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Homecoming events break attendance records

Updated: Nov 22, 2021

Homecoming group photo
Alexis Huston / THE GATEPOST

By James M. Sheridan Jr.

Staff Writer

According to administrators from the Framingham University Advancement and Alumni Relations Office, thousands of people were on campus this last weekend participating in Framingham State’s Homecoming Weekend.

Both student and administrative coordinators noticed a greater number of participants in the events on and off campus.

Over the course of Homecoming Weekend, also known as Parents’ Weekend, the Student Involvement and Leadership Development Office (SILD) and the Student Union Activities Board (SUAB) scheduled events, including comic mind reader Eric Dittelman, an annual event known as The Moonlight Breakfast, a Homecoming brunch and a performance by David Coulier, better known as “Uncle Joey” from the television show “Full House.”

Olivia Harvey, president of SUAB, said she definitely noticed an influx of student attendance at these events compared to past years. “At our first event, the mind reader, there were hardly any seats left,” she said. “It is really great to see these events filled up, even if they aren’t your own.”

Rachel Lucking, the Director of SILD, said, “The Moonlight Breakfast had a record number. I think that over 1,000 people went to that.” Lucking added that the comedy event starring Dave Coulier sold out completely and attracted a large number of alumni.

Student clubs filled the McCarthy Center marketplace during the brunch on Saturday. About 26 clubs set up tables, attempted to raise funds, and offered free giveaways to the students, families and alumni who attended.

Larry Liuzzo, the president of the SGA, attributed the numbers to the involvement of the freshman class. “It is great to see so many freshmen willing to jump outside their comfort zone. … The freshman class has been truly awesome.”

Away from campus, students were celebrating Homecoming by giving back to the community. Students were able to choose between volunteering with a Community Harvest Project in North Grafton and an opportunity to donate their time and talents to the Special Olympics, held at The Charles River Center in Natick.

Dean of Students Melinda Stoops said, “One of the best things about Homecoming and Parents’ Weekend is getting to see freshman parents being brought around the campus by their children. It is the first time that the students are familiar with their surroundings.”

Tom Bent was one of those parents. On Saturday, he, his son Connor and his wife Kathy were being shown around by his daughter Kellie. “My favorite part of the day so far has to be the all-you-can-eat omelets,” Bent said with a smile on his face. “No, honestly, it is really nice to see my daughter.”

The Athletic Department scheduled two games on Saturday Sept. 21, both at 1 p.m. It was the first time that two athletic events were scheduled for the same time at Homecoming, said Head Football Coach and Athletic Director Thomas Kelley. “In previous years, we would play all the scheduled games back-to-back,” said Kelley. “I think it does an injustice to the teams because we have to rush them off the field.”

Kelley added that separating the events allows both “the football people” and “the soccer people” to have their days.

The football team’s game was set to take place at Bowditch Field on the inaugural weekend of Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference (MASCAC) football, an event that was initiated with a ceremonial coin toss by Interim President Dr. Robert Martin. The toss, according to Kelley, “set a Guinness Book world record. … It must have been 40 feet in the air. … We were lucky to find it.”

The game itself, according to Kelley, was very well attended. “The crowd was tremendous,” Kelley said. “About 2,500 to 3,000 people were there. There might have been a bigger crowd than at our championship games.”

Kelley admitted that because of how focused he was on the game, he didn’t realize the size of the crowd at first. “Someone told me to turn around at one point because sometimes I don’t notice, but I was like, ‘Holy Moly!’”

In attendance at Bowditch Field were some of Kelley’s former teammates. T. J. Kelly, ’73, shared the honor of being part of the first-ever Framingham football team along with Coach Kelley. “It is great to come out to these things and really enjoy them,” said Kelly with a smile on his face.

Another of Coach Kelley’s classmates and former roommate, Hall of Famer Gary Nilard, said, “We are all very proud. It is great to watch Coach Kelley. He was the greatest ever to wear the black and gold.”

Back on campus, men’s soccer was also enjoying a strong attendance. Amy Luoto, advancement services coordinator, said that the turnout was “great” and that the event staff had handed out much of the garb they had to give away.

Homecoming Weekend is also known as Alumni Weekend, according to Mary Casey, director of Alumni Relations, who coordinated Homecoming this year. The Office of Alumni Relations started the weekend with a directors’ meeting at 10:30 a.m. and then left the day open for alumni to go to the day’s events.

Because the football game was held at Bowditch Field, the regular Homecoming events such as the annual brunch, which are normally held at Maple Field, could not take place. Casey was able to utilize the space available in the McCarthy Center and bring the expenses down to “about half” of what the event cost in previous years.

Casey stated that one of the important goals of Alumni Weekend is to allow alumni to see how vibrant and full the university is. Casey said that the Alumni Office did not want to schedule anything during the day to allow the alumni to experience the campus.

Eric Gustafson, executive director of Development and Alumni Relations, said, “The alumni that have not been back to visit recently are surprised at how much has changed here on campus.”

After the Athletic Department’s games were over, the Alumni office held a reception and a “meet and greet” with former Patriot’s football player Troy Brown in the McCarthy Center. The event had a small bar and live music.

The weekend came to an end during the 10th annual Alumni Ice Hockey Game, a fund-raising event for the FSU hockey team. “This year’s game was better attended than any other year since the game began,” said Gustafson. The event raised $1,700 for the team.

“Altogether,” Gustafson said, “Homecoming was terrific.”



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