The first hint of spring in the air last week was not the only thing putting smiles on the faces of Francis Marion University students as the entire campus prepared to celebrate its annual Homecoming.
The week-long event gave a feeling of excitement all over campus as students attended different student organization sponsored activities, voted for Homecoming King and Queen, and alumni came back to their alma mater to reconnect with old friends. Throughout the week, alumni and students enjoyed events ranging from networking receptions to a bonfire and pep rally.
Homecoming ended on a high note Saturday at the daylong Patriot Fest held at the University Commons, where FMU’s basketball, baseball and softball teams all won their respective games amid cheering fans. The games brought in large crowds of alumni and current students who were also able to take part in a lunch on the lawn, face painting, balloons for the kids and free professional photographs for the first 250 people who attended.
One student who decided to spend her Saturday at Patriot Fest Meyah McClary, a psychology major who was excited to spend her birthday with fellow students.
“There’s more school spirit today,” McClary said. “There are so many more people wearing FMU apparel,and they are all here to support our teams and help them win. I really wanted to come out and support my Patriots.”
Saturday began with the annual Olde Timer Alumni basketball games, and it soon became apparent that FMU’s alumni were still in great shape as they raced up and down the court. There were many smiling faces to be seen as old teams reunited and played once again for the winning shot. Head women’s basketball coach Kate Glusko scored the game-winning shot for the women, and the men tied it up 67 – 67 in double overtime.
After a lunch of fried chicken and hamburgers, alumni, students, faculty and staff socialized and reconnected on the lawn as they waited for the men’s and women’s basketball teams to take the court against Armstrong Atlantic State University. Many of the alumni in attendance spent time reminiscing about their time at FMU and reflecting on what a huge impact the school has on the surrounding community and the state of South Carolina.
Paul Seward, a Florence resident who graduated in 1994, said that one of the best things about FMU is its ability to keep alumni in the area after graduation who make positive impacts on the community.
“FMU is such a great help for the community on an economic and employment perspective,” Seward said. “FMU alumni often stay in the area, and it’s just so good to come back and see old friends and the campus now.”
Waiting in line to take a picture together stood two former roommates, Marcia Brown, who graduated in 1981 and traveled from North Carolina just to attend Homecoming and see her old friend, Fran Gray, a 1981 graduate and Florence resident.
“Being a student at FMU was an absolutely wonderful experience,” Gray said. “You can’t underestimate the friendships and connections you make with students and professors. I met my husband here. We don’t miss a home ballgame.”
One of the day’s most important events was the induction of two new members to the FMU Hall of Fame. After the FMU Lady Patriots took victory over Armstrong Atlantic, the crowd stayed in their seats to watch Bob Wilson and Kim Slawson-Hawkins become inducted into the Hall of Fame for their amazing athletic and personal accomplishments. The men’s team then came onto the court to play a close but exciting game against Armstrong Atlantic, where they won to a cheering crowd.
Out on the baseball field, students and alumni alike gathered to watch the men’s team win 9 – 0 over Seton Hill in a one-hitter. In attendance was former FMU student and baseball player, Barrett Kleinknecht, who said he was glad to have the opportunity to hang out with friends before leaving to attend spring training in Florida with the Atlanta Braves in just a few weeks. Kleinknecht was drafted in the twelfth round of last year’s major league baseball draft by the Atlanta Braves.
Throughout the afternoon the crowd of current students continued to swell as those in attendance eagerly awaited the announcement of who had won Homecoming King and Queen. Last year’s King and Queen were on hand to turn over their crowns to Barry Heyward and Tama-Marie Haynesworth. The pair won to loud yells and cheering from the students who casted their votes throughout the week leading up to Patriot Fest.
FMU student Jayde Nelson, a freshman majoring in biology, said she often attends the basketball games on campus but had never seen the crowd as large as it was for Homecoming.
“There are a lot more people here today,” Nelson said. “I think we all wanted to see who was on the Homecoming Court and who was going to win.”