quadrangles with a dance floor on top of the grass.
Earlier I had watched the Stanley Cup finals with friends at the Pub, where the game was projected onto a movie screen. I made a call from a pay phone in Ida Noyes afterward, then went off to the party. It was one of those moments you still remember in unexpectedly clear detail years later. It had rained that afternoon and the wet grass on sandaled feet stays with me, as do the booths at the 57th Street Art Fair, shuttered white and quiet when we walked home up Kimbark.
Many things have come a long way since that night: large-screen TVs, telephones, and Alumni Weekend itself.