Whether they attended milestone reunion events, lectures, dances, tailgate parties or the double-overtime football game against Duke University, alumni had plenty of activities from which to choose during Homecoming 2023.
Held Nov. 10–12 and sponsored by Carolina Alumni, Homecoming was concurrent with the Black Alumni Reunion, which began Nov. 8 and featured events including a golf tournament, comedy show, scholarship banquet and day party. The Alumni Band, Carolina’s NROTC, Carolina Pride Alum Network and the Pharmacy Alumni Association also held reunions.
On game day Saturday, graduates stopped by Carolina Alumni’s swag table to pick up class buttons for ’23 (first year out) and for every five years from ’78 to ’18. Also available for Carolina Alumni members were keychains reading Well Educated or Give ’Em Heel.
“Homecoming 2023 was a resounding success,” said Carolina Alumni President Veronica Flaspoehler ’08. “Everywhere you went on campus during the weekend, the smiles on alumni faces pretty much said it all. You could just feel the love we all have for our University, and the football game against Duke will undoubtedly leave an indelible memory for Tar Heel fans worldwide.”
As alumni walked around sporting shirts, necklaces, earrings, hats and other items representing the Tar Heels, one T-shirt stood out: “The Greatest Rivalry on Earth,” with Rameses holding a football and raising his left fist to Duke’s Blue Devil, who was pointing back at him while clutching his signature pitchfork.
Buttons with the design were available at the swag table, and it adorned elevator doors at Sheraton Chapel Hill Hotel, the host site for the Black Alumni Reunion.
Carolina Alumni’s swag table also offered pompoms and ram’s horns for alumni; however, the most coveted item of the weekend appeared to be class buttons. Emily Page ’98 was under the weather and unable to attend Homecoming, so she sent daughters, Leah, a first-year Tar Heel, and Hailey, a senior at Gardner-Webb University in Boiling Springs, in search of what was a hard-to-find button.
Page and her husband, Ed ’97 (’00 JD), typically attend Homecoming. “This year was more important to me because it was UNC versus Duke, it was my 25th anniversary and it’s Leah’s freshman year,” Page said. “When the girls got on campus, Hailey called me and said, ‘Mom, as soon as we got there, we sprinted all the way to the Bell Tower and they had already packed up.’ They felt bad that I was not able to come, and they knew I really wanted that button.” (Carolina Alumni employees later sent Page a button.)
BAR Chair Patrice High ’03 said she was glad a significant number of Black alumni returned for Homecoming, which she credits to volunteers working behind the scenes all year. Attendance for BAR reached pre-COVID levels at some of the events, she said.
“I believe having BAR and Homecoming back on the same weekend helped to increase participation this year,” High said. “I enjoyed celebrating my 20-year reunion by serving as BAR chair.”
Founded in 1980, the Black Alumni Reunion began growing in stature after becoming affiliated with the GAA, now Carolina Alumni.
“Even with the recent Supreme Court decision related to admissions, Black alumni still feel a connection to UNC and return to Chapel Hill year after year to reconnect with our alma mater,” High said. “I spoke with a lot of people over the weekend at different BAR activities, and they all talked about their love of the University and how good it was to be back in Chapel Hill.”
Carolina Alumni staff shipped 1,000 Homecoming T-shirts to alumni in 37 states and sold 1,000 tickets in the Carolina Alumni football block in Kenan Stadium. They assisted with marketing and registration for several affinity groups and worked with athletics to ensure members of the class of 1998, who were celebrating their silver anniversary, sat together in a designated stadium section and were recognized at halftime.
Alumni weren’t shy about expressing their views on social media.
Shepard enjoyed Homecoming with sorority sisters Misty Schmitt ’78 and Ellen Gardner ’78, with whom she attended Kenan-Flagler Business School. “The stars all aligned for me to come back for homecoming from Kansas City,” Shepard said. “Playing Duke was a big draw, but so were Monogram Day and the Kenan-Flagler Business School Alumni Council meeting, which was on Friday. All in all it was a fantastic weekend!”
— Laurie D. Willis ’86