UMD alumni connect with former classmates amid pandemic, share homecoming memories

The Samuel Riggs Alumni Center on Oct. 7, 2020. (Taneen Momeni/The Diamondback)

By Matthew Shea
For The Diamondback

While the coronavirus pandemic has reshaped the fall semester, school spirit is still alive for members of the University of Maryland community, especially among alumni.

Last Friday, the university’s football team won at home, its first win of the season, and celebrated a homecoming victory.

To some alumni, homecoming memories are special parts of their experience at this university, with one of the key components being the big game.

Tracy Mednik, who graduated in 1996, said she remembers the campus atmosphere on game day during homecoming weekend.

“The one thing I remember doing most with my friends was tailgating before the games,” Mednik said. “It was always just a really, really fun time.”

But as the years have passed, homecoming has taken on a different meaning for alumni.

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Now with families of their own, some former students celebrate homecoming with their children, and Mednik said one special moment came from being at this university with her newborn daughter one year.

“I remember going back to the University of Maryland for homecoming with her,” Mednik said. “We kind of did all the same things with the tailgating and the festivities … and all of that, but I actually had my daughter with me, and … I just remember that being really special.”

Brett Hoffman, an alumnus who graduated in 1995, said he remembers the many events during homecoming week that involved Greek life.

“We would always have all kinds of events ongoing throughout the week,” Hoffman said. “There was anything from fundraisers to, you know, … the fraternities and sororities would get points based on how they did in all kinds of like, just fun outdoor events.”

Homecoming traditions are a way for some alumni to stay connected to the campus — but due to the pandemic, plans have changed.

This year, the Alumni Association worked to engage people during homecoming weekend by hosting a variety of virtual events.

But some alumni have found that the pandemic has brought them closer together.

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Robin Yentis, who graduated in 1995, played on the tennis team during her time at the university and spent time with her former teammates before the pandemic hit.

But since then, the team has been connecting even more, she said.

“We’ve done FaceTimes and we’ve been staying in touch a lot more since the pandemic,” Yentis said.

Another alumnus, Dr. Daniel Russ who graduated first in 1990 and then again from graduate school in 1998, said he believes the situation has actually brought the university community closer together.

Before the pandemic, Russ said he and fellow alumni would talk on the phone, but didn’t do it often.

“Now, once every other week, my friends and I have a standard happy hour Zoom where we get together for a couple hours,” Russ said. “People have been going out of their way to connect.”

CORRECTION: Due to a reporting error, a previous version of this article misspelled Tracy Mednik’s name. This story has been updated.

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