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‘I felt like I had to be here’: Looking back at the first Reunions since start of COVID-19 pandemic

Nearly 25,000 alumni and family members returned to campus for Reunions 2022

<h5>Students and alumni gather around campus for Reunions 2022.</h5>
<h6>Zoe Berman / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Students and alumni gather around campus for Reunions 2022.
Zoe Berman / The Daily Princetonian

The University welcomed back almost 25,000 alumni and their families for Reunions from Thursday, May 19 to Sunday, May 22. The long weekend festivities marked the first Reunions since 2019 and since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The event included a range of activities from “The One and Only P-Rade” — a focal point of the weekend — to alumni-faculty panels and after-hours social events grouped by class year.

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The P-Rade, a traditional procession of alumni across campus, began at Nassau Hall with the “Old Guard” alumni, which featured Joseph Schein ’37, the oldest living alumnus. The Old Guard includes Princetonians celebrating their 66th Reunion and beyond. One highlight of the parade included the Class of 1970, which held “Co-Education begins today” signs to mark the first University class in which women graduated.


The Class of 1970 marches down Elm Drive.
Phillip Wang / The Daily Princetonian


Onlookers along the parade’s route were treated to a unique display of pride for the alma mater as many alumni adorned themselves in orange and black clothing. The 2022 P-Rade marked the first time the classes of 2019, 2020, and 2021 could walk since their respective graduations. The Class of 2022 also participated in the march from Nassau Hall to Poe Field before their graduation, which was held on Tuesday, May 24.


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Two members of the Class of 2019 walk in the P-Rade.
Zoe Berman / The Daily Princetonian


Other notable moments from the P-Rade include performances from several student groups, including the Princeton University Band, as well as local high school marching bands. Each “major” class — those celebrating a reunion with a multiple of five — had themes as they marched, including the Class of 1972, in which each alumnus held up old headshots from their undergraduate days as they marched.

“I thought [the P-Rade] was pretty corny as an undergrad, but once you’ve been out for a while and you watch it and see how it unfolds and folds into itself, it’s a pretty special phenomenon,” Stephen Massad ’72 said in an interview with The Daily Princetonian.

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Celebrations on campus began earlier than usual this year, with the postponed Class of 2020 Commencement ceremony taking place at Powers Stadium on May 18, a day before other alumni were set to arrive. The Ceremony marked the in-person, on-campus graduation for the Class of 2020, as their initial graduation was virtual due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s just nice to be back on campus,” Casson Masters ’98 told the ‘Prince.’

“I felt like I had to be here,” Sean Gregory ’98, his classmate, agreed.

“We’re warming up for next year,” Masters said, in reference to his and Gregory’s upcoming 25th reunion.


The Class of 1992 takes a class photo for their 30th reunion.
Zoe Berman / The Daily Princetonian


The weekend featured panels on a variety of topics, drawing alumni and their families to remain up-to-date and informed on current University, domestic, and international issues. 

A few notable panels included “The Fight for Free Speech at Princeton and Beyond,” moderated by Robert P. George, director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions and McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence, “From Kabul to Kyiv: International Correspondents Review the News and How It’s Covered,” moderated by Gloria Riviera ’96, a digital journalist at ABC News, and “Climate Change and Energy Solutions in the 21st Century,” an alumni-faculty forum moderated by Judi Greenwald ’82, the Executive Director of the Nuclear Innovation Alliance.

Throughout the weekend, more than a dozen University student entertainment groups held performances for alumni and their families to enjoy. The ‘Prince’ has previously reported on these student groups’ difficulties in gaining access to on-campus housing for Reunions.

The weekend also featured an annual address by University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83, who discussed issues such as fossil fuel disassociation, mental health, free speech, financial aid, and more.

Each major reunions year had a designated tent featuring music ranging from DJs to live bands with dance floors for alumni to come together and socialize. Some of the most notable themes included the Fifth reunion tent, which featured a “Dancing Queen ’17” theme for the classes of 2017–2022; the 25th reunion tent, which featured a “’97 Prime Time” theme and recreated “Central Perk” from the television show “Friends”; and the 55th reunion tent, which featured a “Clear the Track, ’67s Back” theme, with railroad crossing signs blinking at the entrance.


The Class of 1967 marches during the P-Rade, showing off their themed railroad carts.
Philip Wang / The Daily Princetonian


Edmund Hampden ’72, who spent the weekend celebrating his 50th reunion, said in an interview with the ‘Prince’ that his favorite thing to do during Reunions is “commune and commingle,” emphasizing the community aspect of the events.

“It’s mainly about seeing friends, including people I didn’t even know as an undergrad,” Massad, also celebrating his 50th reunion, said.

For Hampden, Reunions present a unique opportunity.

“Once you’re new and then you have two chances to make a first impression, and [this is] a second chance to make that first impression,” Hampden added.

On Saturday night, a fireworks display and performance by the Princeton University Orchestra was held and open to spectators at Powers Field at the Princeton Stadium, with thousands in attendance and watching the fireworks from nearby locations around campus.


A still shot from Poe Field of the Saturday night fireworks display. 
Photo courtesy of Nick Sudarsky ’23

Reunions are held annually on campus and serve to foster school pride by bringing back alumni from around the globe. 

Next year’s Reunions are planned to take place from May 25 to May 28, 2023.

Bailey Glenetske is an Assistant News Editor and geosciences concentrator who often covers breaking news, University affairs and STEM news. She can be reached at bailey.glenetske@princeton.edu or on Instagram @bailey.glenetske.

Lia Opperman is an Assistant News Editor who often covers University affairs, student life, and local news. She can be reached at liaopperman@princeton.edu, on Instagram @liamariaaaa, or on Twitter @oppermanlia.

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