Priscilla Awkard ’95 will return to campus for Homecoming Weekend, having not missed a single Homecoming since she graduated from Elon 26 years ago. 

“Homecoming, to me, is the best time of the year. I take off work, I even take extra days off because I will be recuperating,” Awkard said. 

Even with the COVID-19 pandemic, Awkard attended the virtual celebrations last year. 

For many alumni like Awkard, this will be the first opportunity in over a year to see old classmates and colleagues. Elon University’s Homecoming and Reunion Weekend will be held fully in-person from Nov. 5 to 7. After last year’s Homecoming celebration was virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the university is expecting roughly 2,000 alumni to return to campus.

This year, several award ceremonies will occur to recognize alumni — the Distinguished Alumni Awards, the Elon Black Alumni Network 25th Anniversary Alumni Awards and the LGBTQIA Community Enrichment Awards.

Awkard will be the recipient of the Distinguished Service to Elon award — the highest alumni award given to those whose service has promoted the advancement of Elon.

Awkard also serves as a co-chair for the final year of Elon LEADS, a campaign to invest in the university’s endowment. She is excited to return and receive recognition for her work and said that this weekend is about reconnecting with old classmates. 

“Homecoming has always been a highly anticipated event for me and my friends because it gives us an opportunity to catch up, see each other, make sure everybody’s doing well,” Awkard said.

Kari Taylor ’09, deputy chief of staff at Elon, will also be attending Homecoming Weekend. Taylor is an alumna of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., the first Black greek organization on campus. This year will celebrate the 40th anniversary of the sorority, where Taylor also serves as the chair for the planning committee. According to Taylor, around 80 former chapter members will be attending Homecoming this year.

“As you get older, Homecoming becomes the best time to see and catch up with your friends, the best time to try new restaurants, the best time to just be around each other,” Taylor said. “It feels more like a family reunion than it does anything else.”

Taylor said that she is excited to show her fellow alumni how Elon has changed since 2009 and how contributions from alumni can make a difference to Elon today.

“Elon is Elon,” Taylor said. “But come back and see it and you'll understand why we’re fundraising for Elon — and where those dollars are going to go and how we want to make an impact in a big way, at a place we all have in common and we all love.” 

Planning events for alumni over the weekend,  Elon University’s Martin Alumni Center has been working with other areas of campus to bring everyone together. According to Caroline Blanchard ’17, senior coordinator of alumni engagement, 19 class and affinity reunions will take place along with signature events such as Rock the Block and the All-Alumni Tailgate. 

Though she is assisting in putting homecoming weekend together, Blanchard said she has only attended Homecoming once as an Elon alumna, back in 2018. 

“It was so great to reconnect with friends and staff members I hadn’t seen since the spring of 2017 when I graduated,” Blanchard said. “Because we had a virtual Homecoming last year, our entire office is very excited to see so many alumni back on campus again.”

But while many alumni are looking forward to reuniting with old friends, Awkard and her friends will be remembering old classmates who have died because of COVID-19. 

“It’ll be kind of sad,” Awkard said, “knowing we’re missing some.”

Awkard said that though the mood will be somber, it will be nice to be around other alumni to grieve members lost with the people who knew them.

Along with alumni from her class, Awkard will be celebrating a belated 25th anniversary at Taphouse after virtual celebrations last year, with a performance by the band Dakkota, which Awkard said was popular at Elon in the ’90s. 

“It’s kind of nostalgic to have that happen again, and to see everybody back for that event,” Awkard said. 

Taylor is also looking forward to stepping out of her role as deputy chief of staff for the weekend and into her role as an alumni. 

“When it’s Homecoming, you are fully an alum,” Taylor said. “We get excited about our alma mater here in the classiest of ways.”