If you have joined your classmates for any of your Wheelock College Reunion Weekends, you know that they are festive and activity-packed, from an evening spent at Fenway Park watching a Red Sox game to a Saturday afternoon spent leisurely kayaking in the Charles River to your class dinner — organized especially for your class — on Saturday evening. The details are numerous, such as the celebratory hats or scarves your class wears for the iconic procession on Riverway to the Wheelock Family Theatre to hear the State of the College Address and watch your classmates receive well-deserved awards.
It is no wonder that plans for this three-day event begin only one month after another Reunion Weekend ends, led by Michelle McLaughlin, associate director of Alumni Relations, with the help of Lauren Marquis ’11MS, vice president of Alumni Relations, and for the first time this year, Melissa Bissonnette, office manager and alumni coordinator. Michelle says, “I like to consider planning Reunion Weekend to be a group effort, especially when the actual Reunion Weekend arrives and the entire Alumni Relations team and student workers come together to handle tasks ranging from flower arrangement to guest registration.”
Michelle has led the effort since Reunion Weekend 2013, which was a landmark event given, it was during the College’s 125th year anniversary. One month after Reunion Weekend, Michelle sends “Save the Date” cards for the one to occur 11 months later. A task that comes soon after is soliciting reunion coordinators from each class, each of whom is in constant contact with Michelle throughout the year as they each arouse interest in the event from their classmates. “I’ve created special relationships with alumni, especially those from the earlier classes with whom I spend more time talking on the telephone than communicating via email,” she says.
Just some of the many tasks — other than keeping constant communication with the reunion coordinators — that create a successful Reunion Weekend are choosing and planning activities; choosing venues for class dinners; working with Sodexo, the catering company for Wheelock College, to plan receptions and class dinners that occur on campus; creating registration booklets that list the weekend’s activities and overseeing the printing and mailing processes; planning transportation to and from activities; coordinating reunion awards; hiring and managing student workers; arranging housing for all of the alumni.
“When the weekend arrives,” Michelle says, “I like to call it controlled chaos. I enjoy the buzz on campus, especially on the Friday of Reunion Weekend, when guests arrive and see one another for the first time. Alumni love to come back to the Wheelock College campus to reunite with their classmates. My favorite part of Reunion Weekend is spending time at the registration table and meeting all of the coordinators with whom I’ve been communicating all year.”
Michelle does not leave campus during Reunion Weekend; she actually sleeps in the residence halls. Though she loves witnessing the culmination of a year of hard work, she admits it’s hard to be away from her husband, Ken, and her 2-year-old son, Matty.
Michelle welcomed an alumna from the Class of 1945 during Reunion Weekend 2015. She says it is rewarding to see the older classes enter the Wheelock Family Theatre after the procession along Riverway and be met with thundering applause from the younger classes, who entered first. She says, “It makes my job worthwhile.”