Homecoming features honors, performances and TIER Talks

Homecoming features honors, performances and TIER Talks
Jonathan Cohen
More than 200 people attended WHRW's 50th anniversary celebration, including Barry Okun '78.

With a dose of star power and the dedication of a new high-tech space on campus, along with reunions and networking events galore, Homecoming 2016 had it all.

The Alumni Association and many campus partners collaborated on the weekend-long series of events held Sept. 23–25, which was a celebration of #BingPride. Preliminary counts indicate that Homecoming 2016 was the most well-attended ever.

Renowned dancer and choreographer Bill T. Jones brought his dance company to Binghamton for its first-ever on-campus performance. Binghamton is where Jones got his start in dance and met his life partner, the late Arnie Zane, with whom he formed a dance company that has earned accolades around the world. Prior to the show at the Anderson Center, President Harvey Stenger presented Jones with the University Medal, which is the highest honor the University bestows.

“He was a prototypical Binghamton student — intelligent, inventive, unconventional, socially and politically active,” Stenger said. “It was here that he met his partner and began a career that would transform the purpose and performance of dance.”

During Homecoming, alumni and friends attended a dedication for the Zurack Family High-Technology Collaboration Center and the Zurack Family Group Study Room, both part of the Center for Learning and Teaching. Both rooms have state-of-the-art classroom and communication technology.

Mark Zurack ‘78, member of the Binghamton University Foundation Board of Directors, and the Zurack Family Foundation have funded several major programs at the University including the Zurack Trading Room.

In 1994, Gillian Patrick ‘94 gave her time and talents to the University to produce an image that has become an icon of campus life — the portrait of Nelson Mandela that hung in the room bearing his name. At a reception commemorating 30 years since the Social Room in the University Union was renamed the Mandela Room, Patrick unveiled a second gift. She recently completed a second portrait of the South African activist, and the original piece of art will find a new home within the building at the Educational Opportunity Program office.

During her address to those in attendance, Patrick recalled her emotions when she and a group of friends traveled to South Africa and were able to meet Mandela.

“I remember when we met him,” Patrick said. “He was reading a newspaper, wearing one of those distinctive paisley shirts that he loved. We were awestruck, dumbstruck. I wanted to cry. ... We were blessed with the gift of spending part of our days with my hero.”

At TIER Talks, a speaker event presented by M&T Bank and the Alumni Association, alumni and friends heard perspectives on how the American electorate has become so polarized in the past 40 years and how today’s news media fan the flames of debate instead of giving us just the facts.

“If the entire Congress were to be up for re-election, 98 percent of them would win,” said David Schultz ‘80, MA ‘86, professor of political science at Hamline University. “They come from districts that are so safely Republican or safely Democrat. The amount of swing seats in the House is only around 20 or 25.”

The distinguished alumni panel also included Jean W. Harris ’82, MA ’86, PhD ’88, professor of political science and women’s studies at the University of Scranton and coordinator of Ready to Run Northeast Pennsylvania; and Matthew R. Kerbel ’80, professor and chair of political science at Villanova University. The speaker series, launched in 2014, is a showcase for Binghamton alumni and faculty who are thought leaders in their respective fields and able to deliver messages in a captivating manner.

A new event called Bing Brews and Bands was featured on Saturday evening in downtown Binghamton. Alumni, guests, students and community members were able to enjoy live entertainment and locally brewed beers at six different venues within walking distance of one another.

Among the wide variety of events at Homecoming were special celebrations for the 50th anniversary of WHRW, attracting more than 200 attendees; the 30th anniversary of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, attracting more than 130 attendees; the 5th anniversary of the Class of 2011; Alumni of Color; and LGBTQ alumni.

“It’s great to see so many familiar faces and lots of new ones,” said Anthony Sileo ‘16, who led the efforts to plan WHRW’s anniversary reunion. “It’s amazing to see so many diverse people gathered in one place all celebrating the same thing — 50 years of free-format radio.”