Sacred Heart University, founded in 1963, graduated its first class in 1967. This first class consisted of roughly 200 students. According to the Department of University Advancement, today the university has over 53,000 living alumni.
A third of these students have graduated under President John Petillo’s 12-year reign of the university. At other universities, young graduates who have graduated 10 years ago or less are called G.O.L.D.: “Graduates of the Last Decade.” At SHU, they are called Petillo’s Kids.
“Eight years ago, we had 250 students attend homecoming, with less than five events,” said Todd Gibbs, Executive Director for Alumni Engagement. “Last year, we welcomed back 1,300, and this year we hosted over 2,000 alumni over the course of the weekend.”
Homecoming 2022 was dubbed “Home Is Where The Heart Is” and took place from Sept. 23 to Sept 25. Twenty-three events and activities were held during the weekend.
Maisy Carvalho, Class of 2022 alumna and former Editor-in-Chief of The Spectrum, said, “The one thing I was most looking forward to for alumni weekend was to see my friends. I moved about a week after graduation for a job in Virginia, so I wasn’t really able to say a proper goodbye.”
Sacred Heart University has grown and evolved since its founding. It even changes from year to year. The one thing that doesn’t change is the feeling of being home.
“I felt so weird stepping onto campus as an alum for the first time. So many things have changed since May. Merton looks different and you can already see some new construction starting, which is weird. Even still, it truly felt like I was home,” said Carvalho.
Prior to the football game, one of the activities for the day was Pioneer Fest, a street festival with music, lawn games and food trucks.
“My favorite event that I attended was the Pio Fest at the football game. It had great food and I loved all of the games, spirit and decorations. It definitely heightened the love for SHU and brought me back to going to football games as an undergrad student,” said Brianna Costanza, Class of 2021 alumna.
For Gibbs, it was the Pioneer Fest that made him realize that all the hard work was worth it.
“Our goal for that event was to make all audiences feel welcome and like they had a place. Having that street carnival feel lent itself to that. From alumni to future pioneers and everyone in between, it was the place to be,” said Gibbs.
Students enjoyed the activities put on, thanks to the organizers.
“I would say this homecoming was a great success. I think we look at it both from a standpoint of the volume of alumni coming back, but more importantly, from a qualitative standpoint. Are people having a good time? Do they feel well-taken care of? Are they proud to be Pioneers?” said Gibbs.
Nothing says proud to be a Pioneer more than the reactions to the Dartmouth football game.
“I think right off the bat I’d say an Ivy League size victory against Dartmouth, who had a 20 game non-conference win streak, was my favorite part of the weekend. They had a lot of momentum as they came into our home. I’m sure that was a long bus ride home,” said Paul Sutera, Vice President of University Advancement.
Both Gibbs and Sutera are looking forward to next year’s homecoming. They have already begun the planning process to make it even more successful than this year.