From Singapore to San Francisco and Hong Kong to Houston, dozens of summer send-off parties brought together incoming first-year students, current students, and alumni for convivial gatherings. Sponsored by the Duke Alumni Association (DAA), the send-off parties—now in their seventh year—were held in thirty-two states and eight countries and were attended by more than 3,000 people. Nearly all of the events were held in the homes of volunteers, many of whom are Duke alumni, parents of Duke students, or both.
A new component this year was a more active role for current students as volunteers in select cities. Drawing mainly from members of the DAA's Student Alumni Advisory Board, student representatives provided valuable perspectives on a variety of academic and social questions that matriculating first-year students, and their parents, had about Duke.
"Send-off parties are a great way to welcome new students to the Duke community," says Chris O'Neill '95, assistant director of regional programs for the DAA. "It's an opportunity for incoming students to meet current students, their fellow first-year classmates, and alumni of all ages. This is the beginning of a lifetime connection to Duke."
O'Neill says that while the focus of the send-off parties is on the students, the events also serve to welcome their parents to the Duke community. "Many Duke parents, alumni and non-alumni alike, develop strong ties to the university through their children, becoming active participants in local programming and valuable resources to the university in general."
That's been the case for Tampa residents Brad Welch '83 and his wife, Sally Holtgrewe Welch M.B.A. '82, who have hosted send-off parties for the past three years. Their oldest son, Brad, is a Duke junior. "For parents, there is naturally some trepidation about sending their children off to college," says Brad Welch, who is the president of Welch Financial and a branch manager and financial adviser for Raymond James Financial Services Inc. "The kids are fine. It's the parents who are nervous.
"Our message is that they are not sending their children off to some huge institution; they are becoming part of the Duke family. And in some cases those same parents come back the next year to serve as cheerleaders for the next group of incoming Duke students and their families."
To learn about hosting or attending summer 2010 send-off parties, contact Chris O'Neill.