Alumni association prepares for return of in-person reunions
After two years of virtual programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University is planning to host in-person alumni reunions on the three weekends from May 26 to June 12.
David Zheng, Senior Photographer
After a two year hiatus, the Yale Alumni Association, or YAA, announced in January that class reunions will return to New Haven in 2022.
Each spring, as students depart campus, alumni return for a weekend of celebration. Since the onset of the pandemic, however, the ritual of the reunion has changed, with alumni forced to celebrate virtually. But this year, reunions will be held in-person once more on three successive weekends, beginning on May 26 and ending on June 12, for all class years that are a multiple of five years removed from graduation. Members of the class of 2015 and 2016 will also be in attendance, after missing their first five year reunion due to COVID-19.
Guests will be required to adhere to the University’s COVID–19 protocols, which currently include an indoor mask–mandate and a vaccination and booster requirement, but are subject to change depending on the evolution of local public health conditions. In accordance with those guidelines, the YAA is planning a host of events for alumni to reconnect on campus, with specific details to be announced in March.
“Reunions are a special time on campus,” Executive Director of the YAA Weili Cheng ’77 told the News. “We are bound by a common Yale experience; being able to share that with others is a remarkable feeling … We look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones.”
But, although reunions are returning to Yale, things will look different from before the pandemic.
In a planning update released in late January, the YAA noted that, due to staffing shortages, it would not be able to offer childcare for returning alumni this spring. The YAA also decided to eliminate the traditional Celebration of Yale Singing –– in compliance with a University policy restricting “aerosolizing activities” –– along with the welcome reception on Cross Campus. The YAA also cautioned attendees that there will be de–densification requirements for indoor events, which will limit attendance in buildings, tents and other closed areas.
But, despite the restrictions, some traditions will continue. E.J. Crawford, YAA’s senior director of marketing and communications, said that “Morning at Yale” –– “a program of lectures and tours featuring Yale faculty” –– will continue to be held on Saturdays. He further added that University President Peter Salovey will speak each weekend at Woolsey Hall. Class-specific rituals are likely to continue as well, Crawford said.
The return of in–person reunions will also be a boon to New Haven businesses. Four local hotels –– the Study at Yale, the Graduate New Haven, the New Haven Hotel and the Marriot Courtyard –– are already fully booked for the duration of the reunion weekends. Rooms are still available via the YAA website at the Omni Hotel and the Hotel Marcel in Long Wharf, which is the first net–zero emissions hotel in the United States.
Local restaurants are also buoyant about the prospect of reunions returning to New Haven. Christina Fitzgerald, co–owner of the Union League Café as well as its director of sales and marketing, said the return of reunions, along with other Yale–sponsored events, brings her “happiness and relief.”
Fitzgerald noted that, prior to the pandemic, Yale–related events –– from reunions to business lunches to catering at President Salovey’s residence –– composed over half of the café’s business. Losing that business was “detrimental,” she said.
The Yale Alumni Association was officially founded in 1972.