Whether they never left Charlottesville or it’s been years since they last set foot on Grounds, thousands of University of Virginia alumni are reminded this month that once a Wahoo, always a Wahoo.
Starting on June 1, a steady stream of nearly 4,800 alumni and guests began descending on Charlottesville for the University’s annual class reunion celebrations, which are split over two weekends again this year. Cavaliers from 45 states and 14 different countries signed up for the festivities, with the furthest attendees traveling all the way from Hong Kong.
“This year’s strong attendance at UVA Reunions is yet another testament to the commitment and loyalty of our alumni around the world,” UVA President Teresa A. Sullivan said. “It also shows that our University has a uniquely powerful sense of place, one that continues to draw alumni back to the Grounds many years after they leave UVA.”
The Class of 1967 led in attendance during the first weekend of celebrations, with nearly 16 percent of their graduating class returning for the reunions from June 1 to 4. They were joined by those celebrating their 35th through 60th reunions, as well as members of the many classes in the Thomas Jefferson Society – the designation given to all alumni who graduated more than 50 years ago.
For the upcoming round of fifth through 30th reunions, which begin Thursday, the class of 1997 is projected to have the largest attendance, with close to 470 classmates pre-registered to return to Grounds.
“This was the second year that UVA Reunions was held over two back-to-back weekends,” said Cate Liverman, the Alumni Association’s director of reunions and class activities. “This format provides opportunities to better showcase the University, while making the events more accessible to alumni in this medium-sized town.”
Among those signed up for the various class gatherings were 475 “double ’Hoos” – alumni who have earned two degrees at UVA – and 56 “triple ’Hoos.” The honor of eldest attendee went to a 94-year-old member of the Class of 1945.
As part of the annual gatherings, each class begins a fundraising drive ahead of the reunions, with alumni working together to bolster support for University endeavors. With a whopping total of $64,694,519, the classes assembled for 2017 reunions set the record for most money raised in more than a decade of recorded reunion giving. More than 5,000 individual donors contributed to the effort, helping to smash the reunions goal of $31 million by nearly 195 percent and gifts will continue to be tallied through June 30.
The Class of 1997 led the charge in most dollars raised with more than $25 million and the Class of 1962 had the highest participation rate, with donations from 36 percent of the class.
In addition to their fundraising efforts, visiting alumni were greeted with a wide variety of activities where they could catch up with their classmates and learn about the University’s progress. Both weekends’ scheduled special events focused on UVA’s history and upcoming bicentennial, as well as opportunities for alumni to learn about the search for Sullivan’s successor.
“This year, we’re also excited to feature the newly reopened Rotunda as part of reunions,” Liverman said. “Last weekend, President Sullivan welcomed alumni at a Thursday reception on the north side of the building, and the Rotunda remained open after hours so they could tour the facility and hear about the renovation from student guides.”
Beginning Thursday, members of the classes of 1987, 1992, 1997, 2002, 2007 and 2012 will have the opportunity to take their tours of the Rotunda and participate in the host of other social and academic activities that await them. A full schedule of events is available on the Alumni Association’s website and alumni can follow the fun on social media via the hashtag #UVAreunions.