Southwestern Preparing to Celebrate the 100th Anniversary of its First Homecoming
In 1909, the United States was in a “golden age” before the start of World War I. Alumni and faculty members from Southwestern University, which was founded in Georgetown in 1873, decided it would be a good time for the school to hold its first homecoming. Some 1,000 former students made plans to attend the event and special Pullman trains were added to get them to Georgetown. Residents all over town opened their homes to accommodate the visitors.
This fall, Southwestern will celebrate the 100th anniversary of that first homecoming with a weekend full of special events Nov. 6-8. Organizers expect 1,500 people to attend this year’s event – the most ever.
Several activities during the weekend will recreate that first homecoming. On Saturday morning, participants will gather on the intramural field across from the Cullen Building to have a panoramic photo taken similar to the one taken at Southwestern’s second homecoming in 1912.
Right after the photo everyone will gather on the Academic Mall for a picnic that will feature barbeque and Dr Pepper – just as was served in 1909. The Dr Pepper Bottling Company in Waco, which donated 1,200 cans of their product for the 1909 homecoming, is making the same donation again this year.
At the chapel service Sunday morning, participants will sing the hymn “Blest Be the Tie That Binds,” which was sung at the first homecoming.
And on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Southwestern Library, students will participate in the preliminary rounds of the Brooks Prize Debate, a long-time tradition at Southwestern that was revived last year. The topic for the preliminary rounds will be “Resolved: A democratic society has an obligation to provide adequate health care for its citizens.
This year’s homecoming celebration will have several unique events as well. On Friday, Nov. 6, the university will hold a gala to mark the 40th anniversary of the first African-American student to graduate from Southwestern. The event will celebrate the accomplishments of African-American alumni who have graduated since then with a film produced by 2003 graduate Yesenia Garcia. Ernest Clark, who was Southwestern’s first African-American graduate, will direct the alumni and student choirs in a piece he composed at the Sunday morning chapel service. The choir from Huston-Tillotson University will join the Southwestern choirs for that service.
On Saturday, Nov. 7, at 9:30 a.m., Louise Walsh will give a talk about a new book she has written titled The Ties That Bind: A Georgetown Texas Memoir 1904-1909. The book is based on more than 500 letters written to and by her grandmother, Early Price, who attended Southwestern from 1901 to 1908, both as a student in the Fitting School and as a music student at the University. Included in the book is a letter Price wrote describing the first homecoming – one of only a few such accounts that are known to exist. This program will be held at Grace Heritage Center, 811 S. Main St., and is open to the public. Walsh will have copies of her book available for sale at the program.
Georgianne Hewett, associate vice president for alumni and parent relations, said alumni have planned 13 class reunion parties for homecoming this year, which is the most ever.
“For 100 years, Southwestern University homecomings have provided alumni with occasions to return to Georgetown to celebrate a transforming time in their lives, the friends they made and the faculty who taught them,” Hewett said. “It is a time-honored tradition that is as relevant today as it was in 1909.”
For a complete list of the 2009 homecoming events, visit www.sualumni.net/homecoming.
Four people have been named honorary co-chairs for the weekend: Southwestern University Historian William B. Jones, former Southwestern faculty member Esther Weir and Southwestern graduates Russell Ramsey and Ann Cater Ramsey.
Jones’ book To Survive and Excel: Southwestern University 1840-2000, includes recollections that inspired Southwestern to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first homecoming. Weir has attended more homecomings than any other current or emeriti faculty and has hosted countless class reunions and alumni in her home. The Ramseys are being recognized for being the alumni who have attended the most homecomings. They have missed only two homecomings since they graduated in 1966 and 1967 respectively, and have planned numerous reunions for their classmates.