Reunion Committees adjust on the fly in planning class gatherings

April 21, 2021 — Every time she goes back to Grinnell College for Reunion, Chelsey (Weekly) Langland ’95 gets a major case of déjà vu.

“The smells are the same. And when I turn the corner to walk the north campus loggia, it feels like it is 1994 again,” she says. “I really enjoy reconnecting with Grinnellians organically, going from one conversation to another, and of course running into someone in the dining hall you haven’t seen for some time; it’s such a fun feeling.”

Langland, a senior staff attorney for the Kansas Judicial Branch, has served as a Reunion Committee member for her last three reunions. She also previously served as a Grinnell Regional Admission Support Program (GRASP) volunteer.

During National Volunteer Week (April 18-24), Grinnell College is thanking its volunteers for playing such an important role in shaping the Grinnell experience. Volunteers have been celebrated through a postcard, all-alumni email, and on social media.

Chelsey (Weekly) Langland ’95
   Chelsey (Weekly) Langland ’95

“I have jumped at the chance to volunteer because I’ve gotten a lot out of helping as an alumna,” Langland says. “There are a lot of different volunteer opportunities for alums. I’ve found that it’s pretty painless. The impact made on students way exceeds the amount of work it takes.”

Reunion planning starts long before the event itself, often well over a year in advance. In planning for Reunion 2020, Langland and her fellow 1995 committee members came to campus in 2019 for training, brainstorming, and to form sub-committees that would be in charge of planning the class dinner, lounge party, and event programing. Langland was originally the Friday Night Lounge chair (she had a goal of trying to secure a slushy machine for the festivities). While committee members have individual jobs, everyone works on outreach to classmates about Reunion.

“Really the goal is that every single member of the class gets an email, call, or text to let them know their presence is valuable and we would love to see them at Reunion,” Langland says.

Fundraising is another key component as the committee selects a class gift, sets a fundraising goal, and then asks classmates to make gifts. The 1995 committee also annually discusses how to best memorialize classmates who have passed away, Langland says.

Reunion committees were well on their way to planning Reunion 2020 when the pandemic altered those preparations. Langland was visiting the Chicago Art Institute with her daughter during spring break last year when she read an email that Grinnell College was sending students home.

“My immediate thought was there is no way Reunion 2020 is happening,” she says. “When the official cancelations came out, I think the attitude of the committee was this really sucks, we’re disappointed, but it’s clearly the right call.”

Thinking initially that their reunion would be delayed a year to 2021, the committee started planning a joint reunion with the class of 1996, who they had enjoyed clustering with at previous gatherings.

“We integrated the two planning committees last summer,” Langland says. “My Friday Night Lounge counterpart was independently planning almost the exact same party that I was, so it was very easy to coordinate.”

However, reality began to set in during the fall that the likelihood of an in-person Reunion 2021 was slim. The College announced in February that Reunion 2021 would be held virtually on June 3-10. Registration for virtual Reunion will open on May 3. A preliminary schedule of events will be posted in late April.

Once again, the class of 1995 Reunion Committee shifted gears and started planning special online events.

“We had a virtual social in February that was well-received, so we are building on that,” Langland says. “We realize there’s Zoom fatigue, so we are making sure this won’t feel like another screen obligation. We have a few surprises that we don’t want to give away yet, but I hope that it will feel special. The classes of 1995 and 1996 have some great event planners. From the breakout rooms to targeted programing, there should be something for everyone.”

—by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Learn more about the roles of Reunion Committee members. For more information about serving on a Reunion Committee, contact Paige Everly, associate director of alumni and donor relations for reunion and award programs, at

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