LC in History: Memories of Homecoming Past

Dr. Clifton W. Potter, LC History Professor~

Another homecoming has passed into history. When I left the campus on Friday afternoon, after my last class, alumni ranging in age from their early twenties to—well, never mind—began arriving. The white tents were in place and preparations were advanced for the tailgate parties on Saturday. Next April, the class of 1973 will be welcomed into the Westover Society which is composed of Lynchburg College’s senior graduates.

In April 1928, Dr. and Mrs. Hopwood returned to LC to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its founding. The Hopwoods were joined by a number of their former students as well as alumni who graduated from 1911 to 1927.  Founders’ Day, always observed in mid-April, became our official homecoming.  During the early 1930s—in the depth of the Great Depression—few alumni participated in Founders Day. After Dr. Riley Montgomery assumed the presidency of Lynchburg College in 1936 and the financial health of the College began to improve, the number of alumni returning to campus began to increase—then World War II erupted.

After the end of the war, Founders’ Day became one of the focal points of the academic year. Every year the student body elected a “king and queen” from among the members of the senior class, and each of the other classes chose two representatives for the court. On the Saturday afternoon of Homecoming-Founders’ Day, a play was held on the steps of Hopwood Hall before the “coronation.” These presentations were always funny, filled with music and often mildly critical of the administration. I wrote three of them while I was a student, and during the production of “Alice in Collegiate Wonderland” in 1962 I had the chance to get to know one of the artistic directors a bit better—I married her four years later!

On Saturday night, the Homecoming Dance was held in Memorial Gym—now the Hall Campus Center Ballroom. It was a first-year class project. Our youngest students planned the event, raised the money to purchase the decorations and transformed the gym for one short evening. Most of the members of the dance committee were so tired by the time they finished their work that they did not attend the event!  

In the 1960s, interest in pageants and princesses began to wane, and Dr. Brewer decided to change the emphasis and date of alumni gatherings. Founders’ Day in mid-April was retained for older alumni, but Homecoming was moved to October and younger alumni were encouraged to come back to campus. For almost fifty years this has been the way we have revisited our past.  

Personally, I find Homecoming to be a melancholy moment in the academic year. Of course, we live in the here and now, but as the years pass memories become more important. Thus, I prefer to remember my former students as they were when I taught them.  I always recognize the voices, but twenty, thirty, forty or fifty years will transform us all. Now that they are beginning to join the Westover Society—I taught members of the class of 1966—I am not able to escape my past! The weather last weekend was perfect, so I trust everybody had a great time, and that you have memories to last a lifetime.