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Alumni Weekend attendees at eight-year high

Image courtesy of Scott Cook

Attendance at this year’s Alumni Weekend increased by 44 percent compared to the average attendees in the last eight years. Pre-registration numbers increased 68 percent, and walk-in registration counts increased by 115 percent.

“The lack of in-person gatherings during the pandemic fueled pent-up demand for alumni to return to their alma mater,” said Myrna Bizer, associate vice president for advancement. “Alumni were really excited to see their friends and mentors, and the energy on campus was palpable.”

Between March 24 and March 27, 1,370 alumni and guests pre-registered for Alumni Weekend, and 215 walk-ins registered. Alumni Weekend’s actual attendance was between 1,150 and 1,200 people. 

Alumni Weekend is an annual event that welcomes past graduates to campus and engages them in networking and reunion events. Events ranged from an alumni volleyball tournament and student media panel to a 50th reunion dinner and a rethinking fashion show.

Because Alumni Weekend has not been fully in-person since 2019, this year’s weekend incorporated recognition of a backlog of six affinity reunions: three 50th Reunion classes, and Alumni Award recipients from a three-year span (2020, 2021 and 2022). 

“We also wanted to create a robust program given the nearly three-year gap between the last Alumni Weekend on campus and the launch of our campaign,” said Bizer. 

While the costs for producing more than 40 events over four days are still being counted, Bizer said that “the end result likely will be close to double the cost of the pre-COVID years, which we are covering through cost savings elsewhere in this year’s Advancement budget. In other words, it was cost-neutral to our budget.” 

Alumni Weekend participation was free this year for attendees. Hotel and travel accommodations, however, were made and paid directly by attendees. 

“It was fantastic being back on campus after a crazy couple of years,” said William Glass (‘14). “The grove party is always a highlight of Alumni weekend and it was fantastic seeing old friends, professors, and staff members. While the campus may have changed with new buildings, the Rollins community is as strong as ever.”

“I graduated in 2020 and wasn’t able to attend the in-person graduation the following year, so alumni weekend ‘22 carried extra significance for me,” said Dahlia Lilleslatten (‘20). “I reconnected with old friends I hadn’t seen in years, and fell in love again with all of Winter Park’s charm and beauty.”

Each year, alumni are nominated for awards. This year’s winners included Margaret Linnane (’76 ’96MBA), winner of the Fred Rogers Global Citizenship Award; Akmal Ali (’03), winner of the Distinguished Alumni Award; Ryo Hasegawa (’19), winner of the Recent Alumni Achievement Award; and Andrea Massey-Farrell (’98), winner of the Alumni Service Award. 

The first ever “Alumni Reunion” took place in 1893 in Chicago. Over the years, the tradition evolved into an on-campus program. 

“We hope that students take away an understanding of the depth and passion of the alumni community for keeping Rollins a vibrant place for student learning and self-discovery,” Bizer said. “We hope, too, that students are inspired to tap into this alumni network for sources of mentoring, internships and post-graduation jobs.”

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