Wow of a Weekend

August 1, 2004
Reunion attendees

 Photo: Jon Gardiner

 

A record-breaking number of people--4,085--came to campus in April for Reunions Weekend, surpassing the previous reunion attendance record of 3,458, set in 2001. "We had anticipated a large turnout, as we've been getting larger and larger numbers over the last five years, but breaking the 4,000 mark exceeded all our expectations," says Lisa Dilts '83, director of reunions for the Office of Alumni Affairs.

"The Class of 1994, alone, had 774 people attend their tenth reunion," says M. Laney Funderburk '60, director of the alumni office. "That's more than the entire reunion registration--ten classes--when I began working with reunions in the Sixties. It gives you a measure of the success that the reunions program has achieved."

Reunion attendance for many individual classes reached new highs. Of the twelve classes that returned for reunion this year, five exceeded records set in previous years: the Class of 1974, with 282 attending, set a 30th reunion record, a 29 percent increase over the previous record; 1979, 503 attending, 25th reunion record, 30 percent increase; 1984, 659 attending, 20th reunion record, 36 percent increase; 1989, 475 attending, 15th reunion record, 32 percent increase; and 1994, 774 attending, 10th reunion record, 27 percent increase.

Duke revamped its Reunions Weekend five years ago, and alumni appear to like it, says Dilts. "This was the first group of repeat alumni, those who had already sampled the new paradigm. I think they really enjoyed the new format and experiences they'd had five years ago and were genuinely excited about returning."

"I think it's word of mouth," she says. "There's been a lot of positive talk about reunions over the last five years, and so a lot of momentum has built."

Reunions Weekend draws on classes celebrating on a five-year cycle --5th, 10th, 15th, 20th, and so on. But this year, Dilts says, she also saw "an increase in the number of alumni who attended last year and had so much fun, they didn't want to wait five years--they wanted to come back right away."