By Mitch Holt, Opinion Editor
Officers in the Alumni Relations Office and Centennial Campaign staff anticipate an eventful Centennial year as more alumni are returning to campus and more are getting involved from their hometowns.
“You only celebrate a centennial once in a lifetime,” said Amber Peck, director of Alumni Relations. “We hope to make the most of this milestone occasion with memorable events and opportunities for alumni to stay connected [to the university].”
The university is offering many more alumni outreach programs this year than in past years because of the Centennial Celebration, the university’s 100th year. This outreach is delivered in the form of phone calls, ACU Today, newsletters, e-mails and regular mail.
The university anticipates numbers to be up at larger events on campus this year.
During Homecoming week, so many alumni and friends are returning to campus that some are turning to unconventional places to stay during the week.
Lauren Smelser, a graduate student studying English literature, said her cousin, who is an alumnus, is coming to campus during Homecoming week, but he and his wife had some trouble finding a place to stay.
“He’s going to sleep on my couch and his wife on my loveseat because all of the area hotels are full,” she said.
Although many alumni are returning to campus, many are unable to return for various reasons.
Mark Lavender, ACU alumni outreach officer in charge of outreach in Dallas, East Texas and western United States, said in spite of the increased numbers of alumni on campus, his job also focuses on those who cannot return to Abilene this year.
“One of our main purposes is to connect with alumni in their hometowns and to get them to participate from home,” Lavender said.
The most important aspect of an alumni outreach officer is to keep alumni updated on what’s happening on campus, whether or not they can make it back for the event.
This provides a welcoming attitude for alumni, even if they can’t make it, said Chris Campbell, one of the other alumni outreach officers on campus.
Campbell said alumni involvement is an important part of the Centennial year, but the Alumni Relations Office doesn’t have to do a whole lot to bring alumni to campus.
“Alumni who feel a connection to ACU are automatically going to return to campus, no matter how much prepping they’re given,” he said.
These outreach officers agree that workers in the Alumni Relations Office face their most difficult task during the Centennial year-making sure events for alumni are up to the standards that have come to be expected from the office.
“There are alumni who are passionate about their alma mater and can’t wait to get involved in activities,” Campbell said. “There are also some who are equally as passionate about the university but prefer to remain in the background, and then of course, some who don’t care at all.”
For many, the Centennial Celebration will be an opportunity for alumni to reconnect with old friends for the first time in years, Peck said.
“We’re excited about all of the things going on this year and look forward to welcoming many alumni back to campus and keeping in touch with those who can’t make it,” she said.
Those spearheading the Centennial Campaign, the largest ever ACU-wide fundraiser, hope alumni will rise out of this Centennial year as consistent givers to the university.
Phil Boone, Centennial Campaign director, said the continuance of ACU providing exceptional Christian education depends on consistent givers.
The university only turns 100 once, Boone said, adding the university hopes that alumni will give the most significant gift they have ever given to the school.
“There are no on-campus fundraisers planned this year,” he said. “We want alumni to see some of the results of their giving, and celebrate those results.”