Although green and white balloons across campus and people taking selfies in front of their former residence halls can be observed at any Homecoming, these scenes were appreciated more after the COVID-19 pandemic forced last year's event to go virtual.
Though precautions were in place, Homecoming 2021 — held Oct. 8-10 — was otherwise a return to traditions many people couldn't foresee being interrupted prior to March 2020.
Nearly 3,000 people attended Homecoming events on campus, the largest of which was the make-up Commencement ceremony for the Class of 2020. More than 450 graduates returned to the University to celebrate their accomplishments to the cheers of family and friends who waited nearly 18 months for this occasion.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries '92, the first Binghamton University graduate elected to the U.S. Congress, was the keynote speaker. Jeffries is chair of the House Democratic Caucus and the fifth-highest ranking Democrat in the House of Representatives.
“It’s an honor to be back here at Binghamton,” he said. “I first arrived a little over 30 years ago with a few suitcases and a 13-inch television!
"Binghamton laid the foundation for my journey, where I realized it wasn’t all going to be wine and roses. As for me, there will be many twists and turns, bumps and bruises launching from where you are at right now. I’ve learned over the years that life is filled with ups and downs, highs and lows, peaks and valleys, trials and tribulations.”
Gabriel Pinciotti '20, who would have spoken to Harpur College of Arts and Sciences graduates last year, addressed his fellow alumni and encouraged them to invest in their greatest asset.
“Take care of your own well-being,” Pinciotti said. “Whether it’s your mental health, physical health or anything in between, you should be taking care of the one thing that will stay with you your entire life — yourself. Be your own biggest fan, who better to root for than yourself?"
"Thanks to Binghamton University for not forgetting the Class of 2020," Christina Kirschner, whose son is a member of the class, said in a comment posted to the University's Facebook page.
Recent graduates also received recognition at the Bearcats of the Last Decade (BOLD) 10 Under 10 Awards ceremony where the Alumni Association honored 10 people who received their Binghamton degrees within the last 10 years.
"I remember coming into college being such a shy person, but I really left Binghamton feeling prepared and ready to take on the world, so I'm proud to be an alum," said Devan Tracy '13, smart buildings and Go Green associate manager for the Rotary and Mission Systems division of Lockheed Martin and one of the 10 Under 10 honorees. "I do reflect on my time at Binghamton often...I look forward to crossing paths with many of you soon," she said in an acceptance speech played on video at the session.
Three Binghamton graduates with careers focusing on social media discussed the effects of online influencers at the annual TIER Talks speaker event. The discussion "Reaching the Masses: Meet Alumni Social Media Influencers" examined the use of social media to build brands and inspire volunteerism, and what the influencers of tomorrow could look like.
"It has been a little bit trickier in the times of COVID, trying to stay connected, but certainly to have an event like this back on campus during Homecoming 2021, I'm humbled to be a part of it," said Chris Strub '07, who discussed his efforts on social media to inspire volunteerism.
About 400 alumni and students were downtown Friday evening for a block party that filled Gorgeous Washington Street with Binghamton colors and spirit. The traditional Saturday tailgate was rebranded as a Fall Festival to bring in more tastes from the local area. A dazzling fireworks show closed out the festivities on Saturday evening.
Photos from Homecoming events can be found on the Binghamton University Facebook page.