Alumni return to the mountains for Homecoming 2022

Generations of alumni made the trip to Banner Elk Friday, Sept. 30−Sunday, Oct. 2 for the 2022 Homecoming weekend. While this year’s celebration was the first to be largely unaffected by the COVID-19 pandemic in the last few years, Hurricane Ian posed a new threat to the events. Despite the weather forecast, many Bobcats braved the storm to visit their mountain home once again.

Much of this year’s Homecoming celebration focused on honoring the college’s history and taking the lessons and legacy of the past into a new era at Lees-McRae. The first event of the weekend honored a Lees-McRae legend who played a huge part in the college’s history, Don Baker.

The life of the former Director of Public Relations and Alumni Affairs, Sports Information Director, Athletic Director, and Vice President of Informational Services was celebrated by friends, family, former students, community members, and more on the afternoon of Friday, Sept. 30 in Evans Auditorium. This was a time to reminisce and reflect for many former athletes who were coached by Baker.

While rainy weather drove the Welcome Back Block Party inside later that evening, it did not kill the Bobcat spirit, and students, faculty, staff, and alumni gathered in The Summit for a festive and delicious fall-themed meal.

The Block Party offered more than just delicious food and lively camaraderie, however. This official Homecoming kickoff included plenty of fun announcements and even a big surprise. The unveiling of a new and improved Wily set the tone for an era of Lees-McRae focusing on institutional goals of growth and excellence.

“Each of these areas of our INEXPRO 2030 strategic plan are focused around making sure that we have excellence in everything that we do at the college,” President Lee King said during Saturday morning’s Green and Gold Brunch. “We have excellence in our finances, we have excellence in our facilities, we have excellence in our co-curricular activities, we have excellence in the way that we steward the environment.”

Excellence continued to be exhibited by the students who were named to the 2022 Homecoming Court at the Welcome Back Block Party. Nominees for the court represented clubs, teams, and other official student organizations across campus.

Having earned the most points in the daily Spirit Week themes leading up to Homecoming, Lees-McRae Green Initiative representative Dayna Cocciolone was named the Homecoming Spirit Week Winner. Representing Students Today, Alumni Tomorrow (STAT) Mallory Roughton was awarded the Homecoming Service Award, recognizing STAT for collecting the most canned and non-perishable food items for Feeding Avery Families. Homecoming King was awarded to Nate Darden, and Homecoming Queen to Savanna Hartman.

Following the Block Party, the crowd moved into Evans Auditorium to celebrate Bobcat sports of the past with a screening of recently digitized football film. Students had a look into the history of Lees-McRae athletics, while alumni and former players recalled their times playing for or cheering on the football team when they were in college.

Much of Saturday, Oct. 1 was about coming together. The classes of 2002 and 1972 held their own class reunions that evening, but Saturday morning brought together alumni from at least six decades for the Green and Gold Brunch in Evans Auditorium.

This was a special year for the brunch, drawing together alumni from the classes of ’70, ’71, and ’72 who had previously missed their opportunities to be inducted into the Golden Heritage Society due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Induction into the Golden Heritage Society, the alumni group that inducts members who have been out of college for more than 50 years, is a milestone celebration for many Bobcats, making for a full house on that drizzly mountain morning.

This was also an opportunity to celebrate the Order of the Tower, another long-running organization at Lees-McRae. Current Order of the Tower students mingled with alumni to celebrate the club’s founder Lewis Hall, and the 60th anniversary of the club to which many of them dedicated much of their time at Lees-McRae.

Trustee Julia McCombs ’75 announced the renovation of the tower that she has spearheaded alongside Jim Berry ’69, a skilled woodworker who has taken on the responsibility to restore the tower and make it usable for today.

“We are really about making what was old new again,” McCombs said, a sentiment that applies not only to the tower, but to the college more generally.

In addition to receiving recognition for his work on the tower, Berry was also awarded the Alumni Service Award at the Green and Gold Brunch. Other awards of the morning included the Captain’s Class Award, which was awarded to the class of 1959 for having the largest percentage of donors in an alumni class, and the Distinguished Alumni Award, which went to James Mahan ’59.

The athletic events of the weekend began that afternoon as the women’s volleyball team took on North Greenville University while excited Bobcats packed the bleachers in Williams Gymnasium to cheer them on.

Several of the athletic events originally scheduled for Saturday were moved to Sunday, with a men’s lacrosse alumni game in the morning and men’s and women’s soccer games in the afternoon. Tailgaters braved the misty rain to cheer on the soccer teams as they took on Converse University, resulting in a win for the women and a loss for the men.

Homecoming 2022 was an opportunity to celebrate everything about Lees-McRae. Whether this was a time for reflection on college days past, or a celebration of all the exciting updates and changes yet to come, it was a great weekend for everyone who returned to the mountain.

Explore the Fall Homecoming 2022 photo album
By Maya JarrellOctober 03, 2022
AlumniCampus Life