Homecoming 2022: One for the history books!

Hanover College campus aerial photo

In 1925, Mount Rushmore was dedicated, the first U.S. motel opened, Chrysler Corporation was founded and there were 44 students in Hanover College’s senior class. That fall, Hanover also started a tradition that has now spanned nearly 100 years.

Hanover hosted its first Homecoming Oct. 24, 1925. That year, the College’s alumni population totaled 1,335. Hanover now boasts more than 13,000 alumni worldwide. That group was well-represented during the College’s 95th-annual Homecoming, held on campus Oct. 8.

Homecoming photo gallery / Highlight video

A beautiful sunny day, activities for all ages and, possibly, some distance from the COVID-19 pandemic, helped produce one of the most-attended alumni gatherings in recent history. Generations of Hanoverians – young and old, along with many future Panthers-in-training – gathered for a fun-filled day connecting with friends, classmates and faculty members, touring campus and watching the football and soccer teams in action.

“Campus is beautiful in the fall,” said Melissa Schenkel Smith ’17, who returned to Hanover from Fort Collins, Colo. “It is really fun to be back on campus. I have not been back since graduation, so it is fun to see old friends and catch up.”

“It’s been 4-5 years since we’ve been back,” said Adam Vaught ’03, who attended Homecoming with his wife, Holly Rowland Vaught ’05, and their young sons. Noting the family resides in Franklin, Ind., Vaught chuckled, “We brought our two boys and are, hopefully, going to get them more energetic about Hanover!”

After two years of social distance and virtual gatherings, even current students were thrilled with the opportunity to reconnect with friends and classmates.

Sam Schmidt ’23 and Callie Wilder ’23

“Homecoming is awesome,” exclaimed Faith Gomez ’23. “This year, seeing all the alumni come back really warms my heart. Since we are seniors, now we get to see all the people that we grew up with and hang out. They are people that we do not get to see that often, so it has been really fun.”

Alex Lesiw ’24 agreed, adding,“We see all the guys who we grew up with the past couple of years who have graduated. It is just a blast.”

Football has been another constant throughout Hanover’s Homecoming history. The Panthers lost to Earlham College, 28-0, during that 1925 celebration on campus. The program has since rebounded to notch 59 Homecoming wins at home, including a 63-21 victory against Bluffton University this year.

In 1934, Marilyn McNagle was crowned Hanover’s first Homecoming queen. That custom continues to this day. Current students Callie Wilder ’23 and Sam Schmidt ’23 were crowned Homecoming Royalty at halftime of the Panthers’ win against Bluffton.

The post-game celebration also firmly holds its place on campus. Despite that 1925 loss to Earlham, students and attending alumni enjoyed a dance in the gymnasium that October evening. Win or loss, the party atmosphere remains in 2022.

When asked about her favorite part of Homecoming, Gomez shrieked “The game … and the celebration later tonight. I am very much looking forward to it. I think everyone is!”

While football and its related traditions have long been Homecoming staples, so has the simple concept of just being back on campus. There is nothing quite like Hanover College in the fall.

Marcia Stewart Breckenridge ’67 certainly noticed. She ventured from New Hampshire to see campus for the first time in nearly 30 years.

“I have such lovely memories,” Breckenridge shared. “Reconnecting with people I had not seen in 30, 40 years and just walking on the campus. It is where my husband and I met. It just has an encapsulated sense of good memories.”

Breckenridge was also impressed by the differences on campus between her last visit and today.

“[Hanover has] maintained the rural beauty while still updating and I think that’s a fine line,” she noted. “To balance that old with the new is a real art and I think Hanover has done it beautifully. It is not a time capsule that you go back to and you think, ‘Wow, it’s never changed.’ The good things have stayed, but the things that needed to grow and be vital you can sense. And the football team is winning!”