Lawrence University launched a new homecoming tradition over the weekend, a celebration across campus that brought together students, families, faculty, staff, and alumni.
The Blue & White Homecoming Celebration, stretching from Thursday through Sunday, was a nod to the 175th anniversary of Lawrence’s founding and is expected to become an annual fall tradition moving forward. It was the first homecoming at Lawrence in more than 20 years.
The weekend included, among other things, a festive tailgate party in advance of the football game at Banta Bowl, a Kaleidoscope concert at the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center featuring nearly 400 Lawrence students, a homecoming dance, and the unveiling of Lawrence’s newest Viking, an antelope mascot.
Matt Murphy ’06 of Brooklyn, New York, was among the alumni joining the tailgate party at the Banta Bowl. He called the homecoming celebration “special and long overdue” and said the timing is ideal as the community comes out of the dark days of the pandemic.
“The thing that resonates with me the most right now is how exciting it is for our community to come together,” said Murphy, who serves as president of the Lawrence University Alumni Association (LUAA). “It’s been so long since our community has come together in a meaningful way, and not just the campus community—to be able to invite the alumni community and families to an event that focuses on joy, fun, excitement, being together, and celebrating is so needed.”
Kaleidoscope, meanwhile, was presented at the Fox Cities PAC for the first time since 2017. First introduced in 2006 and traditionally held every two or three years, it is a full-on musical extravaganza, with nearly 400 students in 11 ensembles performing from all over the PAC’s Thrivent Hall—on stage, in the orchestra pit, in the balconies, and in the box seats.
Featuring bursts of music coming from all directions, nearly non-stop for 50 minutes, it provided a showcase of the myriad talents in the Conservatory. The performance concluded with all of the ensembles gathering together on stage for a finale led by a surprise guest conductor, President Laurie Carter.
Brian Pertl, dean of the Conservatory, told the nearly full Fox Cities PAC that Kaleidoscope is a needed re-connection with live music after so many public performances were paused over the past two years. Being able to showcase the breadth of talent among Conservatory students and faculty in one spectacular performance was a sight to behold.
“It’s a very rare moment in our Conservatory when all of us get to share the stage together and get to enjoy the entire array of all the different kinds of music we make,” Pertl said.
Murphy was part of the first Kaleidoscope as a senior in 2006. He said he is thrilled to see it continue.
“It’s exciting as an alum who has been out of college for a good 16 years to see that tradition is alive and well,” he said. “We’re heading toward the culmination of our 175th year. This homecoming weekend, including Kaleidoscope, ties it all together. These are great reasons to bring us all together as a community. This is all about community, and the timing could not be better.”
The introduction of the mascot added some buzz to the weekend. The mascot—to be named in the coming days via student submissions and a vote of the Lawrence community—was introduced following a nearly year-long process led by a Mascot Committee made up of students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Lawrence’s nickname remains the Vikings, but the antelope in Vikings gear will make appearances at events across campus, athletics and otherwise. It ties into Lawrence’s deep history—an antelope is featured on the familiar Amos Lawrence Family Coat of Arms and is part of the Lawrence Athletics logo that was introduced in 2021.
The mascot brought some energy to multiple events over the weekend. It drew enthusiastic applause from students when it took the stage at Friday night’s student talent show. And it brought a steady stream of photo ops at the tailgate party before it led the Vikings football team onto the field for the game against Cornell.
“The goal was to create something that celebrates our Viking identity, aligns with our culture, and is as inclusive and unique to Lawrence as possible,” said Matthew Schmeltzer, director of creative services and a member of the Mascot Committee.
The mascot is an opportunity to have some fun while embracing Lawrence’s 175-year history, a chance to infuse some school spirit into the campus culture.
“The antelope is a mascot for all, and it’s a really fun and exciting way to bring the entire campus together,” Schmeltzer said.
Matt Baumler, associate vice president of Alumni and Constituency Engagement, said the bonds built between students and alumni through the weekend will be the foundation to grow and celebrate this tradition.
“Seeing the Banta Bowl and the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center full with students, faculty, staff, alumni, and families were moments of pure joy,” he said. “Countless experiences were shared between alumni and students; between families and their athletes and performers; between faculty and their former students; between all of us. These experiences forever unite us as Lawrentians. A new tradition has been formed with Blue & White Homecoming Weekend and I can’t wait to see how it grows in the future.”