Let’s do this forever! In 2000, the University turned 150 years old and threw itself a four-day sesquicentennial blowout. We invited Robert Duvall, Joy Behar, this guy (he was big at the time), and all University alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, and friends. There were reunion, family, and homecoming activities and fireworks. We had such a good time that we decided to do it every year (except the fireworks). Beginning in 2001, this celebration was called “Meliora Weekend.”
We’re kind of a big deal. Since SesquiFest 2000, as we referred to it in our web journal at the time, 82,148 people have come to our birthday/reunion weekend. Our best years: 2011—Attnd: +9,500, Bill Clinton (Our first president!); 2002—Attnd: +8900, Hillary Clinton (Our first first lady!) and Jon Stewart; 2012—Attnd: +6,500, Barbara Walters (Our first Barbara!).
Golden (and bluish) tickets. Meliora Weekend is always a little crazy, but in 2008, things really got out of hand. People, including Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert, were so eager to register for our party, they crashed our system. The first event sold out in 17 minutes. Last year, to give everyone a fair chance at tickets to the keynote event—and to give our servers a break—we successfully instituted a lottery system that continues to help us manage demand.
It takes an AAC. Saying that Meliora Weekend is a lot of work is like saying clamshell packaging is difficult to open. Not counting the preparation, between staff and students, running a weekend can take nearly 1,000 shifts or more than 3,300 hours. From beginning to end everyone in Advancement plays a role. If you’re not happy with that role, you might need to be nicer to Jenn Linton.
Weekend whys. According to post-Weekend surveys, the reasons people attend are mostly what you would think. Alumni come back to see their friends and classmates; students were split between watching performances from fellow classmates and family events; and parents voiced a need to make sure their students were doing more than playing quidditch. Our job is to welcome them back, ensure they have a positive experience, and maybe learn more about their connection with the University.