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Centennial Fall Weekend was the celebration of a century

With spectacular Friday night fireworks, a full house in Palmer for Saturday morning's "Big Event" and nearly 5,000 alumni, parents, faculty, staff and students enjoying events on Tempel Green and throughout campus, Centennial Fall Weekend was truly the celebration of a century.

See a slideshow of Centennial Fall Weekend highlights.

Perfect New England fall weather and record attendance - registrations were up more than 40 percent - set the stage for a weekend full of annual favorites - Harvestfest, a cappella concerts and soccer on the green - and lots of Centennial extras. More than 1,300 people followed the New London Firefighters Pipes and Drums to Palmer Auditorium for Saturday morning's "100 Years of Great Beginnings," a multimedia production known more simply as the "Big Event." The centerpiece of the Centennial celebration, the show featured inspiring talks, videos, performances and other theatrical elements.

"It was such an intriguing way to celebrate our history and our future," said Jane Funkhouser '53, whose grandson is a member of the Class of 2015. "I was so proud of the people representing their experiences here." She added, "I'm just so envious of my grandson, who gets to spend the next four years here."

Nate Cornell '11 agreed that the Big Event did not disappoint. "It was well worth coming back for," he said. "I expected it to be about the College's history, but it was so much more. It was a story of the impact this place has - it was truly inspiring."

Cornell said he was most excited to see his classmates, who returned to campus en masse. More than 150 were on hand for the weekend, which included a half-year reunion and the unveiling of their class gift, a display of bronze plaques showing the evolution of the College seal over the years. Max Sgro '11 unveiled the display in Fanning Hall with President Leo I. Higdon Jr., and said the plaques were chosen as a way for the members of the College's Centennial Class to show how proud they are to be part of the College's history.

It's a history Gladys Russell Munroe '34 knows well. The oldest alumna to attend Fall Weekend (she will be 100 in February), Munroe was a physics major who graduated with the College's 16th class. "I remember when the College was starting, so I'm very glad to be here for the 100th," she said, adding that her favorite events were the fireworks and the a cappella concert.

The weekend also included seminars and talks by faculty and alumni on a broad range of topics, including the evolution of human development as an academic discipline, women in U.S. politics and service in the age of insecurity.

Debo Adegbile '91, who spoke at the Alumni of Color luncheon, paid tribute to several faculty members, including government and international relations professor William Frasure, who helped him prepare for his work as associate director-counsel and director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. When he argued before the Supreme Court in defense of the Voting Rights Act, Adegbile said he brought the same kind of discipline that Connecticut College students bring to class.

"You just get ready to answer the hardest question that could be asked. It was Bill Frasure as John Roberts! Frasure prepared me to stand my ground and argue vigorously."

Another highlight was the Theater Department's "Foundations, Dreams and Inspirations," an original piece of theater about the history of the College and its people. The play was created entirely by the cast using archival material and interviews.

"Students were inspired by the alumni they interviewed," said the show's director, Michael Lerner '89. "They were inspired to reflect on how the College has changed them, even, in the case of the freshmen, on how they are different after just a few weeks here."

And as always, the power of personal connections was on display all weekend. "Fall Weekend is a great opportunity to reconnect - not just with classmates, but with professors and the administration," said Jacob Jerome Daniels '08. "I'm just so glad I got to be a part of it."

October 24, 2011