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A Walk Down Memory Lane

Published on October 03, 2023

A Walk Down Memory Lane

Alumni return for Eastern Celebrates

Willy the Warrior celebrates with alumni during the Alumni March.

President Elsa Núñez meets with alumni.

The Alumni March

Eastern Connecticut State University alumni had the opportunity to reconnect with their classmates, meet current students and explore the campus during Eastern Celebrates on Sept. 30. The premier alumni reunion event of the year brought back memories of time spent in college, bringing an abundance of smiles and laughs.

More than 100 alumni visited campus, taking part in many activities throughout the day, including reunions, tours and arts, academic and athletics events. Happening concurrently with Eastern Celebrates was Family Day, which brought to campus hundreds of parents and family members to mingle with current students.

Michael Stenko
Alumni Affairs Director Michael Stenko greets alumni. 

“It was great seeing so many alumni back on campus, not only reconnecting with old friends, but interacting with our faculty and current students as well," said Alumni Affairs Director Michael Stenko. "Combining Eastern Celebrates with Family Day gives alumni more opportunities, not just to see campus, but to experience campus through special activities led by faculty and students."

In her welcoming speech to alumni, Eastern President Elsa Núñez emphasized the University's liberal arts education. “Reflecting the University’s mission statement, an Eastern education empowers students through a transformative, liberal arts learning experience that provides knowledge and skills to lead enriching and purposeful lives,” said Núñez. “It teaches skills that are central to the ways that thoughtful, well-educated people approach the world. All Eastern students develop these skills across the curriculum and through experiential learning, regardless of their major.”

Núñez also commented on Eastern’s retention rate -- the percentage of students who return after their first year -- which is 84%. This is much better than the state average for public universities, she said, which sits around 70%. Núñez said, “We have watched this number climb steadily over the past 15 years; it is the result of hard work of every person working on this campus. It is a legacy of which I am very proud.”

Members of the class of 1973 gathered for their 50th jubilee anniversary.

Members of the class of 1963

The classes of 1963 and 1973 reunited, connecting in person and virtually and sharing stories of their post-graduate pursuits and current lives. They looked through yearbooks and reminisced about how much the campus has changed.

“I think the thing I loved about Burr [Hall] was the downstairs area where we would hang out for hours and hours, playing cards,” said Anne Petro-Roy ’73.

“Elsa Núñez has done a great job putting Eastern on the map,” said Bert Nussbaum ’63. “I remember when the school was only a few buildings. Now, the campus is just gorgeous.”

They were also able to interact with current students, asking them about the current layout of campus, sharing stories about their time at Eastern and asking about their studies and activities.

“One thing that really impressed me about Eastern was them bringing in the superintendents of nearby schools,” said Joan Marsh ’73 of the University's teacher training. Many older alumni became career teachers, following Eastern's legacy as a normal school.

Stanley Bobyn ’73 spoke of how he got his teaching job through the superintendent program. “I didn’t have a meeting,” he said. “So I didn’t think I would be able to talk [to the superintendent]. I guess the guy who he was supposed to meet with didn’t show up, so he let me speak with him. The rest is history.”

Led by the class of ’73, the alumni march made its way from the Student Center to the Geissler Gymnasium, accompanied by the cheerleading team and Willy the Warrior. They were met with the smiling faces of children, parents and current Eastern students visiting for Family Day.

The Alumni March

The alumni march

The Alumni March

Many alumni piled in one of the campus shuttles for a student-led tour around campus, where they could ask questions, share stories and admire what has been made of the University.

They pointed out many of the changes that have taken place: Windham High was under construction when they first came to Eastern; in place of the library was a baseball field; Winthrop Hall was the University’s student union; and Noble Hall was an elementary school. One pair, on seeing Burr Hall, pointed to their old dorm window.

The group recalled the library being built. “We all gathered one morning at the old library,” Bobyn said. “We each got a stack of twelve or so books and carried them to the [new] library. It only took one morning to move the whole collection.”

They were very impressed with the Fine Arts Instructional Center (FAIC), remarking that it is one of the most beautiful buildings on campus.
Alumni of color event
Jeniel Edmonds '22, M '23, Shanda Hinton '96, and Mark Bradley '90

The agenda also included the Memories of Shaboo tour, where alumni were able to go to Shaboo Productions and reminisce about the Shaboo Inn, the legendary concert venue in town that burned down in 1982. While there, they got to speak with David Foster, owner of Shaboo Productions and a benefactor to Eastern and Willimantic.

They recalled performances they saw, including Aerosmith, who played "Dream On" onstage for the first time at Shaboo, Montgomery, and Southside Johnny.

“If only these instruments could talk,” David Smith, a friend of Foster’s, said to the group. “Oh, the stories they’d tell.”

Recent alumni also came to the school to speak to students of color, offering encouragement and advice to them.

Among them was Mark Bradley '90, who graduated with a degree in business and marketing. He is currently the director of operations in general industries, life sciences and technology at The Hartford.

Also present was Mark’s sister, Shanda Hinton ’96. She said that while she initially came to Eastern as a communication major and interned at Fox News and WTNH, she realized she had a passion for human resources and has been working in the field for 23 years. Today, she is the chief diversity officer at RTX.

“Administrators on campus really helped me,” Hinton said. “Take advantage of every opportunity, maximize connections. And leadership opportunities ... take every one.”

Jeniel Edmonds ’22, M ’23 was also available for students to speak with students. She received her bachelor's degree in psychology with a minor in business and graduated this May with her master’s. She currently works as a preschool teacher.

Edmonds encourages current students to reach out to their professors and to develop strong relationships with them. “Keep making connections because you might need them one day," she said, "so take advantage of that.”

Written by Marcus Grant

Categories: Alumni