Jennifer Niggemeier, director of graduate career services and alumni relations, and Elisabeth Johnston, alumni relations manager, sit down with State & Hill to preview The Centennial Reunion (October 31 – November 1, 2014).
S&H: A centennial reunion—rare indeed! How has it been to have the chance to plan this?
J: (laughing) I'm pretty sure it's a once in a lifetime opportunity! It's super exciting. I mean think about it: we've been around 100 years. What an impact our alums have made over that time!
S&H: I know some details are in progress. What can you say now about the Reunion?
E: As we're just announcing, we'll host a keynote lecture with Steven Levitt along with a brunch for alums and faculty. We'll go to the football game and the Alumni Association's M Go Blue Tailgate. That's very family-friendly, with the Marching Band and lots of good food and giveaways. This year's tailgate will feature the Ford School and include some great surprises for our alums.
J: The Reunion falls on Halloween, so we're planning an Open House—almost like a trick-or-treat throughout the building, where you can stop by and have 'office hours' with faculty. That will be followed by a reception in the Weill Hall courtyard for the entire Ford School community.
S&H: How have alums been involved in the planning?
E: Our Alumni Board has been discussing and advising us on options for over a year. And right now, we're looking for a team of alumni volunteers to help spread the word about the Reunion via phone calls and social media.
S&H: What are you most looking forward to?
E: We're putting on a great weekend. Fall in Ann Arbor is gorgeous—it's a classic.
J: From a personal perspective, I'm hoping that some alums from my first years at the Ford School make it back to campus. How fun would that be!—To see where people are fifteen and twenty years later…. (pause, eyes welling). Quote, 'As she says with tears in her eyes,' unquote!
S&H: (laughter) Anyone who knows Jennifer can picture this scene!
J: It's that time to come back. Re-live some of your memories, connect back with some faculty and staff who were important during your time here. We've heard from some alums who have started rallying their friends. They're saying, 'Hey, we've been talking about going back to campus. We know others will be there. Let's make this happen. Let's get it on calendars now. Let's have some fun!'
S&H: Our Centennial Reunion coincides with the launch of the Victors for Michigan campaign. Thoughts?
J: It's great timing. We're thinking not just where we've come in these hundred years but more importantly, where do we want to go? We're at a turning point; we're launching the school's next century. The generosity and engagement of our alums will be key.
S&H: Last thoughts?
E: Make hotel reservations soon! And please keep an eye out in June for your registration materials; that will include information about how to get football tickets (which we expect to sell out).
J: As we've been looking through our history, it's been amazing to think about the legacy of this place and of all the people who have come through over one hundred years. To you, reading this article: you're a part of that. You helped build the school. This place matters, and this is the year to come back.
For more info: Elisabeth Johnston, 734-615-5760 or eajohnst[at]umich.edu.
Below is a formatted version of this article from State & Hill, the magazine of the Ford School. View the entire Spring 2014 State & Hill here.