Homecoming at Furman has always been a special time for us. It was when Laura and I first met and we’ve always treated it like a second anniversary. This one was doubly special. It was my 40 year reunion and it was Laura’s big retirement celebration.
When planning for Laura’s retirement things got a bit…confused. She thought it was supposed to be last year, so she invited several of her former research students. We had fun with them, but there was no real party. This year they went all out. The event was even listed as official Homecoming event.
The department had not only invited Laura’s former research students, but all chemistry alumni and faculty. At one point there were over a hundred that had RSVPed.
The event was hors d’oeurves and drinks in Younts Center on the Furman Campus. The turnout was great. There were former students and former advisees all stopping by to congratulate Laura. I tried to play photographer while entertaining others and trying to make sure Laura got something to eat.
There were many, many stories about how much Laura had done for each of them. It was inspiring. Among the crowd were doctors, teachers, professors, scientists, and even a Jeopardy™ Champion. For my name tag I put “Mr. Laura Wright.”
Some of my friends came for Laura’s gathering, too. Dwight and Sue Moffitt, Jim and Jenny Davis, and Steve and Linda Serikiz came by. Steve and Linda had driven up from Aiken just for the event, but I’d be spending more time with the others over the weekend. There was a weird connection of coincidences among this group. I had been dating Sandy Deal (now going by Saundra Wolfe) who was Linda’s roommate at Furman and was living with Steve and Linda in Atlanta at the time. We had broken up some months before and Sandy was back at Furman Homecoming to return the bass guitar to me she had borrowed, which actually belonged to the late Robert Ridgeway. Jim didn’t want to hang around with us and our icy relationship, so he wandered a bit and met Laura. He’s a notorious flirt, so he started up a conversation. That’s how I met Laura. Jim would married Jenny three weeks later and Laura and I would attend the wedding.
We were worn out after the event. Usually we walk on the mall on the Friday before Homecoming, but not this time. Still, it was great seeing this large gathering of former students from Laura’s 40 year tenure at Furman. Many thanks to Karen Buchmeuller, Kyle Martin, and Megan Friese for making it happen.
This was one of the best Furman Homecomings we’ve had in a long, long time. Laura and I headed up to campus a bit early. We strolled past the “floats” made by the students the night before. Things have changed so much since my time. We would spend the entire week creating elaborate displays in secret. Now student groups are given a 12X12 chicken wire screen and these are just simple displays. Apparently some of the frats started borrowing floats from Clemson and other places, and this was an attempt to level the playing field.
It looks like the theme this year had something to do with championships in all sports. There was basketball, Super Bowl, NASCAR, etc.
One float was especially creative. The tissue paper was pushed through from the back for a unique effect.
Laura headed down to the student center for breakfast while I walked over to the library. I was interested in seeing the new Ed Jones Collection in the archives. Gordon and Bonnie Jones had donated all of Ed’s papers and articles about trips to China and these were on display. I had hoped to see Gordon again, but he wasn’t around. I did meet Jim Makala, the archives director. We chatted a bit and I told him I wanted to come back and spend some time in the archives. I really love the way the reading room is set up and the Pitts Conference Room with its stained glass windows.
I met up with Laura at the student center and we got mochas at Starbucks, then enjoyed them out near the lake. More former students stopped by and said hello and congratulated her. President Davis even stopped by.
We walked through the science building then on up to the Homecoming Village set up on the rugby field. Jim and Jenny arrived about the same time. Laura helped Jenny get lunch while Jim and I wandered by the department tents. We also walked out to the old UFFP tent. I wondered if that website is still active.
Lunch was under a tent that was supposed to house both the 45 and 40 year reunions. There really wasn’t enough space for everyone. Even so, the shade was nice, and the lunch was excellent. Several people came by and it was great chatting with them.
We went on to the game. It was the our first of this season and we have new seats. These are actually better. Furman won, but it was painful. The first touchdown didn’t happen until late in the third quarter.
The best part of the day was after we got home. Dwight and Sue, Alan and Mary, Bennet Stackhouse and his wife Mary, Jim and Jenny, and Janet and David Layne came over to the house. We ordered lots of pizza, made lots of martinis, and had a great time catching up on old times.
During my four years at Furman I somehow never went to a homecoming game. I remember my senior year working on a paper in the library and listening through the open window as they announced the Homecoming Queen. Yet, it’s become such a part of our Furman experience. I don’t see as many of my classmates as I used to in the early days, but Laura is constantly running into former students. I’m hoping that in her retirement this will still be an important part of our year.