Ever dreamed of returning to the college lifestyle? This summer, a multi-generational group of alumni returned to campus to spend a weekend living in the dorms, reminiscing with old friends, and eating at Hardy one last time.
By Jessa Grassi McClure ’08
As Friday, May 31 wound down, the lights inside the Musick Alumni Center and Museum at the Parker House glowed in the setting sun. Alumni—some in large groups, some in sets of twos and threes—entered the center for the last scheduled event of an evening spent reliving their college days on their old stomping grounds.
Dorm Dash, the two-day event made possible by the Young Alumni Board, brought alumni back to their alma mater to spend the night in the dorms recounting every laugh, every memory, and every story.
Inside the alumni center, the attendees sipped coffee as they poured over old yearbooks, giggling and pointing to people and campus happenings. While each group of friends was from a different era of UMHB’s history, they all remembered their years as wide-eyed students with the same sentimentality.
‘I COULDN’T WAIT TO GET BACK TO MY DORM’
Michelle Johnston Goss ’07, a nurse at Seton Hospital in Austin, and Alisha Osborn Thielepape ‘07, special assistant to the president at UMHB, came together for the event to stay in the very rooms where they lived together as suitemates in Burt Hall.
“We were potluck suitemates and have kept in touch ever since,” Thielepape said.
While both of their former roommates couldn’t make the event, Goss and Thielepape didn’t want them to miss out on the fun. They printed cardboard cutouts of their friends and took pictures of them riding through the quad, climbing utility poles, and relaxing on a bed in their old dorm room.
“It was so much fun to see my dorm again,” Goss said. “Just being on campus and walking up to my old room brought back so many memories. Even the smell of the dorm brought a smile to my face.”
Thielepape said that even though she works at the university, she couldn’t wait to stay in her old dorm room and feel like a college student again.
“I was so excited to pack everything but the kitchen sink and spend one night on the same campus where I already spend a good portion of my day each day,” she said. “There’s something very ironic about that, but I was giddy about it. I couldn’t wait to get back to my dorm.”
UNINTERRUPTED QUALITY TIME
That seemed to be the sentiment of all the attendees.
“Dorm Dash really allows people to relive their college experience and to have uninterrupted quality time with their college friends,” said Dani Beth Crosby ’09, assistant director of alumni relations.
Crosby even had the chance to stay in her old dorm while running the event.
“My friends and I played hide-n-seek in the dark in Johnson Hall at 1 a.m.,” she said. “We just had so much fun laughing at each other and getting to be silly college students again.”
For others, like Vicki Higgason McKay ’71 and Janis Foster Singletary ’71, the college doesn’t look exactly like it did when they were students. But being on campus brought back a flood of memories. Eating in Hardy Hall gave the two old friends a chance to remember their mealtime experiences.
“We had family-style dinners with ceramic plates and silverware,” McKay said. “It was served to the table for us. And we would occasionally do inappropriate things like throw peas across the table.”
McKay said there weren’t multiple mealtime options like are offered to students today. There was one entrée, vegetables, and a salad, and if you didn’t like it, that was too bad.
“The desserts and the bread were excellent though,” she said. “We had an excellent baker named Mr. Blackburn. He really knew how to bake. So, if you didn’t like anything else they were serving, you could fill up on rolls.”
McKay also developed a knack for recreating elaborate, home-cooked meals in her dorm room with just an electric skillet and a popcorn maker.
“There was a senior girl who looked out for me my freshman year,” McKay said. “To thank her, I invited her to my dorm room for dinner one night. I had made meatloaf, green beans, a salad, and lemon pie. She was shocked.”
Reminiscing over their dining experiences brought back a flood of other memories for McKay and Singletary. From a music mission trip to Japan to getting stuck in a tree outside of Burt, the women sat and laughed and caught up on years of memories.
A NICE GETAWAY
Another group of friends sat in a corner of the alumni center swapping stories about their college days. While the group is normally spread out across Texas and Oklahoma, they decided to come back for this event.
“We saw the ad for Dorm Dash and thought it would be fun,” said Bethany Duke Dufilho ’03. “We all have little children, so we thought it would be a nice getaway to our alma mater. We hadn’t been back in several years. To see the changes and visit our favorite campus spots, it brought back a lot of memories.”
Although the group of former roommates, which also consists of Cynda Cosper Anderson ’04, Jennifer Trotter Bush ’05, and Lacey Thomas Stewart ’04, hasn’t met at UMHB in many years, they continue to get together at least once a year.
“Since 2005, we’ve spent every New Year’s Eve together with our spouses and our growing number of children.”
Dufihlo said the group was not only happy to be back on campus and hanging out with each other, but they were also glad they had one last chance to eat in Hardy Hall. The dining facilities will be relocated to the new student union building once construction is completed this fall.
“We were all laughing when we got to Hardy because beforehand we had said, ‘I wonder if they’ll have chicken fried steak.’ And of course they did. A couple of us had cereal afterward because that’s what we always ate when we were here,” she said. “It’s a little bittersweet knowing that Hardy isn’t going to be Hardy anymore. We were so glad that we got to eat there one last time.”
A SUCCESSFUL ENDEAVOR
Dorm Dash provided the opportunity for friends like these to catch up without the pressure of having an overscheduled agenda.
“My roommate and I get together every so often, and she almost always comes to see me when I’m in town for a UMHB event,” McKay said. “But we don’t really get a whole lot of time to just sit and visit at other events.”
Rebecca O’Banion, director of alumni relations, said that was the big draw for a lot of attendees.
“So many of the events that we plan are so organized and jam-packed with activity,” she said. “I think what works with Dorm Dash is that it’s not as structured. What people want is to see each other, and this event gives them the free time to walk around campus and create their own agenda.”
O’Banion and Crosby consider this event a success because it drew many alumni who don’t normally come back to campus for other events.
“We had some alumni who had never been back to campus, and Dorm Dash was the thing that sparked their interest,” Crosby said. “That is always our goal. We want to figure out what will make someone comfortable enough to return to campus.”
Crosby said the alumni relations staff is already planning for next year’s Dorm Dash.
“We definitely want to offer this event again next year. It was such a special time for the alumni who participated.”
Thielepape was struck by the commonality UMHB graduates from every generation share.
“As we walked around campus, I saw groups of friends sitting in different spots throughout the Quad,” she said. “It gave me goosebumps because there were people who graduated in the 70s and people who just graduated a couple of years ago. We were all reliving our college experiences in these same spots on campus. It really helped me see the connection I have with alumni of all generations. Mary Hardin-Baylor is our common thread.”