Young Alumni Weekend Slideshow

Jade Bustamante '20 celebrates being back with her 2020 classmates by waving sparklers during a reception at Kington Plaza.
Jade Bustamante '20 celebrates being back with her 2020 classmates by waving sparklers during a reception at Kington Plaza.


Being back together brings joy at Young Alumni Weekend

June 24, 2022 — Seeing the same people in the same places from her student days was precisely why Claire Ruegg ’16 traveled from Nashville to attend Young Alumni Weekend.

“Our five-year reunion got pushed off, so when Young Alumni Weekend was announced, I got very excited,” she said. “I love this place. It’s so fun being back in Grinnell.”

An air of excitement permeated throughout the weekend as alums enthusiastically reconnected with classmates and to some degree re-lived parts of their student experiences. Around 600 alumni from the classes of 2014 to 2021 and their guests took part in the festivities from June 16-19. 

“I thought it was a good opportunity to have fun and reminisce a little bit,” said Thomas Marsho ’17. “Part of me feels a little weird about being back. But then the other part of me feels like I never left even though it’s been five years.”

Jenny Dong ’17, left, and Lizzie Eason ‘17 dance together.
Jenny Dong ’17, left, and Lizzie Eason ‘17 dance during a Too Many Strings Band performance Friday evening at Bob’s Underground.

This one-time Young Alumni Weekend was designed to be a homecoming gathering for alums who had not been back together on a large scale since their respective graduations. None of the classes attending have had a 5-year reunion because of pandemic-related cancelations and postponements. Although the event was not a traditional reunion, it included many reunion elements as well as some distinct touches.   

The class of 2020 was invited back to Grinnell a day early to participate in two special events. A total of 176 alums from 2020 registered to attend, which is nearly 50 percent of the class. For many of them, it was their first time back in Grinnell since the campus closed in March 2020 to lessen the risks of the pandemic. 

“What happened, happened. Nothing could be done about it,” Mukund Kalani ’20 said. “This weekend is a close re-creation of what could have been.”

The class of 2020 participated in an informal Thursday evening reception at Kington Plaza and the Pancakes and Professors event Friday morning. 

“I think I speak for most of us when I say, amongst the chaos of spring 2020, none of us really expected that the next time we all would be together would be two years later at Harris eating pancakes with our professors,” Raghu Intrui ’20 said in his welcome remarks “Nonetheless, here we are. While our departure from Grinnell isn’t what any of us hoped for, it is something we carry together, and it is something that sets us apart from all other classes.”

The event continued with an address from President Anne F. Harris and a special message by Katie Bouman, assistant professor of computing and mathematical sciences at the California Institute of Technology. Bouman, who helped construct the first photo of a black hole, was originally the 2020 Commencement speaker, but the in-person ceremony had to be scrapped.

Kate Irwin ’20 and Taylor Gaskins ’20 catch up.
Kate Irwin ’20 and Taylor Gaskins ’20 catch up at the Pancakes and Professors event Friday morning at Harris Center.

Sydnee Brown ’20 and Anna Emerson ’20 both said Young Alumni Weekend helped some but couldn’t ease the sting of their families missing out on seeing them graduate. Despite that loss, Emerson, who’s now a graduate student at Colorado State, thinks many in the class of 2020 will remain connected with the College.

“It’s not something we will forget about,” she says. “I have other Grinnellians in Colorado, and we talk about Grinnell. It feels very foundational for who I am as a person with or without events like these.”

Alumni from the classes of 2014-2019 and 2021 arrived Friday and joined with their 2020 counterparts at various events including the Humanities and Social Studies Center (HSSC) Open House, Pioneer Athletics Reception, Multicultural Town Hall, and lounge parties. A barbeque was held Friday evening in recognition of Juneteenth. 

The Juneteenth activities continued Saturday with a history experiential discussion led by Kesho Scott, associate professor of American studies and sociology, followed by an open house celebration at the Conney M. Kimbo Black Cultural Center. Other events Saturday included a block party and “Choose Your Own Adventure” Harris Party.

On Saturday afternoon, alums took part in Relays 2.0 on Mac Field. A long beloved tradition at Grinnell, the first Relays were held in 1973 to celebrate the arrival of spring and provide a respite from the academic pressure that builds as exams approach. A committee of 24 young alums put their own take on Relays for Young Alumni Weekend.

A relay team tries to wring out a frozen T-shirt.
A relay team tries to wring out a frozen T-shirt during a competition at Relays 2.0 Saturday on Mac Field.

“The general attitude of people having fun is still very much the same. Also, people in summer wear don’t look greatly different than they did in 1973,” said Wayne Moyer, Rosenfield professor of political science and policy studies who helped start Relays 49 years ago and was present for Saturday’s fun. “I’m enjoying it thoroughly. It’s a great opportunity to see everyone again.”

Relays is a family affair for Ryan Hautzinger ’15 who took the lead in organizing the alumni version and was joined by his sister, Shannon Hautzinger ’18. Their dad, Pete Hautzinger ’84, organized relays as a student and their mom, Cathy Welty ’84, was a frequent participant. Moyer also was Ryan’s adviser. 

“There’s a lot of longevity that ties it altogether, and I thought it was an important Grinnell tradition to have this weekend even though some of the classes did not get to experience it as students,” Ryan says. “One of the happiest memories I have from my student time in Grinnell is running relays. It’s a bunch of disorganization and chaos, so how you channel the chaos is the key to it.”

Zach Lane ’19 was enjoying the chaos, which included the traditional dizzy bat race and a new frozen T-shirt contest. 

“The best thing about Relays is all the camaraderie,” Lane said. “It’s great seeing everyone out here and spending time with my best friends. It doesn’t get any better than this.”

— by Jeremy Shapiro

For your information:

While Young Alumni Weekend was a one-time event, there are numerous ways for young alums to stay-up-to date on Grinnell happenings including the Alumni Instagram page and The Grinnellian e-newsletter.

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