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Homecoming: Not Just for Sports Fans

Categories: Midd Blogosphere

Hundreds of Middlebury alumni returned to campus for Homecoming, Oct. 28-30, to enjoy athletic and cultural events, and to reminisce with friends amid spectacular fall weather of sunshine, brisk winds, and occasional snow flurries.

While the weekend’s largest crowds assembled for the football game and at the tailgate parties outside Alumni Stadium before, during, and after the gridiron event, there also were lectures, panel discussions, theatrical performances, concerts, alumni games, receptions, films, and celebrations for alumni to savor.

Homecoming kicked off on Friday with a talk delivered by Patrick Dougherty, the artist who led the community in the creation of “So Inclined,” the stick sculpture that has graced the front entrance to the Mahaney Center for the Arts since the fall of 2007.

Patrick Dougherty

Since the sculpture is coming down this week, Dougherty was invited back to campus to reflect on the meaning of his work both at Middlebury and around the world. The creator of more than 200 commissioned pieces in the U.S., Japan, France, Denmark, Austria, and the U.K., Dougherty said, “A good sculpture is one that causes a lot of personal associations in the viewer, a lot of starting points in your own personal life trying to understand it. And, as a sculptor, I am not only thinking about making the surface interesting and making it fit into the site. I also think a sculpture has to have enough power and grace to evoke a visceral response.”

Judging from the enthusiastic audience and their approving remarks—Richard Saunders, the director of the Museum of Art, termed it the “most beloved” piece of outdoor art at Middlebury—there is little doubt that Dougherty achieved his goals at Middlebury.

Unwilling brides (l. to r.) Meghan Leathers '13.5, Mari Vial-Golden '14, and Lucy Van Atta '12

Friday’s events also included a career panel discussion cosponsored by Distinguished Men of Color and the Center for Education in Action, Shabbat services with Hillel, two screenings of the final Harry Potter film, and the theatre department’s season opener, the Charles Mee’s comedy “Big Love” directed by Assistant Professor Cláudio Medeiros ’90, in Wright Memorial Theatre.

The cast of students gave four rousing performances over the weekend, and the show was well attended with more than 800 people in the seats for a story about Greek brides unwillingly betrothed to their American cousins. The action, including the grooms’ sudden arrival by helicopter to the “Mission Impossible” theme, transported theatre-goers to a lavish villa in southern Italy.

There was no shortage of action in the alumni game. Here's Mike Stone '09 dashing in for a shot on net.

Saturday’s early risers took part in the Peter Westra ’99 Memorial 5K Run or the men’s alumni lacrosse game, both of which started at 9 a.m., followed by Professor Barbara Hofer’s lecture in Davis Library about parental communication with college-age children in the age of e-mail, cell phones, text messaging, and social media.

Middlebury’s women water polo players, including three alumnae, assembled in the Natatorium on Saturday morning for a preseason tournament against Dartmouth College and the Club Aquatique Montreal. While the Montreal club was delayed temporarily at the Vermont border, Middlebury swam against Dartmouth in the opening match, and after the Big Green scored two quick goals, the Middlebury women splashed their way back to score as well.

Lee Corbett '07 (center) is a grad student at Dartmouth, but she swam with the Middlebury club, including Divya Dethier (left).

Since women’s water polo is a spring sport, the round-robin tournament gave all three teams the opportunity to play against real competition. Brian Goodwin, the longtime Middlebury water polo coach, tried players at different positions and experimented with strategy. And in keeping with the spirit of friendly competition, the visitors from Montreal spent the night at Goodwin’s house in Williston before returning to Middlebury for more water polo action on Sunday.

Meanwhile on Saturday, the Panther football team was enduring a long afternoon on the turf of Youngman Field against the undefeated Bantams from Trinity College. (Final score: Trinity 42, Middlebury 7.) With more than 1,500 spectators in attendance, the members of the vaunted 7-1 team from 1981—including then-coach Mickey Heinecken and the current coach, Bob Ritter ’82—were honored at halftime.

The beloved Peter Kohn was remembered by alumni at the football game.

Homecoming Saturday started out sunny and (almost) warm, but by the second half of the football game the skies were socked in and the Panther faithful huddled together in hats, gloves, and scarves. Later in the afternoon alumni found refuge indoors while anthropologist James Fitzsimmons, an assistant professor, presented an illustrated lecture on “Power and Authority in the Classic Maya Lowlands”; the Hirschfield International Film Series presented “Vincere” in Dana Auditorium; and men’s and women’s lacrosse alumni celebrated more than 60 years of the sport at the College with a reception and dinner.

The Middlebury Women of Color sponsored an early-evening get-together for students and alumni, and also hosted the Black Pearl Ball, featuring a DJ from New York City, with dancing into the wee hours at Coltrane Lounge. Alumni night owls had other events to choose from too including a performance by jazz violinist Zach Brock at 51 Main and the Homecoming Formal Dance at Nelson Arena.

Sunday morning’s activities included a celebration of Middlebury women’s tennis, with a round-robin tournament and luncheon in honor of the late Barbara (“Bobbie”) Plumer Galligan Alden ’40; and a Homecoming Brunch at PALANA House sponsored by the Women of Color.

Erin Quinn ’86, director of athletics and former coach of the men’s lacrosse team (including three national championships), hosted a farewell gathering on Sunday at his home with his wife, Pamela Lawson Quinn ’88, and their two children. Speaking about Middlebury’s lacrosse alumni, the athletic director said there are “timeless themes that run through the men’s and women’s programs and across the generations,” and that “the conversation and celebration was most often about relationships and values.”

Yes, Quinn was speaking of lacrosse players, but at Homecoming 2011 the same could be said about the themes, relationships, and values cherished by almost every Middlebury graduate, student-athlete or not.