Desire for being together on campus sparks return of in-person Reunion

February 17, 2022 — When it came time to make a decision about Reunion 2022, an in-person reunion that may look and feel a bit different eclipsed the other alternatives.

Reunion 2022 will take place on the Grinnell College campus from June 2-5. Registration is now open, and nearly 200 alumni registered during the first week.

While Grinnell College administrators and Reunion Committee volunteers are keenly aware of challenges of planning a large gathering during the ongoing pandemic, they also are recognized a growing demand for classmates to reunite with each other and their alma mater. Reunion was cancelled in 2020 and held virtually in 2021.

Alumni show team spirit before a Hula Hoop contest during a Relays event at Reunion 2019.
Alumni show team spirit before a Hula Hoop contest during a Relays event at Reunion 2019.

“While many alums have stayed connected through virtual events and various electronic communication, there’s a real appetite for alumni to come together in-person and reconnect in with the College and each other in meaningful ways,” says Jayn Bailey Chaney ’05, director of alumni and donor relations. “Once we determined that an in-person event was the best approach, we went to work thinking about how it could be done to maximum safety while still offering many of the core experiences that make Reunion special.” 

While COVID-19 numbers have recently declined in Iowa and many other places in the U.S., it still would not be prudent to have large numbers of alums eating class dinners in confined inside spaces. Thus, the College is planning for the two largest dinners on Friday and Saturday evenings to be outside.

Most of the class dinners have been replaced with a Friday Reunion Block Party, which will include a variety of food trucks from all over Iowa, live music, inflatable games, and fun activities.

“A silver lining to this Reunion is we’re going to get to try some new things, and I think there’s some excitement building about the Block Party,” says Paige Everly, associate director of alumni and donor relations for reunion and awards. “There will be some fantastic bands and food options.” 

2019 Reunion attendees listen to live music during a Chill Time event on Central Campus.
2019 Reunion attendees listen to live music during a Chill Time event on Central Campus.

The All-Reunion picnic will shift from Friday to Saturday evening while the President’s Reception now has a Saturday morning timeslot. The golden classes – those above the 50th Reunion – will have class dinners Friday evening. Other annual events such as Alumni Assembly, the Alumni 5K Walk and Run, and the Pioneer Athletic Reception, will occur at or close to their usual times. A tentative schedule is available as part of the Reunion website.

“Many of the beloved traditional events will take place, but some will be at different times, Everly says. “We’re trying to communicate that up front as much as possible so people will not be caught off guard.” 

Classes celebrating a reunion in 2022 include 1952, 1961, 1962, 1965, 1966, 1970, 1971, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1997, 2000, 2001, and 2002. Alumni from any class are welcome to attend. GRAEYs alums, which stands for “Grinnell Reunion Any/Every Year,” will be back this year.  

A frequent question in the past week has been about masking requirements at Reunion. While the College currently requires masks in all indoors spaces, it’s unknown what the policy will be come June. College leaders will continue to monitor public health conditions, and the Office of Development and Alumni Relations will communicate with guests before Reunion begins.

Even with planned safety measures, Everly acknowledges that the decision about whether to attend Reunion 2022 will likely be a tough one for some Grinnellians.

“I know that there will be alums that don’t feel like they can attend and that’s perfectly understandable,” she says. “We are going to do what we can to make alums that do come feel comfortable. We’re talking about how to incorporate alternative spaces, such as outdoor tents. If eating near others feels problematic, attendees can take their meals outside, for example. For people who are more nervous about gathering inside, I think they can still come and find plenty of activities to choose from outdoors.”

Of course, outdoor gatherings are at the mercy of Mother Nature, so rain could put a damper on some festivities. 

“There’s a longer what-if list than usual,” Everly said. “We acknowledge up front that despite all the good planning and efforts, unpredictable circumstances related to weather or the pandemic could be a factor. We’re counting on people to be flexible. With all that being said, we’re fully committed to providing the best in-person experience at Reunion as possible, and we can’t wait to see everyone back on campus.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

Reunion 2022 registration is underway. Here’s some helpful tips for the registration process. If you prefer to register by mail, download and fill out the paper registration form.

A separate Young Alumni Weekend is being planned for the classes of 2014-2021 on June 17-19. Registration will open April 1 and more information will be forthcoming.

To read more alumni news, check out our news archive and like the Alumni & Friends Facebook page.