Annual alumni event breaks attendance record during action-packed May 4-6 weekend; barbecue celebration a centerpiece for returning grads and families
Food and friends, along with a host of activities, made Reunion 2007 a hit for Kellogg School alumni and their families.
Among the highlights of the May 4-6 celebration was the annual Reunion barbecue. The verdant Deering Meadow, adjacent to the Kellogg School's Donald P. Jacobs Center, came to life on May 5 as some 800 alumni and their families gathered there to enjoy an afternoon with Kellogg friends. Throughout the weekend, nearly 1,600 alumni and guests - a new record - returned to Evanston for Reunion.
Coming from as far away as Tokyo and the Czech Republic, alumni returned to Evanston to reconnect with Kellogg and each other.
Festive music and delicious smells emanated from the large white tent at the center of the celebration. Inside, alumni mingled amid plates stacked high with hot-dog and hamburger accoutrements, artfully arranged cookies and brownies, and huge bowls filled with fruit or potato chips. Around the tent’s perimeter, bunches of brightly colored balloons swayed against a backdrop of black-and-white photos from facebooks past.
Outside, alumni gathered in groups on the lawn while children wearing elaborate balloon hats ate ice cream sandwiches. Linsey Simpson Gallagher and Danyue Chen (both ’02) and their husbands updated one another on life after Kellogg. “Time flies,” said Chen, now a brand manager for Ziploc at SC Johnson. “After five years, you still recognize people.”
Some attendees had been out of school a bit longer than five years, but they too found familiar faces at Reunion. Inside the bustling tent, several members of the Class of 1957 and assorted spouses flitted from one activity to the next. At the Class of ’57 table — designated as such by a shiny silver balloon shaped like the numeral 57 — Wolfgang Filusch and Alfred Jackson (both ’57) held down the fort for the group, which boasted seven attendees in all who made the trek for their 50th class reunion.
Jackson, who lives in Evanston, said he was glad he had come to the weekend, which also featured a host of social activities, meals and “MBA Updates” — brief classroom refreshers on subjects from finance to entrepreneurship, taught by top Kellogg professors. “I’m enjoying it thoroughly,” said Jackson. A World War II veteran, Jackson came to Kellogg following his military service in Germany and went on to manage three office buildings in Chicago.
Filusch said he and his wife had flown in for Reunion from Fort Collins, Colo., where they had been living for the past two years. So far, they had attended an MBA Update session led by Finance Department Chair Janice Eberly, who is the Kellogg School’s John L. and Helen Kellogg Distinguished Professor of Finance. The Filuschs also attended Special K, the annual student-produced song and sketch comedy revue.
“I liked the fact that the dean was in some of the screen parts,” said Filusch of the dean’s cameos in the show’s filmed portions. “He was a good sport.”
So were the alumni themselves, coming back and giving back to Kellogg in record numbers.
Reunion 2007 represented the largest yet for Kellogg, said Associate Dean and Director of Development and Alumni Relations Roger “Whit” Shepard, who also noted that alumni gifts associated with Reunion tallied more than $5 million — a figure that will certainly rise since the philanthropic push extends until the end of the fiscal year. Several classes set Reunion giving records, including the Classes of 1987, 1992 and 1997, according to Stephanie Blackburn Freeth ’02, director of planned and major gifts.
The first Kellogg reunion occurred in 1977 and brought about 100 graduates back to Evanston for an engaging but modest program of events. Over time, the number of alumni returning to campus grew, with significant increases occurring since 2002 when the school redoubled its alumni outreach efforts. Recent years have seen more than 1,000 graduates and their families return to Kellogg. This year’s attendance — with almost 1,600 registered attendees — shattered previous Reunion records.
Those returning to Evanston for the event enjoyed a variety of social and academic opportunities. With noted Kellogg School professors such as Steve Rogers, Janice Eberly, Daniel Diermeier and Lakshman Krishnamurthi, among others, delivering intensive “refresher” courses in their areas of expertise, alumni benefited intellectually from Reunion, even as they also enhanced their connections with the school and their Kellogg peers.
Attendees gained new perspective on the Kellogg School’s recent successes as well as a glimpse at some future plans thanks to Dean Dipak C. Jain’s “State of the School” address on Saturday before the barbecue. Alumni also continued a tradition dating to 1988 when they nominated Sergio Rebelo as the Alumni Professor of the Year. Rebelo, the Tokai Bank Distinguished Professor of International Finance, was given the honor by graduates who credited him with having the most influence on their professional life.
Said Dean Jain to several hundred alumni gathered to hear him outline the school’s next steps: “The contributions and support of people like you is what makes this institution great.”