When Lisa McCarthy met Emma Dorre, she described the experience as “amazing.” Dorre, formerly a head teacher in Manasquan, is almost 100 years old. She also graduated from the College (then known as the Normal School) in 1925, making her one of the many memorable alumni McCarthy has met in her job as the College’s director of Alumni Affairs.
“She had great memories, remembered quite a bit,” McCarthy said. “She had professors whose names are now on buildings. It was fun to hear what college was like back then, when college wasn’t something that everybody did.”
The main job of the office of Alumni Affairs, McCarthy said, is to keep in touch with 60,000 alumni. They also work closely with the Alumni Association board to plan events across New Jersey. In the weeks before Homecoming, the office of Alumni Affairs was busy planning events where alumni could reminisce with old friends and reconnect with their college experiences.
Alumni events for Homecoming included reunions for class years, organizations and sports teams. The Lions Pride Brunch, an annual event to honor the anniversary classes, was held in the student center. Later, the class of 1950 held a 55th reunion dinner buffet, and the class of 1955 celebrated its 50th anniversary at a golden reunion dinner.
The School of Nursing, which had its first graduates in 1970, also had a luncheon. Other groups that met were Women in Learning and Leadership, The African-American and Latino Network of TCNJ (TALANT) and former Ambassadors.
The men’s swim team held an “alumni vs. rookies” meet. The sundial lawn was set up as the Sesquicentennial Alumni Garden, where alumni could mingle during the day and see the finale fireworks Saturday night.
“Really, it’s the friendships that bring people back to the College,” McCarthy said. “Some people met their best friends here, in some cases their life partners.”
One new addition to the College is the Alumni Grove, located between Eickhoff and the New Library. “We picked (the location) because it is central to the campus,” McCarthy explained. “And alumni are central to the future and success of the College. So what better place to put it than in the center of campus?”
The bricks in the Alumni Grove will be engraved with the names of College alumni. Alumni can purchase a brick for the grove. McCarthy hopes once students graduate, they will want to see their name in the Alumni Grove.
“The hope is that will start the trend of giving back to the College every year,” McCarthy said. “Financially, with their time and staying connected to the College, because that’s an important process to start.”
McCarthy, who became acting director of Alumni Affairs six months ago and recently took over officially, has been working for the College for 18 years. A 1988 graduate of the College, she worked for Residence Life as a Residence Director while a graduate student. She has also been in charge of the lottery process, and worked for the Athletics department.
Reconnecting with alumni, McCarthy said, is a very rewarding experience.
“It typically brings back fond memories, fondness for the school and a smile on their face,” McCarthy said. “That’s what I like, because I have (those memories) too.”
McCarthy said she’s also always interested to learn how alumni’s experiences at the College influenced them afterward.
“I always ask, ‘Did we do our jobs? Did we prepare you?'” she said.
Fortunately, the answer from College alumni has been a resounding yes.
“Every single person I’ve talked to has something that happened here that was instrumental in their life later on,” McCarthy said, explaining that experiences at the College impact former students’ personal and professional lives.
McCarthy also asks future alumni to share their post-college experiences.
“When someone graduates, we want to hear from them,” McCarthy said. “We want to hear their successes. And that’s what sells the College. When we have successful alumni, that’s what creates a successful school.”