“Special.” This was the word used by Bluefield College alumni when asked to describe the activities of Homecoming and Family Weekend 2017, October 20-22. It was the same word they used when reflecting on their days as a student at BC during the traditional fall alumni reunion gathering.
Alumni Director Josh Grubb welcomed former students, current students and their families to the 2017 version of Homecoming and Family Weekend, which featured not only special reunions, but also a career seminar, an auction, dinner theatre, dancing, campus tours, a photo contest, alumni awards, tailgating, football, fireworks, and worship.
“We’re thankful for you spending this weekend with us,” Grubb told a group of 1967 grads who helped kick off the festivities with a Golden Graduate Society Dinner on Friday, October 20. “We appreciate your commitment to get together and to maintain your friendships.”
Twenty-five members of the class of 1967 and beyond came back for the Golden Grad induction ceremony – the largest group of inductees since the prestigious group was created in 2009 to honor and preserve the legacy of alumni from the Golden Anniversary era. Eighty-six alumni and friends in all attended the celebration, which included dinner and the presentation of the beloved southern comedy-drama Steel Magnolias, featuring a BC Theatre cast and crew of current and former students, like Jennifer Bohannan (’11) of Bluefield, West Virginia; Cameron Burton (’95) of Bland, Virginia; Tiffany Carter (’01) of Bastian, Virginia; and Heather Sharp (’17) of Bluefield, Virginia.
Among this year’s Golden Graduate Society inductees: Barry Bailey (’67) of Gloucester, Virginia; John Betterton (’67) of Clayton, North Carolina; Loretta Carty (’67) of Meadowview, Virginia; Danny Collins (’67) of Fairlawn, Virginia; Patricia Keatley Collins (’67) of Fairlawn, Virginia; Jerry Dickerson (’67) of Brevard, North Carolina; Elaine Martin Dietz (’67) of Chester, Virginia; Nancy Camper Hicks (’67) of Fredericksburg, Virginia; William Higgins (’67) of Gainesville, Virginia; Robert Houck (’67) of Culpeper, Virginia; Melissa Lukins Klanecky (’67) of Ruther Glen, Virginia; John Lippincott (’67) of Fredericksburg, Virginia; Linda Smith Lively (’67) of Wytheville, Virginia; William Lively (’65) of Wytheville, Virginia; Jane McClung Lookabill (’67) of Draper, Virginia; Betty Davis Mason (’67) of Powhatan, Virginia; Lewis Mason (’66) of Powhatan, Virginia; Peter Mays (’67) of Suffolk, Virginia; Raymond Rowland (’67) of Gretna, Virginia; Carolyn Jenks Shelton (’67) of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina; David Shelton (’67) of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina; William Trimyer (’67) of Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina; Charles Warren (’67) of Lenoir City, Tennessee; David Zurek (’67) of Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Russell Collins (’67) of Nashville, Tennessee.
“I enjoyed Bluefield College,” said Lookabill. “I enjoyed the spiritual aspect. I grew spiritually here, and I got a good education. I appreciate it very much. It was some of the best years of my life.”
Six other alumni helped kick off the weekend by participating in a Homecoming Ram-2-Ram Alumni Career Seminar on Friday. The seminar featured former students sharing their advice with current students on how to prepare for life after college. The alumni – Hallie Elder (’13), a U.S. Navy military police officer from Virginia Beach, Virginia; Lyndsey Barton Partsch (’11), a special education teacher from Vinton, Virginia; Jennifer Bliss (’11), a marketing associate from Fairfax, Virginia; Greg Moon (’12), a Kent State University fundraiser from Cleveland, Ohio; Ryan Schalles (’02), a Wendy’s corporate executive from Charlotte, North Carolina; and Denny Peters (’61), a retired bank executive from Bluefield, Virginia – spoke about the classes that prepared them the most, the lifelong friendships they made at BC, the significance of networking, the benefit of seeking mentors, the value of internships, and the importance of being involved in leadership roles.
“Bluefield College was very beneficial to me,” said Peters. “It taught me to buckle down and work hard. I had a great career, but it all started here at Bluefield College.”
Day one of Homecoming concluded with the traditional Homecoming Dance, featuring music, dancing and the crowing of the 2017 Homecoming Queen, King and Court. Seniors Jacquelyn Chick and Jacob Key were named Homecoming King and Queen, respectively. Chick is an exercise and sports science major from Roanoke, Virginia, and a member of the Lady Rams soccer team. Key is a criminal justice major from Midlothian, Virginia, and president of the Student Government Association. Mary Blake Avery of Newport News, Virginia, was crowned Junior Princess, and Evan Abbey of Bluefield, West Virginia, was named Junior Prince. Tessa Saiia of Baraboo, Wisconsin, won Sophomore Princess, and Gustavo Gomez Rosales of Galax, Virginia, won Sophomore Prince, while Emily Carlisle of Bluefield, Virginia, was crowned Freshman Princess, and Gavin Bauer of Bluefield, West Virginia, was named Freshman Prince.
Day two, Saturday, October 21, began with a BC Community Breakfast, followed by campus tours and the Annual Meeting of the Alumni Association, where four BC grads were elected to serve on the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, including Frances Webb Louthan (’60) of Dublin, Virginia; Valerie Washington Burrell (’09) of Richmond, Virginia; Hallie Elder (’13) of Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Stephen Underwood (’17) of Vinton, Virginia. Four outgoing Alumni Board members were also recognized for their service to the Association: Scott Polhamus (’11) of Roanoke, Virginia; Jennifer Mitchell (’08) of Richmond, Virginia; Dennis Harper (’71) of Roanoke, Virginia; and Shannon Wall Willett (’06) of Bristow, Virginia.
One of the marquee events of day two was the Alumni Awards Luncheon where five distinguished Bluefield College grads were recognized for their success, service and support of the BC vision and mission, including Erin Johnson DeHart (‘03), a judge for Virginia’s 27th Judicial District Court in Bland, Virginia, who was named Young Alumna of the Year; Jeremy Hardy (’08), executive director of the outreach ministry Vigilant Hope in Chesapeake, Virginia, who received the Primitivio Delgado Christian Service Award; Rev. Roger Roller (’81), founder and director of the Roger Roller Evangelistic Association in Forest, Virginia, who was named Alumnus of the Year; and David Kessler (’85), founder and head coach of the Atlanta Show, a minor league professional basketball team in Atlanta, Georgia, and Omar “Juice” Reed (’10), a professional basketball player in the Dominican Republic, who were inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
“This is a real honor,” said Roller about his award. “I feel like I stand on the shoulders of a lot of good people. Bluefield was good to me. I’m grateful for what the school has done for me.”
During a separate alumni awards ceremony on Friday, the BC School of Education presented its first ever Goodness and Light Alumni Award, named in honor of former School of Education dean Dr. Donna Watson (’80), who always challenged her students to “spread goodness and light” in their roles as teachers, and designed to recognize teacher education graduates who are “doing great things in our schools and classrooms.” The winner of the inaugural Goodness and Light Award was Hannah Spicer Owens (’13), an English teacher at Narrows High School in Virginia.
Later in day two, students were recognized for their creativity in a #new2BC Photo Contest Gala. New BC students transitioning to campus this past August were invited to capture their experiences with photos. Those photos were on display during Homecoming, and the most outstanding pics and their photographers were recognized during the gala: Lindsey Brown of Bluefield, West Virginia; Ashley Young of Halifax, Virginia; Christopher Short of Bluefield, West Virginia (Viewers’ Choice Award); and Emily Carlisle of Bluefield, Virginia (Best of Show Award).
Day two of Homecoming concluded with Rams football as nearly 3,000 fans watched BC win its fourth game in a row and improve its conference record to 3-0 and its overall record to 5-3 with a 22-10 Homecoming win over Mid-South Conference foe University of the Cumberlands. This year’s five wins equals the total number of collective wins for the program since reviving football in 2012. The five wins also equals the most in a season since 1935, just six years before the school quit playing football after its 1941 season.
“It feels awesome! It almost feels surreal to get consecutive wins like this,” said BC junior quarterback Cason Whitt, who has been a part of two straight 1-10 seasons. “Coach (Dewey Lusk) is putting us in the position to succeed, and we are just doing our job.”
Fans began the football festivities with tailgating prior to the game. Those serious about their tailgating took part in the Fifth Annual Tailgate Challenge. The winner of this year’s coveted Tailgate Champion banner and a $50 Walmart gift card: Hinkley’s Ram Famatics, spearheaded by the family of Ram football player Michael Hinkley. The 2017 Homecoming Court was recognized at halftime of the game, and fans enjoyed a fireworks show after the game.
The overall three-day Homecoming weekend concluded with a Campus/Community Worship Service, led by Highlands Fellowship and followed with a special Sunday lunch. The Homecoming festivities also included a Scholarship Challenge and a Scholarship Auction. The silent auction, which ran throughout the weekend, generated nearly $6,000 in scholarship funds for BC students, thanks to a host of valuable items donated by BC grads and the generosity of alumni and friends who bid on the goods. The Scholarship Challenge, which was part of a Homecoming Convocation earlier in the week, pitted students against one another in a football throwing accuracy contest for scholarship dollars. Sharon Cobbler won the $1,000 first place scholarship, and Tanaka Rushwaya won the $500 second place award, all as a result of alumni and friends who gave generously to the 2017 Homecoming Scholarship Challenge to provide the gifts. Alumnus Howard Mayo (’88) and student Marcus Espinal shared convocation messages.
“This is a special place,” said 1954 alumnus Farley Wolford, the oldest BC grad attending Homecoming who traveled all the way from Morganton, Georgia. “I grew up here (in Bluefield, Virginia), went to Graham High School, and met the young lady that became my wife here (at Bluefield College). This place has a lot of meaning to me.”
Homecoming 2018 has been set for Friday through Sunday, November 2-4.