UVA Class Reunions have traditionally been divided into two series of events: The Thomas Jefferson Society (alumni who graduated 50 or more years ago) gathered for three days in May, while classes celebrating their 5-year to 45-year reunions (celebrated in five-year increments), participated in Reunions Weekend in June. Beginning this year, however, all festivities will occur over two consecutive June weekends to accommodate the growing number of attendees of all ages. Here’s a look at what’s changing, what’s staying the same, and what’s behind the shift.
The most significant change is the new consecutive-weekend schedule, which will host a different complement of classes to distribute attendance more evenly across the two weekends. Last year, more than 500 alumni and guests attended the Thomas Jefferson Society Reunion, while more than 4,100 alumni and guests attended the June Reunions Weekend. This year, the Reunions staff predicts that around 1,300 alumni will attend the first weekend and 3,700 will attend the second.
Therefore, many of the familiar June Reunions Weekend pressure points—such as event parking, booking a hotel room and finding suitable venues to accommodate events in the case of rain—are likely to be solved with the new model, says former Thomas Jefferson Society president Lucien Bass (Engr ’63, Darden ’65).
What’s Staying the Same?
Alumni can expect the usual social activities, such as class dinners and cocktail receptions and an exciting lineup of nighttime band parties. Both weekends will be filled with academic, recreational, career-oriented and family-focused activities, and programming will be tailored to match the interests of each weekend’s demographic.
As always, alumni from any graduating class are welcome to attend. If an alumnus graduated 14 or 16 years ago but wants to reconnect with friends celebrating their 15-year reunion, he or she can attend.
“It’s our goal to honor alumni and provide an opportunity for them to have a great time while reconnecting with friends and the University,” says Jason Life (Col ’94, Educ ’96), managing director of alumni engagement. “The more the merrier.”
What’s Behind the Shift?
The traditional June Reunions Weekend was bursting at the seams, and attendance will only increase over time, says Life, because each class has more graduates than the year before it. Because of limited resources, from lodging to venue spaces to parking, maintaining the same model isn’t sustainable over the long term, he says.
Plus, many T.J. Society members have expressed interest in participating in the vibrant, comprehensive Reunions experience, and the desire to reunite with younger classes, says Class of 1966 Reunions co-chair Richard Marks. With the T.J. Society expected to grow tremendously over the next 15 years, reflecting the boom in UVA student population between 1965 and 1980 as well as the better health of older alumni, it was time to make a change, says Life. “The dramatic surge in participation at Reunions is clear testimony that alumni are having a great time,” T.J. Society president Alan Roberts (Col ’64) says. “Simply put, they’re having fun!”