As Homecoming Weekend nears, Athens fills with the excitement of returning Bobcats. Whether it be the Homecoming Parade, the big football game, or simply seeing a favorite professor again, Homecoming means something different to everyone.
The Post reached out to current seniors and alums to see what Homecoming means to them:
My first week at Ohio University, I spent a lot of time feeling like I was going to puke. I was terrified. I lived my entire life in what Ohio classified as a village, and my graduating class had 99 people. I knew every one of them by first and last name. Athens, by comparison, was a big and scary place.
I joined The Post during my first week on campus and began to float to other organizations and meet people around campus. After a few weeks, I was finally getting into the groove of things. Then came my first OU Homecoming. Watching thousands of alums, friends and families return here was one of the most poignant moments of my freshman year. Seeing how much people love this place of transient nature, home of growth and inspiration, gave me a similar feeling in my chest as the first time I looked over the Grand Canyon. I saw love and community. That day, I realized it was my community.
I mourned the loss of Homecoming my sophomore year, and the other experiences I missed at OU due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Missing time in this beautiful place gave me a new outlook on what it means to have a home here and what it means to return to this incredible place after being away. One memory brings me the same level of joy I felt at that first Homecoming: the day I got to move back to campus after being sent home in March 2020.
This reflection and my current work in Digital Initiatives at Alden Library, where I get to work with records of the university's past, made me realize Homecoming is a lot more than a football game and a parade. Homecoming is where communities come together, and memories are made and shared. To me, it means I get to be part of centuries of tradition and community because of Ohio University.
Taylor Burnette, class of 2023
Former Projects Editor
Homecoming takes on a different feeling for me each year.
In my first few years, the festivities were just a time to party and maybe reconnect with a few alums.
As an alum still studying at OU in a graduate school, I definitely have a different perspective on Homecoming than most.
Don't get me wrong; it's still a time to party. But now, instead of waking up on Sunday and heading over to my friend's house to recap the weekend and hang out, all my buddies will be hopping in their cars or catching a flight back home.
I've seen three classes of Bobcats and friends graduate. Each passing year, more and more of my friends become alums, so Homecoming progressively morphs from a weekend of fun for the sake of fun to a weekend of reconnecting.
My final walk across the stage will happen soon, and eventually, Homecoming will go from another weekend in Athens to my only weekend in Athens.
Matt Geiger, class of 2023
Former Digital Managing Editor
Everyone knows that fall is the best time to be in Athens. When I close my eyes, I can smell the sharp, cool air, with a hint of turning leaves. I can hear cars rumbling over the bricks on Court Street, students chatting and hurriedly walking to class. I can feel a cool breeze, my hands warmed by a steaming cup of coffee from Donkey. These sensations take me back to fall 2005 when I stood on College Green and decided that Ohio University would be my home for the next four years. In reality, it was six years and an additional degree, in part because I couldn't bear to leave the home I had made in Athens.
Homecoming falls at the same time of year as that first visit and is a stark reminder of everything I love about my alma mater. The smell of the trees, the breeze, the warm coffee, the people I met who became my home and the community that embraced me in some of the most pivotal years of my life. OU was not only my springboard into a fulfilling professional life but also introduced me to my best friends and husband (shout out to the Voinovich School on both counts). So, when I'm feeling nostalgic or need some peace, I only need to close my eyes, and I'm back home.
Amanda (Janice) Roberson, class of 2012
The closer I get to graduation, the more I appreciate Ohio University and Athens. Homecoming week is when I find myself loving Athens and being a Bobcat the most. The best part is seeing friends who have long since graduated. Some of them haven't been back to Athens since graduating, so spending that time with them is even more meaningful. In the weeks leading up to Homecoming, the old group chats get a little more active as friend groups start to plan the trip back to Athens. That excitement never fades. I think most students have spots on campus where they have vivid memories. Maybe it's a desk in Alden Library where you turned in the most challenging essay of your college career, or maybe it's your first dorm (R.I.P. Scott Quad). As I get closer to graduation in December, I am experiencing more and more of these memories, and I can't help but smile thinking about just how quickly my time as a student went. Homecoming is the time to celebrate your university, friendships and experiences. I encourage everyone reading this to take a minute and just look around during Homecoming. Everyone's heard it at least a thousand times, but your time at OU goes quickly, especially when you want it to slow down.
Ian McKenzie, class of 2022
Former Assistant News Editor
As a senior, Homecoming has always been about celebration—celebrating OU and what it means to have Bobcat pride. I've loved every minute of my time here, from snowball fights on Jeff hill, the Athens Farmers Market and walking in our homecoming parade.
My favorite memories are from Homecoming weekend. I'll never quite forget the excitement of waking up early, drinking with your best friends and marching in front of alums. The smiles, the Bobcat gear and loaded mimosas make the weekend unforgettable.
As a writer for The Post, Homecoming has always been a way to reconnect with my old friends. It's also been a great way to spend time with my fellow writers and family. Everyone is having fun, eating breakfast and cheering in celebration.
I'm proud to be a Bobcat and even more proud to say I'm graduating from a place I will always call home. The connections I've made here have fundamentally changed my life. I've met some of my best friends, who are now family to me, while living here over the past three years.
There's a saying that many alums live by: once a Bobcat—always a Bobcat!
Tre Spencer, class of 2023
A return to Athens and OU is truly a Homecoming, even if it isn't actually Homecoming weekend. Every trip back makes you feel like you've never left. My favorite part is walking around campus, especially on a cool fall day. No matter how many years pass, Athens somehow doesn't change. Bobcats don't change. The vibe doesn't change. It takes you right back to being a student and all of the memories created on the most beautiful campus around. If you are lucky enough to attend a football game, the half-time show will for sure evoke feelings of nostalgia and pride.
Each time I return to Athens, my bucket list always includes a trek up Jeff Hill, a slice of Goodfellas, a visit to College Bookstore and a stop at The Pub. As a former East Green resident, Jeff Hill was unavoidable. I can only imagine how many trips up and down I once made and I had the muscles to prove it! Goodfella's was always a necessity after a night on Court Street, and College Bookstore had the best deals on film processing, because there were no iPhones in 1993. The Pub will always be my favorite place for warm beer and a burger.
Homecoming Weekend allows Bobcat alum to relive the past and feel like a college kid again. I would venture to guess that we have more fun than current students while on campus! Whoever came up with the "No place like hOUme" line was a genius!
Stephanie Raub, class of 1995
Homecoming, above all, means reconnecting with former coworkers, classmates, friends and other acquaintances. It didn't hit me until I walked off the stage at graduation that I would not be reunited with many members of the class of 2022 until Homecoming-- if everyone is lucky enough to make it that weekend. Although many stay connected and keep in touch, it's not the same as traipsing around court street until the bars close with your closest friends or spending all afternoon in the newsroom with fellow Posties. The chance to reconnect with others, grab a bagel sandwich from Bagel Street Deli, cheer on the student orgs and marching band in the parade and take in all the other wonderful things Athens offers is what OHIO Homecoming means to me.
My days of both working and studying in Froom, classes in Schoonover, late nights in The Post newsroom, Thread photoshoots and late nights with my roommates are over, but OHIO Homecoming helps those memories live on. Although I will not be in attendance at the 2022 homecoming, I am still planning the next trip I can take to get just a taste of the camaraderie I once had just months ago.
Jillian Craig, class of 2022
Former Projects Editor and Senior Writer
Sure, there is a football game, the Marching 110, and a Bobcat celebration that calls for some revelry at one of the Court Street establishments. And, maybe a stop at another Court Street establishment for good measure. Those are givens.
But Homecoming at Ohio University means much, much more. It's really about the people and the memories we share of this awesome institution.
The seasons of the year are ingrained in every Bobcat. We instinctively know when school starts, when the streets get taken over on Halloween, the exodus at spring break and solemn celebration on graduation weekend.
And, of course, we know Homecoming is the most special of Ohio U. holidays.
Even if we cannot make it back to Athens, we celebrate in our hearts. We all have wonderful memories of studying late into the night, strolling across the College Green, or slogging up (and back down) Jeff Hill on a crisp autumn day.
As alums, being a Bobcat means wearing your green 'n' white gear to the office. (Honestly, is there anything better than when a stranger approaches and says, "Bobcat, Class of '91, how about you?") How about the joy when you connect via social media with a former professor, and he remembers an assignment you turned in – and remembers it for its all its merits?
Or how about that feeling when your daughter texts you from her dorm to ask about a journalism law assignment? (Yeah, my kid followed my footsteps into the E.W. Scripps School of Journalism.)
Ohio U is my home. No matter how far from campus I may be, it remains the center of my world.
I may only get there a few times a year (and for that I have to thank my daughter; by the way, you're doing great.) Each time I visit, it's a special occasion just to step back on campus. Despite the spooky folklore that surrounds Athens, there are no ghosts at OU – just memories of my friends and some of the best times in my life.
That is Homecoming. Welcome home, Bobcats.
Jeff Stacklin, class of 1991
Homecoming means a lot to me as a former (but not far removed) Postie. It's a great opportunity to revisit the town that I love, that I have created so many memories in but have not seen in a while. This is my first Homecoming where I am no longer a student. I think it will feel different for sure, but not in a bad way. Now, I will feel more aligned with the other alums, for whom no matter what their age, their college years still feel like yesterday. I will get to walk up and down Court Street and marvel at what has changed and find myself giddy for what is still the same.
Now I don't know if I'll be waking up at 4:00 a.m. for "Kegs and Eggs" ever again in my life, but that was certainly one of my favorite college experiences. It is an absolutely deranged feeling to wake up that early for scrambled eggs and screwdrivers, but it is a feeling that I'll always remember fondly.
I think it's important for college alum to make the pilgrimage back to their college town for Homecoming, but I think it is especially important for Bobcats. OU Homecoming is the best weekend in Athens of the whole year. It's nice that even as Bobcats graduate and move on, we still get to be a part of it.
Mikayla Rochelle, class of 2022
Former Opinion Editor
"This is Fall, Come Home." What a great theme and invitation to Alumni for Ohio University's Homecoming this year.
I attended OU many decades ago. There are visions, smells, sounds that always remind me of OU, especially ones from the fall. The leaves turning, especially on College Green. The late-night Burrito Buggy walking home from Court Street. The Marching Band practicing and playing. These senses bring me back to my "home" of four years. Four years that were so important and impressionable to me. And there is no place like Athens, OH, that can take a hold of me like that.
Every time I come back to OU, the memories come flooding back. So much has changed and so much has stayed the same. Homecoming brings the chance to see old friends (did I mention I went here decades ago?!), the Alumni Marching Band, past professors, and soon to be alums who will walk the bricks as so many of us have in the past.
What does Homecoming mean to me? It means I'm coming home to younger memories that I will have in my heart for a lifetime and that this weekend allows me to use my senses to make them present once again.
Chris (Herrmann) Palma, class of 1989
Homecoming is exactly what the word is: coming back home to the place you maybe did not grow up in, but where you grew even more. Familiarity washes over when crossing that one particular intersection or passing by your old dorm––or what used to be your old dorm (Scott Quad will never be forgotten). What makes Homecoming all the better is the people who were there with you, even if they were a passing face every so often. Parties and parades are not going anywhere, but we come back feeling that sense of comfort a good home always has.
Athens and its lifelong residents, those who came back to raise their families here, the waves of students spilling throughout the streets every day and night; it's a people watching paradise. There is some kind of ecstasy in the air upon return when I know that while some things will evolve over time, there is much that always stays the same, waiting to greet the familiar faces who reunite with their friends, their people, their family once again. In some ways, it's like seeing childhood friends and being stunned at how they've grown up, even if it's only been half a year. So, to Athens and its hills providing a home to Ohio University, its campus, and its memories, I look forward to seeing you soon, old friend.
Nate Swanson, class of 2022
Former Photo Director
It's kind of hard to describe what Ohio University's Homecoming means to me when OU has never really felt like home. Amazingly, my senior year marks the first time I will actually participate in Homecoming festivities. Though I have a complicated relationship with the university overall, I sincerely appreciate the knowledge I have acquired while attending. For that reason, I am so excited to walk in the parade and promote student-produced publications. Also, my previously graduated besties will be returning to Athens, and I can't wait to see their beautiful faces.
Contrary to popular belief, Homecoming is not just about school spirit and tailgating. Alums from far and wide make the annual trip to their alma mater to reunite with college friends, enjoy the Marching 110, and take a walk down memory lane (aka Court Street). No matter where their earned degrees took them, OU always held a special place in their heart. I simply find that beautiful.
Homecoming, to me, is a multigenerational Bobcat reunion. It brings joy to those who attend, people find the most creative ways to wear green and white, and there is never a dull moment on campus. I greatly admire the planning that goes into all of the events as well. What's that saying? "OU, Oh yeah!"
Dori Gray, class of 2023
The view never gets old on the way into town; you catch a glimpse of the rolling hills and red bricks from the highway. It still feels like home – that old familiar town where our best memories were made. I graduated from Ohio University 17 years ago and it remains one of my favorite places on Earth. As a member of the Greek community, Homecoming was extra special. It was a week filled with social events and competitions that were as big a draw as the football game on Saturday. Even as a student, my favorite part was always the parade. It was there that visiting alums were often as rowdy as the students, where pickup games of parking lot frisbee were commonplace, and where those with balconies overlooking Court Street were revered like kings and queens. If I look back on my four years in Athens, what stands out to me about Homecoming is that the entire town of Athens felt abuzz with excitement, pride, and true joy! Bobcats are a different breed and what we have in Athens is something special. Many of us felt it then, as you probably do. I can tell you that once you leave, you'll appreciate it even more. Happy Homecoming! Cherish every moment because before you know it, you'll be working 50+ hours a week, with a mortgage, anxiety and a favorite spatula, wishing you could go back to the old days, if only for just one day or one beautiful fall weekend.
Erin Phelps, class of 2005