Homecoming festivities spread joy

Thousands of alumni returned to Wake Forest for the annual event


The annual ‘party so dear’ is a highlight of Homecoming.

Hope Zhu, Staff Writer

Last weekend, Sept. 16-18, thousands of Wake Forest alumni returned to campus for the 2022 Homecoming weekend. Accompanied by their families, the former Demon Deacons enjoyed the Homecoming Wake Forest football game against Liberty University alongside other festivities. 

“We’re expecting tons of families,” John Champlin, director of Alumni Engagement, said. “This year, we invited and brought 2,500 to 3,000 people to campus. We hope that everyone gets energized and likes this event as much as we like putting it on.”

We’re all bonded by our time at Wake Forest. Seeing the newer students go through the same journey makes me think about what they can accomplish and their endless possibilities

— Matthew McClellan, JD '12

Homecoming weekend is an annual alumni engagement event that hosts more than 3,500 participants during the fall semester. With a mix of signature events and communal activities held from Friday to Sunday, the weekend is a time of reunion for old friends and a time of connection with the current Demon Deacons.

For 17 years, Ed Morris, executive director of the Wake Forest Historical Museum, worked with the Office of Alumni to honor and share the early history of Wake Forest. Having organized events such as Golden Deacs, a reception for alumni who graduated 50 years ago or earlier, he was excited to see the older generation of Deacs come back together.

“We had a really big crowd — almost 300 people came for the Golden Deacs lunch today,” said Morris. “Seeing people that you haven’t seen for many years since they graduated is a lot of fun.”

On Friday afternoon, the Wake Forest community kicked off Homecoming weekend with “Party So Dear”. Attendees enjoyed free drinks and food and danced as the band Kool & the Gang performed on Manchester Plaza. 

“My favorite song is ‘Celebration,’” Terrell Simmons, a 1992 Wake Forest graduate, said. “Everything lived up to my expectation and the event reminded me of the excitement and energy of the old days.”

Along with Terrell Simmons and other more recent graduates of Wake Forest, 1970s alumni expressed collegiate nostalgia and shared special moments from their time at Wake Forest.

“The post office was on the quad at the time when I was here,” David Abernethy (‘69, MA ‘71) said. “I saw my wife for the first time in front of the post office. ”

He continued: “She gave me her name and phone number. Later, I called her and said ‘I need a date for the homecoming.’”

Abernethy and his wife celebrated their 50th anniversary two years ago, and she’s still his date for Homecoming. 

Abernethy also noticed how much the university has changed since he graduated. 

“The campus has grown immensely,” he said. “The whole atmosphere is so much better now.”

Later that Friday evening, the reunion party on Poteat Field received a parade of returning alumni ranging from graduating years 1977-2012. Tents were set up under the night sky accompanied by a BBQ buffet, fine wine and a DJ. 

Recent graduates expressed how the sentiment of the party reminded them of their appreciation for Wake Forest. Matthew McClellan, who earned his Juris Doctor degree in 2012 at Wake Forest Law School, went to see the law school library and saw the spot where he decided to spend a semester doing an internship in Washington.

“It’s like a rush of memory,” said McClellan. “Coming back from the time that you spent together, especially in law school, where everyone is closely knitted.”

The calendar for Saturday and Sunday was packed with a variety of programs including the Festival on the Quad, alumni tailgate, the much-anticipated football game and others.  As families and alumni strolled from event to event, they said that school pride bound them together.

“We’re all bonded by our time at Wake Forest,” McClellan said. “Seeing the newer students go through the same journey makes me think about what they can accomplish and their endless possibilities.”