What is Homecoming?

By Janice J. Gerda, PhD, CWR ‘89
Associate Vice President for Student Affairs

Homecoming is a traditional celebration at many U.S. and Canadian colleges, universities, and high schools. It began in the early 20th century when universities began to invite their alumni to return to campus, or “come home,” to join current students in watching a particular athletic game. At the time, the sport of American football had recently become extremely popular in the US, and many of the oldest Homecoming traditions revolve around generating a sense of anticipation for the annual game and (hopefully) defeating an opponent.

Typically held in the middle of autumn, Homecoming involves a series of events over several days. One or more central events are designed to attract all current and past community members and visitors. 

Additionally, many satellite events are designed to gather together and reunify smaller interest and friend groups. Homecomings exist to celebrate the unique shared culture of the university and its sub-communities, host visiting community members who don’t have daily contact with campus, mark the passage of time to emphasize both change and continuity, recognize and honor the accomplishments of community members, share good news, and connect or reconnect individuals to one another and the university itself. But each institution does this in a way tailored to the values and goals of the particular community.

Case Western Reserve University brings together a history of Homecoming traditions from each of its predecessor institutions and schools, as well as the traditions created within a single entity since federation in 1967. You will find the schedule includes both large all-university events as well as activities meant to be particularly significant to a subgroup. For example, the CWRU Spartans versus Westminster College  football game is for everyone, as are the outdoor activities before the game. But the tours of Cleveland, the art museum, and think[box] are designed for those who aren't here every day. And there are lectures and luncheons and socials for those who find kindred souls in a profession, a major, a club or organization, or an identity (connecting folks past, present, and future!) Unless otherwise noted, all events are open to everyone, even if you’re not a member of the sponsoring group. Most events are free, although a few have a cost, usually to cover food or services. Check out the schedule online to see which activities and events are open or ticketed.

And, here at CWRU, we also use the same days to celebrate Parent and Family Weekend, making it one big autumn celebration.

I love three things in particular about Homecoming. The first is LEARNING STUFF. In true CWRU fashion, Homecoming has many opportunities to attend a lecture, hear about someone’s expertise, catch up on the latest thinking in a field, and listen to stories of how ideas have developed. It’s something that ties us ALL together – sharing our passions for what we study, and getting very excited about other people’s discoveries. Second, I enjoy celebrating CWRU and the people who make up CWRU, and feeling proud and connected to this amazing university. I also love meeting new people. In some ways, it’s easy to start a conversation with alumni, because you already have something very important in common before you even meet: CWRU.

As a new student, what can you expect? First and foremost, know that Homecoming is a special time of year! It’s even more so as your first Homecoming of many. As with other holidays, you might see decorations and signs, hear music, see gifts being given and received, and hear words or “terms of endearment” that are meaningful to CWRU. There will be a lot of visitors on campus – parents and family, alumni, friends, former faculty and staff, community members – so know it will be a little more crowded. Please help us be good hosts to our “coming home” visitors by answering questions and giving directions. Remember, it might have been many years since alumni were last here, and this place changes quickly! Alumni and parents are excited to meet you and hear about your CWRU experience so far. Plan to attend some events. You don’t need to attend everything, but try out a central event and maybe one of the smaller events. Just register. Join in. Celebrate.

Happy Homecoming!