President Joanne Glasser joined more than 300 students, alumni, and friends at the bonfire at Meinen Field, a longtime Bradley tradition that was reinstated as part of October's Homecoming festivities. The event was followed by a walk to the Renaissance Coliseum for Hoopla on the Hilltop.
Chat with anyone who returned to the Hilltop, and I believe they'll say that Homecoming was an unqualified success. There were activities for everyone; we tried to reinvigorate some old traditions and begin new ones. Our intention was to create events that would not only attract alumni back to the Hilltop, but also engage our students. We sponsored events to instill a sense of tradition that could be carried on year after year to connect students and alumni with the University. We've made great strides.
Homecoming began with the lighting of the "B" atop Bradley Hall on Wednesday, October 13. Alumni from the '60s and '70s may not be familiar with the "B" lighting, because the tradition faded for some years. But back when it started in 1928, Bradley Hall was one of the tallest buildings in Peoria, and the lighted "B" served as a beacon, a "beacon's light," so to speak. The tradition was reinstated with our centennial in 1997, and we have since enhanced it.
An estimated 500 students came out that clear, crisp night to launch Homecoming, lining up by academic colleges, chanting with our cheerleaders, singing Hail, Red and White, and enjoying delicious barbecue sandwiches from Famous Dave's. It was a wonderful way to kick off Homecoming. Two nights later, another tradition was reinstated when more than 300 students participated in a pep rally and bonfire at Meinen Field, across University Street from campus. The turnout was impressive for a tradition that had been dormant for many years. And yes, Avanti's gondolas were an added bonus.
Afterward, with their eyes ablaze from the bonfire and their appetites satiated, members of the soccer team led students to the newly christened Renaissance Coliseum. The pathway was lit with beautiful luminaries, giving a festive glow to the nighttime procession.
At the Renaissance Coliseum — our spectacular 4,200-seat arena was dedicated earlier in the day — the students and a crowd of Braves fans were treated to the unveiling of the 2010–11 women's and men's basketball teams. Hoopla on the Hilltop featured player introductions, prizes for students, and a slam dunk contest. Hoopla helped fire up our loyal fans for another exciting season.
Saturday began with a 5K campus race and three interesting presentations: a panel discussion on sports media; Dr. Dan Getz's Last Lecture, "Mysterious Traces, Traces of Mystery"; and a question-and-answer period that I conducted. It was gratifying to offer some substantive discourse to the fun-filled weekend. Later, the Class of 1960 attended their Golden Reunion Luncheon. Then alumni flocked to the tailgate party prior to the soccer game. Our Braves defeated Central Arkansas 3-1 before an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 2,000 fans.
The highlight of the weekend, however, was Jay Leno's performance in the Renaissance Coliseum. He was spectacular, telling jokes nonstop for 75 minutes. Before the concert, Jay spent a half-hour with Dr. MARTY MORRIS '77 MSME '79 and 18 of his mechanical engineering students who build cars for a yearlong class project. Jay was gracious with his time, talking about the vehicles in great detail and inviting the students to California to see his fleet.
I'm happy to report that Homecoming 2010 was a huge success. We will continue to build on our achievements, offering our alumni a warm, welcoming and entertaining variety of activities. I hope to see you on the Hilltop for Homecoming 2011 or sooner. Our door is always open to all of our alumni. Here's wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a happy and healthy new year.