UL in History: Westover Weekend

Dr. Clifton W. Potter Jr. ~ UL History Professor

Westover Weekend is just around the corner. Beginning on Friday, the campus will be filled with alumni ranging in age from their early sixties to—well, never matter.  The Westover Society, which is composed of the College’s senior graduates, and this year the Class of 1969 will hold its Fiftieth Reunion. Dr. Robert Whitmore and I were the sponsors of this remarkable group of alumni. Unfortunately, Bob, who was a member of the Class of 1959, died several years ago.

In April 1928, Dr. and Mrs. Hopwood returned to Lynchburg College to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of its founding, which occurred on Dr. Hopwood’s birthday.  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, only a 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 to 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 and faculty. 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 the artistic director 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 freshman 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 us on the dance committee were so tired by the time we finished our work that we 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 over 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. I prefer to remember my former students, as they were when they were young.  I always recognize the voices, but twenty, thirty, forty, and now fifty years can do a great deal of damage. However, now that my first students are part of  the Westover Society—I taught members of the class of 1966—I am not be able to escape my past!

Have fun this weekend, but remember that the fifth reunion of the Class of 2014 is just around the corner in October.  Do not laugh, my friends, your time is coming.