Each year, Homecoming serves as a time for alumni from across the country to come back to the place where they spent four (or maybe five or six) of the best years of their lives. Regardless of their reasons for returning, every former Bobcat immediately feels like they have truly come home.
The Alumni Association is making returning to Athens a little easier for some through their programs. Len Montavon graduated in 1972 with a degree in physical education and health and attended Homecoming as an alum with the help of the association for the first time this year.
“This year, I came to visit because I have a nephew who goes to school here now,” Montavon said. “I haven’t come back before, but I probably will again. I’m trying to contact and reconnect with old friends through the Varsity Ohio Club and that will make me want to come back more.”
Many Bobcats share her sentiment—coming back just feels right. The same notion applies to Justin McCaulley, an alumnus from the Class of 2001 who graduated with a degree in political science and has attended every Homecoming since 1997.
“This is my 18th consecutive homecoming,” McCaulley said. “It’s like when you see one of those TV reunion specials where everyone comes back. Being back in Athens is like coming home. Who doesn’t like going home?”
McCaulley doesn’t just come back each year out of tradition, though.
“I love the community. I live in Cleveland, and there’s this instant bond when you say that you went to OU. It’s nice to have that outside of Athens, but it’s always really nice to just be swimming in it.”
Some returned for reasons other than themselves. Molly Witker of the Class of 1974 was one such alumna.
“I came back for the band!” Witker said. “I wasn’t in it, but I love the 110 so much that I wanted to show my new husband of eight months.”
This year wasn’t her first time returning to campus either.
“I’ve come back to give a speech on jobs because I was on the College of Communications committee,” Witker said. “It’s just huge here now! There were probably about 13,000 students—maybe 15,000—when I was here and it’s just so much bigger now.”
However, times were not always rosy for Witker. She was at the university during a time of riots and unrest for students across Ohio and across the country, and said she wanted to replace some of her bad memories with better ones.
“I lived in Lindley back during the last year it was a dorm , and that was the year of the riots,” said Witker. “They gave us 24 hours to get off campus and I remember walking out of my dorm, and there was a tank and two national guardsman with bayonets on the ends of their rifles.”
Like many of those who attended school here before the mid-1970s, Witker noted how much campus had changed. She mentioned how the Hocking River wasn’t there anymore. The river was rerouted beginning in 1969 and would have run through the second floor of Baker Center if it was still traveling on its original path.
“That’s Ohio University for you—we can reroute rivers and we can reroute lives!” Witker said.
Not all of those coming back this weekend graduated from the university. Greg Tobias came to school at OU in 1970 and stayed for two years.
“Something called the Vietnam War came and took me away from here. I didn’t end up going over to fight, but it was enough to take me away from my studies,” Tobias said.
Even though he wasn’t able to finish his degree, Tobias still loves Ohio University.
“I still have an emotional connection with the university and try to come down whenever I can,” Tobias said. “The buildings have changed, but it’s still welcoming and feels like home.”
Tobias loves the university and what it means to be a part of the community.
He very well summed up what many of the returning alumni feel: “Once a Bobcat, always a Bobcat.”