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The Dartmouth
April 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Alumni recall Homecoming tales of decades past

Whether it's the bonfire, the football game or some unique form of revelry, most alumni carry memories of Dartmouth Homecoming with them for years to come.

Most alums agreed with Janelle Ruley '00 that the first thing they remember about Homecoming is the bonfire their freshman year.

The sweep was a defining moment for Ruley. "As a student, my favorite memory was the freshman sweep and being picked up in front of our residence hall and taken in this huge mass of people, and then emerging onto the Green and running around the bonfire -- that was pretty phenomenal," Ruley said.

Other alums recalled similar camaraderie and ties made while circling the bonfire.

"It's being out at some bizarre time of the evening or the morning with your classmates that you know, and classmates you don't know, and sharing that experience, singing the Alma Mater and freezing. It's the first big bonding experience after freshman trips," Julie Cillo '92 said of her freshman bonfire.

Andy Affleck '90 said he and his friends at the Phi Tau coed fraternity were always excited for the alumni to return to campus so that they could meet all the people who were legends to them. Affleck also said he enjoyed playing the kazoo with the marching band and performing with the Glee Club on Homecoming, even though, he said, no one could hear him.

Although he said building the bonfire was his favorite Homecoming memory, Justin Aborn '83 remembers the football game -- along with rushing the field -- as a close second.

"It was a lot of fun -- running on the field and forming class numbers even though it was frowned upon," Aborn said.

In the days before coeducation, Homecoming was one of the first times every year that women from various all female colleges, including Smith, Wellesley and Holy Cross, would come to campus.

"Back then, Hanover was a little more of an outpost than it is today," Bruce Barcello '74 said. "The rule was dates would arrive sometime on Friday and would leave after brunch at Thayer at about 3 p. m. on Sunday."

But not all of the best Homecoming memories revolve around the bonfire or other traditional Homecoming events. For some, the best memories were made on their own.

Barcello says his favorite Homecoming memory was when "several of the guys went to the Skiway and climbed to the top of Smarts [Mountain] and watched the sunrise. Every time the sun would peek over the hill, we'd run down the central slope as fast as we could to try to see multiple sunrises."

Many alumni said that though they participated somehow in Homecoming for all of their four years, the excitement was never the same as it was their first year.

"Each year had its own special quality, but by the time you are a senior, it becomes a lot more nostalgic -- one of those many lasts seniors go through," Ruley said.

For most former students, the recollections of Homecoming don't stop with the year they graduate. Many spoke of positive memories from Homecomings as alumni, when they returned to campus after their graduation.

"It was just fun. It was the first time since we had graduated that we were all back together again. It was just great. It felt like we had never left," Cillo said of the first time she and her fellow '92s were reunited after graduation.

"We had a tailgate party out by the Thompson Arena eating donuts and drinking beer at 10 o'clock in the morning," Cillo said.

Ruley added, "As an older student and an alum, the best part is seeing the alums who come back, especially people you haven't stayed in touch with."

But Barcello said that the first few Homecomings were enjoyable, but the farther you move away from Homecoming, the less enjoyable it is. "You just don't really have anything to do."