PROVIDENCE, R.I. [Brown University] — Brown’s Reunion Weekend is truly like no other. With each class of Brown graduates invited every fifth year, the weekend-long event invites approximately 15,000 alumni to College Hill annually, where they congratulate the University’s newest graduates while reconnecting with each other during three days of reflective ceremony and spirited celebration.
The COVID-19 pandemic paused this storied tradition in 2020, when the University and the world were in the earliest stages of adapting to new, rapidly developing health and safety measures. But Reunion Weekend returned to Brown with a twist this year, with nearly 30,000 alumni — a number doubled to accommodate those who would have attended last year — invited to come together for a weekend of virtual activities from April 30 to May 2, 2021.
This year’s virtual Reunion featured many tried and true traditions — and a few new ones — all thoughtfully adapted to an online format and steeped in a spirit of community that has stayed strong through the pandemic, said Andy Shaindlin, vice president of alumni relations and member of the Class of 1986.
“We knew that we couldn't reproduce the experience of physically being with your classmates and being part of the Reunion activity that takes place during Memorial Day weekend on College Hill,” he said. “But we wanted people to have the same sense of reconnection — of rekindling the relationships with friends and classmates — while also taking advantage of some of the new things that being online enabled us to do.”
Add to the weekend’s Reunion events a set of compelling Commencement forums, a Brown tradition for more than four decades featuring presentations and discussions on timely topics, and the virtual experience in many ways matched what alumni, new graduates, family and friends experience every year on campus.
The format may have been distinct, but the spirit was largely the same.