“The Alumni Office takes pleasure in sounding the first gun in the campaign to provide a Home Coming Day for former students in the fall.”
So wrote Alumni Secretary J. Malcolm Bridges ’25 in the March 19, 1926, issue of the Flat Hat. He continued: “Surely such a suggestion should appeal to all concerned and with a little effort could be made the occasion of an annual pilgrimage to Alma Mater.”
Bridges’ appeal met with approval from alumni. The first Home Coming Day — Oct. 23, 1926 — “was a complete success from every angle” according to the Flat Hat. And thus a grand tradition was born.
In the years since, Homecoming has transformed to Homecoming & Reunion Weekend, a multi-day extravaganza attracting thousands of alumni. There’s something for everyone — parties, class reunions, departmental open houses, children’s activities — plus the traditional parade and football game.
Ruth Weimer Tillar ’45, a 2012 Alumni Medallion winner, was the Grand Marshal for the 2018 Homecoming Parade. Before she passed away in January 2019, she witnessed almost every Homecoming, attending all but one since her freshman year in 1941. (Doing the math, that’s 77 Homecomings!)
The biggest changes she saw? “The older we would get, the more people who would be there, particularly if it was a reunion. And the events became much more elaborate.” Among Tillar’s favorite memories were the dinner-dances that were held at Williamsburg Lodge and at Kingsmill Resort.
We Love a Parade!
Tillar’s Homecoming memories were bookended by her participation in the parade.
“My very first Homecoming in 1941, I had joined Kappa Alpha Theta and we had a float in the parade. It was kind of strange walking from the sorority house at 9 a.m. in an evening dress!”
Then, 72 years later, Tillar rode in the 2012 Homecoming Parade in celebration of receiving the Alumni Medallion, the highest honor awarded by the Alumni Association. In 2018, she rode in a Thunderbird convertible at the head of the parade as the Grand Marshal. She also was honored on the field before the football game.