12:21 p.m., June 8, 2009----The University of Delaware's inaugural Forum & Reunion Weekend was a huge success, providing alumni an opportunity to reconnect with friends, faculty and their alma mater.
The event featured reunion activities, showcases by colleges and other units and a series of well-attended Dela-bration events, including Mug Night on The Green on Friday, a 5K race and walk and an international luncheon.
A centerpiece of Forum & Reunion Weekend was a Town Hall meeting during which President Patrick Harker gave a “state of the University” address and a keynote address by Pat Williams, a former Delaware resident and general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers who is now a top executive with the NBA's Orlando Magic.
“I was thrilled to see so many Blue Hens come 'home' for the weekend. Everyone seemed to be having a fantastic time. Certainly, that's a credit to the committees and the hundreds of volunteers who made each event such a success. They put in a tremendous amount of hard work, and I know that everyone who enjoyed the weekend is grateful for their efforts,” Harker said of the Forum & Reunion Weekend.
“Our first Forum and Reunion Weekend set a high standard, and we’re excited about the prospects for continuing this great new tradition," Monica Taylor, vice president for development and alumni relations, said.
“It was great to have so many of our alumni return to campus and reconnect with the friends and former faculty members,” said Cindy Campanella, director of alumni relations. “Many alumni thanked us for having the event, and it was a thrill for us in the Alumni Relations Office to see everyone having such a great time.”
The event attracted 1,700 alumni from all across the nation, including members of the Tordella family, who arrived from communities all across the United States to enjoy the weekend.
The honor of traveling the farthest to Forum & Reunion Weekend goes to Joann E. Kingsley, who earned her bachelor's degree in 1996 and her master's degree in 1999, both in international relations. A human rights worker, Kingsley now heads the Danish Refugee Council office in Jaffna, Sri Lanka. A visit home to the United States coincided with the Reunion Weekend, and she was able to attend the All Alumni Dance Party Saturday night on The Green.
In addition to listening to the “wonderful music” by Fabulous Grease Band, Kingsley said she enjoyed the chance to chat with Ralph Begleiter, Edward and Elizabeth Rosenberg Professor of Communication and Distinguished Journalist in Residence, and catch up with James J. Magee, professor of political science and international relations, for whom she was a T.A. when in graduate school here.
President Harker holds Town Hall meeting
University of Delaware President Patrick Harker welcomed alumni and friends to Forum & Reunion Weekend on Saturday, June 6, telling a crowd of about 300 at a town hall style meeting in Mitchell Hall that he expects the event to become an annual tradition.
“Tell your friends,” he said to those who applauded the previous evening's party on The Green that drew about 1,700 participants. “This is part of the tradition. You are the lifeblood of the University. We need you to be involved.”
The bonds formed at UD, Harker said, “aren't just a four-year experience. They're a lifetime experience.”
He gave alumni an overview of some recent changes on campus. Those include new names for two colleges -- the former College of Human Services, Education and Public Policy is now the College of Education and Public Policy, and the College of Marine and Earth Studies is the College of Earth, Ocean, and Environment.
Harker told the audience that Michael Gamel-McCormick, a 1979 alumnus, is the new dean of the College of Education and Public Policy and Kathleen Matt, who earned a bachelor's degree in 1975 and a master's in 1979 at UD, is the new dean of the College of Health Sciences. In addition, former College of Arts and Sciences Dean Tom Apple, who earned his doctorate in 1982 at the University, has been named provost.
Also introduced to those attending the town hall meeting were Bernard Muir, the new director of athletics and recreation, and the Tordella family, a group of seven siblings (and two spouses) who all are UD alumni and who returned to Newark for Forum & Reunion Weekend from their homes around the United States.
In discussing the University's future, Harker said that a new science and engineering building is “our most critical need.” With UD's widely recognized expertise in those fields, a new facility is key to attracting students, supporting research and developing the knowledge for scientific innovation that is needed by Delaware and the nation, he said.
“You can't have sustained economic growth in a region without a great university behind it,” Harker said. UD, he said, must continue to “play to our strengths” by focusing on such areas as renewable energy and environmental research. The proposed 150,000-square-foot classroom and laboratory building will house the new Energy Institute and a proposed Environmental Institute.
Another immediate need on campus, Harker said, is a new student-athlete performance center and improved and expanded recreation facilities. The goal is for the performance center to become the centerpiece of the south athletic campus and to include an academic support center as well as strength and conditioning facilities and training rooms.
Meanwhile, student demand for recreation space has outgrown the Carpenter Sports Building, constructed in 1943, Harker said. When students complain about a lack of space to work out or to play club sports, he said, “We want to support their healthy lifestyle choices” and be able to provide those facilities.
Harker told alumni that, despite difficult economic times that have led to reductions in UD's endowment and support from the state, the University is committed to its goals that include environmental leadership, diversity, excellence in research, global engagement and impact, and putting Delaware first. “We can never forget that we are the flagship university of the state of Delaware. We need the state, and the state needs us,” Harker said.
He asked alumni to support the University, not just financially, but by thinking of UD students and graduates when bringing in interns or hiring employees. He also urged them to brag about their alma mater whenever possible.
“If we're going to be successful, we need the support of you, the alumni,” Harker said.
'Become a lifelong learner,' Williams says
Pat Williams' team was in the midst of the NBA championship series on Saturday, June 6, but he traveled to the University of Delaware's inaugural Forum & Reunion Weekend nonetheless to deliver a keynote address that was filled with challenges to the alumni and friends in attendance.
Williams, senior vice president of the Orlando Magic -- which was down by one game in the playoffs and slated to play Game 2 on the following evening in Los Angeles -- spoke to an audience of about 300 in Mitchell Hall on Saturday morning. Known as a promotional and marketing expert, an author and one of America's top motivational speakers, Williams first urged alumni never to stop learning.
“The minute you get your diploma, your learning experience is just beginning,” he said to the audience that included alumni from the classes of the early 1950s through the newest graduates, who received their diplomas at Commencement just one week earlier. As the world's body of knowledge grows at an increasingly fast pace, he said, the challenge is to “become a lifelong learner” so as not to be left behind.
One way to reach that goal, he said, is to continue with formal education, earning a graduate degree or taking other courses, perhaps through distance learning. For those who choose not to return to school, Williams then suggested another way to continue learning.
“Your mind, like mine, is a muscle,” he said, “and muscles need exercise.” He told the audience that the best piece of exercise equipment for the brain is a book and the best mental workout is to read for an hour a day.
“Start today, and read one hour every day for the rest of your life,” Williams said. “The best part is that the books are not assigned. You get to pick them.” He encouraged those in the audience to read widely, but only on subjects that interest them. After a year, he said, such a reader can have expertise in 10 different subjects and after 10 years, 100 subjects.
“People will invite you to lunch at the Charcoal Pit” to enjoy your knowledgeable conversation, said Williams, who was born in Philadelphia but grew up in Wilmington, Del. “And they'll pick up the tab.”
He went on to talk about a notable University of Delaware alumnus, Dallas Green, who pitched for the Blue Hens baseball team through his junior year in 1955 and then returned in 1981 to finish his bachelor's degree. Green, the manager who led the Philadelphia Phillies to their first World Series championship in 1980, once said of the Phillies, “We need some character people on this team,” Williams said.
For the past 30 years, Williams said, he's been thinking about exactly what that statement meant, and he told the audience that he's come up with a list of attributes to which he believes Green was referring. They are honesty, integrity (“There's a consistency to their life; their walk and their talk match”), maturity, taking responsibility, hard work (“The two most important words are: What else? What else can I do? What else can I contribute?”), persistence (“That's why I run marathons. It's practice in not quitting”), awareness of the influence a person has on others, humility and courage.
Dallas Green was talking about a sports team, Williams said, but “character people” create all types of good teams, Williams said, from “your family team, your church team [to] the whole nation.”
Williams, who got a standing ovation in Mitchell Hall, is the former general manager of the Philadelphia 76ers, leading them to a world championship in 1983. He has been building and leading winning teams in professional sports for more than 40 years and in the mid-1980s spearheaded the drive to bring an NBA team to Orlando. In 1996, he was named one of the 50 most influential people in NBA history.
A popular motivational and inspirational speaker and author of more than 50 books, Williams and his wife, Ruth, also are the parents of 19 children, including 14 adopted from four nations. In one memorable year, 16 of their children were all teenagers. The family has been featured in numerous publications, including Sports Illustrated, Good Housekeeping and The Wall Street Journal.
After attending Wilmington's Tower Hill School, Williams earned a baseball scholarship to Wake Forest University, where he graduated with a degree in physical education and later earned a master's degree from Indiana University. He spent seven years with the Philadelphia Phillies, two as a minor league catcher and five in the front office. Affiliated with the NBA since 1968, he has worked with the Chicago Bulls and Atlanta Hawks in addition to the 76ers and Magic.
He speaks throughout the country on such topics as the keys to leadership and quality, the magic of teamwork and Walt Disney's secrets to success. His books include The Paradox of Power, Marketing Your Dreams, Coaching Your Kids to Be Leaders and How to Be Like Women of Power.
In addition to his NBA work, writing and speaking, Williams is a marathon runner, serious baseball fan, Civil War buff, adult Sunday school teacher and host of a weekly sports radio show.
Article by Ann Manser
Photos by Kathy F. Atkinson, Ambre Alexander, Doug Baker, Mark Baker, Mark Campbell, Greg Drew, Duane Perry and Kevin Quinlan