Alumni and students celebrated Homecoming Sept. 29-30
By Jill Spotz
Lafayette College’s campus is known for its beauty in all seasons, but crisp weather and early fall foliage provided the perfect backdrop for alumni to return to campus for Homecoming 2023. This year, Fall Fest, sponsored by Lafayette Activities Forum, took place on Saturday of Homecoming Weekend, providing a festive carnival for students to enjoy. In addition, there were dedications of new spaces on campus, a special exhibit at Skillman Library, student-led tours, sport-specific and Greek organization gatherings, and more. Below is a snapshot of some of the activities and celebrations that took place over the weekend.
A special dedication took place Sept. 28 to commemorate the Class of 1962 Gateway Plaza and escarpment/multimodal trail located near the Civil War monument overlooking Easton. The fundraising project was spearheaded by Jeffrey Ruthizer ’62 P’00 and class fund manager John Weis ’62 in 2020 when they identified this opportunity that would both honor their class and elevate the historic location on campus. During the dedication, remarks were presented by President Nicole Farmer Hurd, Easton Mayor Salvatore J. Panto Jr.; Senator Bob Freeman; Jessica Berger, administrative director for Congresswoman Susan Wild; and Ruthizer.
“I’m so glad you [Nicole Hurd] mentioned again the power of the word ‘And.’ I know that’s so important to the culture that you brought to Lafayette College, and I think about it all the time,” said Ruthizer during his remarks. “This project is truly the perfect testament to the use of that word. You talked about athletics and scholarship, and arts and sciences and engineering. Well how about class and college? We’re a class that has put together, through the efforts of John Weis ’62, our wonderful fundraising chairman, and some major contributions including the special gift from H. Peter Claussen Jr. ’62, a class has put together $350,000 to support this important project.”
In addition to the plaza, the project included the renovation of the historic steps that lead from the Civil War monument to the base of the hill, and a new walking and bicycling trail connecting the College to the City of Easton. The College received a grant from the Commonwealth Financing Authority to create the multi-use trail that extends diagonally across the escarpment from behind the former William E. Simon Center for Economics and Business to the Karl Stirner trailhead at North Third Street. Senators Bob Freeman and Lisa Boscola were instrumental in helping to secure funding for the project.
Freeman was present at the dedication and spoke about his personal connection to this space and his vision for what it could become during a very difficult time in his life. In 2015, when Freeman was dealing with the failing health of his mother, he would often walk through campus to ease his thoughts. He discovered a service road behind the prior William E. Simon Center that provided a natural path down the hill. This path only needed to be improved to become an asset to the campus and the City of Easton. During the dedication, President Hurd surprised Freeman with a named space in memory of his mother.
“It was a great eye-opening experience to see the potential of that natural trail and how it really could provide the kinds of connections we want in this community,” said Freeman during his remarks.
The new vista from the top of the hill provides an unobstructed view of the City of Easton. The pathway also features additional lighting to help create a safer and more direct pathway for students, employees, neighbors, and visitors to travel between campus and downtown Easton. Collectively, the new pathways also help reduce reliance on motor vehicles. The next phase of this project includes a reforestation plan to replace trees removed during construction.
“When I think about the fact that the College is going to be 200 years old in 2026, I am excited that we are now connected to Easton, visually, in ways we have not been before,” said President Hurd during her remarks. “It’s an inspiring view, and it makes us realize that we are all part of this community. This is a place of reflection and a place of memory as we honor those who have sacrificed as well as those we love.”
Prospective students, families, and visitors to campus are now experiencing an upgraded entrance to Markle Hall from the top level of the parking garage, thanks to the recently renovated and named Hugel Welcome Center.
The Lafayette community gathered Friday, Sept. 29, to celebrate these improvements and honor the late Charles “Charley” Hugel ’51 and his wife, Nina, for their bequest, which is enhancing the visitor experience. The Hugel Welcome Center offers a pedestrian walkway with native landscaping, inviting indoor space with comfortable seating, fireplace, floor-to-ceiling windows to let in natural light, upgraded space to accommodate large groups of families, and video screens that display quotes from Lafayette students, faculty, and alumni.
Members of Lafayette’s Marquis Society gathered in Marquis Hall Sept. 29 for the annual Marquis Founders Dinner. Collectively, 70% of all contributions to the College last fiscal year were from Marquis Society members. The society has exceeded 2,0000 members for the sixth consecutive year.
During the evening, four families were inducted into Société d’Honneur, Lafayette’s premier giving society. Individually, Peter ’80 and Susan Gummeson, J. Stoner Lichty Jr. ’66, Angel Mendez ’82, and Andrew and Dina Opici Wallach ’95 have elevated financial aid and scholarships, and athletics in profound ways.
Mendez and Lichty each chose to support financial aid and scholarships at Lafayette. Mendez spoke about his passion for financial aid due to a confluence of factors, including the rising cost of higher education, which is not matching median income. And these statistics are even more bleak for Hispanics, as their average earnings are 80% less than the average U.S. median income.
“I am a proud Hispanic, but I don’t invest in Hispanic Leopards because I am Hispanic. I invest in Hispanic Leopards because I am an American,” explained Mendez during his remarks. “We can either strive to be an inclusive institution that attracts the right mix of students that represent society, or we can fall back to a safer place, which is one where we represent a more exclusive environment. Finally, if you’ve met a student around here, they represent a great investment. So as you think about the future, as you think about the next capital campaign, consider financial aid; it is worth the investment.”
On the athletics front, Gummeson’s vision for an elite soccer stadium recently came to fruition when he and his wife provided the lead gift to create Gummeson Grounds: Home of Mike Bourger Field ’44 at Oaks Stadium. The stadium opened in August. The Wallachs named the Wallach Sports Performance and Lacrosse Center, which will be constructed at Metzgar Fields Athletics Complex. The gift supports their belief in the student-athlete experience and its lifelong benefits.
On Saturday, alumni and members of the on-campus community gathered together in Williams Center for the Arts to honor Robert Mattison, Marshall R. Metzgar Professor of Art History, who recently announced his retirement. Since arriving at Lafayette in 1981, Prof. Mattison has impacted generations of Lafayette students, staff, and faculty. In addition to authoring nine books and hundreds of articles, and coordinating many exhibitions during his time at the College, he also led many international teaching opportunities for students in Berlin, London, Paris, and Vienna, among other cities.
Tailgates took place around campus before the Lafayette football game against Bucknell on Saturday, including at Markle parking deck as well as a McDonogh Network tailgate at Oechsle Hall. Lafayette defeated Bucknell 56-22.