By Joshua Parrott, Page Editor
Wedged somewhere between the 16th Annual Chemistry Circus and Saturday’s Homecoming football game against Angelo State, a long-standing ACU tradition will take place at locations throughout the Abilene area: social club Homecoming breakfasts.
Homecoming breakfasts have been a part of the ACU community since the earliest days of social clubs and take place early Saturday morning during Homecoming weekend, some beginning as early as 6 a.m.
GATA, which once stood for “Girls Aid to Athletics” and now stands for “Girls Aiming Toward Achievement,” and Ko Jo Kai, formerly known as Hi-A Club, are the two oldest women’s social clubs, while Sub T-16, originally known as the Good Ship Tuscarora, is the oldest men’s social club at ACU. GATA was founded in 1920, Ko Jo Kai in 1919 and Sub T-16 in 1923.
Dr. John Stevens, an ACU student from 1934-38, author of No Ordinary University: The History of the City Set on a Hill, chancellor emeritus and ACU president from 1940-69, pledged Sub T-16 in the spring of 1936 and said Homecoming breakfast is a golden chance for older club members to get back in touch with club through speakers and skits by the current club pledges.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to make friendships,” said Subber Stevens, who will speak at the Sub T breakfast this year. “It helps us reinforce what the university stands for.”
Stevens will speak about the history of club and reflect upon the current state of Sub T.
Traci Yandell, formerly Traci Merkel, was an ACU student from 1979-83 and enters her eighth year as a GATA sponsor. Yandell pledged GATA in the fall of 1980 and knows the older members take great interest in Homecoming weekend, especially Homecoming breakfast.
“The ladies come back proud to see girls wearing red and white,” said Yandell, who is married to Frater Sodalis sponsor Tim Yandell.
As a sponsor, Traci said she and her fellow sponsors remind the current members that the old members coming back, some of whom reserve entire tables for their individual pledge classes at Homecoming breakfast, spent more time writing original songs for club.
Dewby Ray, an ACU student from 1946-50 and GATA president in 1950, said Homecoming breakfasts have pretty much remained the same over the past few decades: the pledges put on a program and members gather together in a circle and sing songs. Ray also said the breakfast is more about all the members getting together and bonding than anything else.
Ray said the main reason she comes every year to the GATA breakfasts is because of the closeness of respective pledge classes.
“It’s the same type of experience as being on a football team or in the band,” said Ray, a former GATA sponsor. “You make friends and have a common bond that no one else knows about.”
Bob Hunter, an ACU student from 1949-52, senior vice president emeritus, was president of Frater Sodalis while an undergraduate student. Hunter was also the first sponsor of Galaxy and the Kinsmen, now Gamma Sigma Phi.
Hunter, who now serves the Abilene area as State Representative for the 71st District said Homecoming breakfasts were scheduled early in the day to allow ACU to offer other activities throughout the day.
“The breakfasts offered an opportunity to kick off Saturday morning early in the morning,” Hunter said.
Hunter arrived at ACU in 1948. After graduating and a stint in the Navy, Hunter returned in the fall of 1956 and looked for a way to get social club members, young and old, more involved with each other. The solution was to gather all the social club presidents together and discuss the formal organization of Homecoming breakfasts. Up until Hunter was appointed director of Special Events, club breakfasts had little to or no involvement from the university and were organized by the social clubs alone.
Hunter helped advance the celebration of Homecoming weekend, including events such as club breakfasts and Homecoming musical.
“This is a key time for students and alumni to come together and learn and share traditions,” Hunter said.
Club vice presidents are the main organizers of Homecoming breakfast, including finding a site for the event, sending out invitations to older members, finding someone to provide food and receiving confirmations for attendance.
Most Homecoming breakfasts start at 6:30 a.m. The Ko Jo Kai breakfast is at the Abilene Civic Center, a tradition for years according to Robyn Wise, Ko Jo Kai vice president. Jaymie Spencer, Sigma Theta Chi vice president, said the Siggies will have the largest breakfast with almost 350 members expected to attend their 6:30 a.m. breakfast at the Abilene Country Club.
Smaller clubs, such as Phi Beta Epsilon, expect only 40 members at their 7 a.m. breakfast at the Town Crier.
Dr. Charlie Marler, an ACU student from 1951-55 now professor and past chair of the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, was vice president of Frater Sodalis as a senior and recalls one moment in particular during his time as a student.
“Jon Jones, who is now minister emeritus at Richland Hills Church of Christ, was a speaker at one breakfast in the mid-1950s,” Marler said. “Everyone knew who he was and what he did for a living, yet he walked up to the podium and said ‘My name is Jon Jones and I’m a fire insurance salesman.’ Everyone laughed and laughed.”
Bobbi Dickson, Sigma Theta Chi sponsor, explained why Homecoming breakfast is important to her and other ACU alum.
“Most of those who come back for Homecoming were in a club or played a sport,” said Dickson, who is entering her 31st year as a Sigma Theta Chi sponsor. “Breakfast is the one place people know they can see those they know from club. Unless you’re in the right place at the right time, you won’t see that anywhere else.”