School spirit reigned from all directions across campus during the weekend of October 9 – 11, 2015. Hosting its second successful Welcome Back Weekend, the University of Bridgeport set the bar higher this year than it has ever been. From laughing to dancing to reminiscing, Welcome Back Weekend was full of adventure for alumni, current students, family, faculty, staff, and friends.
Let’s take a closer look at a few of the many highlights from this highly engaging weekend – from the video collage above to a close-up of some of the events below.
The Pep Rally
The hub portion of Marina was crowded with students on Friday as we kicked off Welcome Back Weekend 2015. Students, volunteers and resident directors witnessed UB spirit at its finest. Energy surged through the UB cheerleaders as they danced and cheered to the sound of student DJ Kayla’s hottest mixes. Students felt the hype from head to toe as they walked into Marina dining hall to get their dinner, but were only allowed entrance if they danced their way through. This resulted in students showing off their dance moves as they moved their way through the human aisle of cheerleaders.
The most unforgettable moment had to have been when Edina Oestreicher, Dean of Students, danced her way through the aisle with Craig Lennon, Assistant Dean of Students. This drew mass attention from everyone who squeezed their way into a huddle in order to capture this once in a lifetime opportunity on their cell phones.
Nothing but a positive aura filled the room as UB students gathered to celebrate their school spirit together. A great kick off to an unbelievably successful weekend. It was apparent we were reminding the students why there is so much pride in being a Purple Knight.
The Harvest Festival showcases each club and organization on campus – from their accomplishments thus far in the year to their origin on UB’s campus – offering current students the array of extracurricular activities they might be interested in joining.
Alumni tend to find it amusing to see new clubs form on their former campus, and often feel warmed by a club they used to participate in themselves alive and well in the hands of responsible UB students.
On Saturday morning of Welcome Back Weekend, the Ped Mall flourished with clubs and Greek organizations showing off their Purple Knight pride. Each table circled beautifully around the vibrant garden of flowers in the heart of Ped Mall.
As current students and alumni began to observe and ask questions about a club they expressed interest in, they were also challenged to a fun game or activity that related to the club itself.
After more than 45 years of being away from campus, UB honored the brothers of Alpha Gamma Phi Fraternity, Inc. for their dedication and service during the Vietnam War during a highly anticipated and emotional ceremony. The event was introduced by President Neil Salonen, who honored the Veteran brothers by establishing a plaque at Marina Pocket Park that morning.
“The important part of the educational process is to understand and honor the past, so we can learn from it and build a future … from the sacrifices of those who went before,” said the President.
During the Vietnam era, many people were extraordinarily opposed to the war and thus never really gave the veterans and heroes the honor they so rightfully deserved. UB gave them the opportunity this weekend, and it definitely will never be forgotten.
John Buckman ’68, a brother from Alpha Gamma Phi, stressed the importance of honoring the five fallen members of AGP who fought in the Vietnam War.
UB alumni Bob Padula ’69, Bruce Klein ’67, Lenny Mattera ’66, George Ducheck, Stan Mosiej ’69, and Ron Brown ’70 stood up to say a few words about their fallen AGP brothers. They recognized their leadership both on the football field and on the battlefield, and how much they cared for each other then, in their twenties, and how much more even now, in their late sixties. Stan Mosiej, a Vietnam veteran and brother of AGP, left the gathering with a heartfelt comment:
“Today we have an all-volunteer force and it is comprised of young men and women who serve their country. Sometimes they lose their life in doing that…If it means going to war so be it. I thank the young men and women who serve today so they can continue to do so for all time.”
Robots, machines, and electric drones – all of them creatively constructed by the students of Engineering at UB. Right outside of Dana hall, students, alumni, and guests gathered to watch these cool collected gadgets do their thing.
Inside the tent were young and energetic students who were excited to show off their latest projects, which included hover drones that seemed to fly as high as three stories, and robots made out of Lego pieces. It was definitely an event that was fun for all ages to attend, and many people looked on with awe from the engineering school’s creations.
Athletics Hall of Fame Induction
Saturday night shined bright with stars as current and former UB athletic affiliates made their way into the Arnold Bernhard Center to be inducted into the Athletics Hall of Fame. Former teammates and inspired current sports members attended the event to show their appreciation and admiration to those who created a legacy on UB’s campus.
After a wine and cheese social in the first floor of the ABC building, attendees made their way to the elevators to rise up to the top floor: the Tower Room. This elegant set up brought everyone together as they enjoyed a mouth-watering dinner and delicious dessert. Afterwards, they began the induction ceremony.
This year’s inductees included:
- John “Doc Roc” Nicholas
- Ken Kaufman ’65
- Emma Woolley ’10
- Sofia Hoflin ’10
- Chuck Cornell ’73
- Rick Smith ’74
- 1961 Men’s Soccer team
Each one of these inductees have made an impact on UB’s Athletic Department and the University of Bridgeport. They exemplify legacies in the making and provide inspiration for UB athletes as the years go on.
The ears of attendees were blessed with traditional and classic salsa and merengue tunes by Orquesta Afinke on Saturday Night. Tito Planas, an alumnus from UB who graduated in ’94 and ’95, lead the group as their main trombonist. Together along with his band, they travel around the Southern Connecticut area to show everyone a good time as they energetically play their musical instruments.
It was an intimate experience for all those who attended, which consisted of Tito encouraging the crowd not to be shy and to just dance to the rhythm of the Latino beat. Students were eager to tap their feet to the sounds of the bongos and congas, but couldn’t resist getting up to dance when they heard the voice of lead singer Manolo.
“Our philosophy is to cultivate passion and love of Latin music for young people,” said Tito, who is currently the principal at Black Rock School in Bridgeport, and reaches out to his community by playing with Orquesta Afinke all around the area. They are planning to release their first recorded CD soon.
80’s Alumni Reunion
UB’s 80’s Alumni Reunion rocked and rolled all night in the John J. Cox Student Center on Saturday. Former classmates and Student Center Board of Directors gathered to create a mosh pit in front of the stage as they jammed out to the live band – Mike and the Muffin Tops – performing hit rock songs from the 80’s.
One of the alumni, Anthony Riskalla ’85, was able to share what this experience meant to him, “When you see all these people it takes you back and it feels like 30 years is a blink of an eye.”
Riskalla came in as an electrical engineering major and switched to accounting by the end of his sophomore year. He remembers the life of a commuter, but thanks his involvement in the Student Center Board of Directors (SCBOD) for dispelling the idea that college is just “High School – Part Two.”
“Prior to that it was like high school. Once I joined SCBOD, college life came alive. We ran all the entertainment on campus and it was a cool alternative experience besides just class work.”
Aside from Riskalla, many alumni were left in awe of the idea that UB was still the same but so different. One of the most obvious changes was Shine Hall’s demolition, along with University Avenue being closed off in the middle, where the Ped Mall is today. Riskalla left this writer with a quote I will cherish for a lifetime, which is proof of the necessity of connecting former students with current ones:
“I just wanted to make a memory. I made them when I was in college so I could have stories to tell as well. When you stop making stories you die, because it means you’ve stopped living.”