Amber Tussing planned to reconnect with old friends at the University of Mary Washington’s Reunion Weekend, but she was surprised to meet just as many new ones.
“When you can make friends across multiple generations, you know you come from a shared experience,” said Tussing, a 2000 grad who bonded with members of the classes of 1972, 1990 and 2010. “This campus still feels like home after all these years.”
Those sentiments were echoed throughout the recent four-day event – the first of its kind in three years – which welcomed over 1,200 graduates of all ages back to UMW. Billed as the Mother of All Reunions, the celebration gave alums the unique opportunity to catch up with classmates who graduated before and after them, as well as those from other decades.
Stepping onto campus made Barb Stuckey ’65 feel like she never left, she said, perhaps because her school had never left her. “I realized my four years here shaped my entire worldview,” she said. “I wouldn’t be the person I am today without Mary Washington.”
Volunteering at his first reunion, Jason Ford ’20, came back to network through the recently formed Black Alumni Affinity Group. “UMW bridges the gap between generations,” he said. “That’s what makes it such a special place.”
The weekend was filled with parties and picnics, learning opportunities, campus tours, music performances, art exhibits, class photos, family activities and trolley tours through Fredericksburg and to Carl’s ice cream. Alumni swapped stories about splashing in the fountain, bench-sitting and beloved traditions like Junior Ring Dance and Devil-Goat Day, and they reflected on what sets their alma mater apart.
“I love Mary Washington,” said Susan DiMaina ’70. Celebrating their 50th reunion, the classes of 1970, 1971 and 1972, along with 1908 Society members, who had already reached that milestone, joined special activities planned just for them last Thursday. “It’s a smaller school, where you knew your professors and formed lifelong friendships.”
Kathleen Smith ’86 laughed with friends about hanging out in the Pub, formerly in the Lee Hall Underground. Beth Murray Patterson and Anne Miller, both 1980 grads, recalled wintertime sledding on cafeteria trays.
During a tour of the newly remodeled Seacobeck Hall, home to UMW’s College of Education, alums explored preserved features from the former dining hall mixed with state-of-the-art touches for aspiring teachers.
“I think it’s great that UMW has made some changes to attract prospective students,” said Stacy Warner Price ’90, whose grandmother graduated in 1936 and whose daughter currently attends the university.
Many alums bunked in their old residence halls, including 1992 graduates Andrea Williams and Judy Dellert-O’Keef, who stayed in Willard Hall. “Two women who lived in our room 30 years apart knocked on our door and took a picture together,” said Dellert-O’Keef.
The celebration wrapped up Sunday with hugs and high-fives … and quite a few tears at a ceremony for Associate Vice President and Dean of Student Life Cedric Rucker ’81, for whom the University Center will be named when he retires this month.
President Troy Paino, Vice President for Student Affairs Juliette Landphair and alums, like Ford and Andrew Painter ’02, spoke of the tremendous impact Rucker made on the Mary Washington community over the last four decades.
Rucker concluded the ceremony by encouraging students, faculty, staff, administrators, community members and fellow alums to carry on his work of making UMW an inclusive and welcoming place for students from all backgrounds. “Mary Washington needs to be transformative enough to continue to serve the citizens of the world.”