On a rainy Saturday in 1925, Indiana Central College welcomed students, faculty, alumni and families to campus for their first Homecoming. Students opened up their dorm rooms for tours, made papier-mache floats for a parade, gathered to watch the football game, victory rally and planned to participate in a campus-wide pancake breakfast and Homecoming luncheon. Despite the inclement weather, the Nov. 2, 1925 issue of The Reflector claimed that the two-day event was one to remember.
“Since this, our first annual Homecoming celebration, was so successful, we can all look forward with pleasant anticipations to those of future years, when even more alumni and former students and friends of Indiana Central will be in attendance and our celebrations will be still more extensive.”
In the 93 years since the first Homecoming, the annual event has featured a variety of activities, including barbecues, bonfires, building and space dedications, dances, musical and theatrical performances, luncheons and dormitory tours, according to The Reflector’s archives. Some of these events are part of Homecoming today, either because they have continuously been part of the traditions or have been reintroduced. According to Associate Vice President of Alumni Engagement and class of 1998 graduate Andrew Kocher, Homecomings during his time as a student also featured a dance, Homecoming royalty and the parade, but the events were much less pronounced than they are today.
Attendance during Homecoming weekend has also varied over the years. President-Elect of the Alumni Board and 2007 alumnus Adam Campagna said that when he attended the University of Indianapolis, there was less student involvement in Homecoming weekend. He said that he felt that the focus was more on the academic side of the college experience and less on the student life side.
“…As you see universities fighting for students to come in and help the university maintain a really strong reputation amongst other competing universities, I feel like staff and administration found out, ‘We’ve got to really focus on student life and the whole experience of being a student,’” Campagna said. “And Homecoming’s a part of that. Homecoming’s a major annual event and it’s two ways. It’s not just for students to experience campus life, it’s also for grads like myself or even visitors.”
Kocher said that, under the leadership of University President Robert Manuel, Homecoming has become bigger and better. Manuel has pushed several offices on campus including Alumni Engagement, Student Affairs and Athletics to work together to plan and discuss ways to improve the weekend. Part of this has meant adding a variety of activities to the weekend, including the Hound Hustle 5K, other athletic events and alumni concerts, according to Associate Director of Alumni Engagement and 2014 alumnus Coran Sigman.
“It [Homecoming] used to be very much football focused where it was just about the game and the parade and everything. But we’ve tried to do everything we can to incorporate something for everyone,” Sigman said. “We’ve done a lot as a university to make sure that if you’re not the biggest football fan that’s okay, you can come and do these other events too. Especially for our alums, that’s provided more opportunities for them to come back and celebrate other things on campus.”
Campagna said that he enjoys attending Homecoming more as an alumnus than he did as a student. When he attended UIndy, he said that students were not as involved in campus life. Now, he said, there is an energy and excitement on campus during Homecoming weekend.
“As an alum, I think…you can feel that energy. It’s just kind of oozing out of the students, being excited to go to Homecoming and watch their fellow students participate in athletics and showing school spirit,” Campagna said. “It’s just something that didn’t feel like it was necessarily there when I was a student. I think Homecoming gets a little more special each year.”
While a variety of events and activities have been added to the weekend over the last several decades, the parade and the football game have remained a central focus of the festivities. Because of this history, Kocher said that watching this year’s parade was a great experience for alumni, in part because of the number of people participating, either by walking or watching.
“It’s neat because that [the parade] has connection all the way back to the 1960s and before when alumni built floats and did the parade,” Kocher said. “I certainly don’t know what the route of the parade was back then, but it is neat that when alumni come back and they see the parade, it has a connection to the experience they had at Homecoming when they were here as a student.”
Sigman also has fond memories of the parade. She said that one of her favorite memories was walking in the parade her sophomore year, her first year participating.
“…We turned the golf cart into a giant Ninja Turtle and bought pizza and gave pizza away,” Sigman said. “The golf cart was one of the Ninja Turtles and then three of us…got to walk as Ninja Turtles and it was so much fun.”
For both Sigman and Kocher, seeing students, faculty, staff, alumni and families come together to celebrate the university is one of the best parts of Homecoming weekend. That connection was part of one of Kocher’s favorite memories from Homecoming. During halftime of the 2017 Homecoming football game, members of the UIndy community and Ace broke the world record for most high fives given by a mascot in a minute.
“…But what was cool about that wasn’t just that we were breaking a world record, it was that the people that did it were students, were faculty, were staff, were alumni,” Kocher said. “It wasn’t just one group of students, it was really a combination of our entire university community that got together and did that. That was pretty special.”
Sigman said that getting to talk to the alumni that come to campus is reenergizing for her. She said that she likes seeing their excitement about returning and having the opportunity to share stories.
“I get to talk [and listen] to…grads sharing all of these adorable stories of when husband and wife met or their favorite class,” Sigman said. “And I have the same memories from my time, even though it was four years ago.”
According to Kocher, Homecoming is the event that alumni are most excited to come back to campus for. Sigman said that Homecoming is an important event for students, faculty and alumni alike because it celebrates the spirit of campus and being a Greyhound.
“That’s the number one thing. If we are different in every other single way that’s the number one thing that we have in common is that we are all Greyhounds,” Sigman said. “And we can celebrate the 50 year reunion class or Good Hall being rededicated and everything that goes on in Good Hall or sitting back in Tailgate Town and just relaxing together before the game. It’s something that we can all celebrate and have fun with.”