If Open House at Notre Dame is all about looking forward into the future (who and what will next year bring to NDP?) then Gateway Homecoming Weekend is all about looking backward into the past (who and what came before today’s crop of bright young women?). But just like Open House – and almost everything else NDP does these days – Gateway Homecoming Weekend (October 19-20) was a heartfelt celebration full of joy, reflection, and appreciation. It began Friday morning with a liturgy honoring NDP’s founders, the School Sisters of Notre Dame (SSND’s), and ended Saturday night with the Blazer Blowout and class reunion parties. In between was a luncheon for NDP’s jubilarian reunion class of 1962, an alumnae art show, a lovely wine tasting party, and the annual family fall festival. The liturgy – attended by the entire current student body as well as many alum and SSND’s – served as a beautiful reminder to today’s girls just who had the vision and passion to create NDP and shape its important mission. That mission – to educate young women who will go out into the world and transform it for the better – has been lived out in the personal and professional lives of hundreds of NDP alum throughout the decades. During the liturgy, one such woman, former ad executive, Nancy Karpinski (class of 1977) was honored with the Mother Caroline Friess alumna service award for her dedicated and steadfast volunteerism in and outside the corporate world. At the end of the liturgy, as is tradition, all the SSND’s in attendance stood up, held their hands out over the congregation, and blessed them.
Afterward, members from the graduating classes of 1962 and earlier were the honored guests of the school at an elegant luncheon served in the Helen Marie Duffy room. In attendance were alum from as far away as California and as long ago as 1938! During lunch, NDP jubilarian alum and current Sr. V.P./Executive Director of the University of Maryland BioPark, Jane Mattricciani Shaab, had her classmates crying with laughter over their roasted asparagus as she recounted one hilarious story after another about their days at NDP. One such anecdote involved a larger-than-life Gym Meet prop they built as freshman (which they were absolutely sure would win them the Silver Cup), only to realize, too late, that they could not get the enormous prop out of the room in which they built it! There were other stories about the best dance bands of the era, swim banners lost and reclaimed, and raucous parties. Only half jokingly did Sr. Patricia McCarron suggest that perhaps the class of ’62 should not share all their stories with the younger women in attendance that weekend! Another hearty laugh.
But of course, the highlight of the weekend was the Blazer Blowout and class reunions on Saturday night. Now, for those of you have not been back in a while, let me just explain, this is not your Grandmother’s NDP. If you haven’t seen NDP lately, you haven’t seen NDP. The course offerings have more than tripled since the class of 1962 was there. So has the staff. And if you want to take a tour of the NDP state-of-the-art facilities and grounds, you should allow a couple of hours! Even the way they hold reunions has changed. It’s always been the custom for classes to reunite every five years, share memories, and catch up. But it used to be, every class organized the reunion on their own, found a place to have it (if NDP wasn’t available), arranged for the food and drink, priced the tickets, set up decorations and memorabilia, got the word out, made the calls, booked the photographer, and cleaned up. They were always fun but a lot of work. As of 5 years ago, all that changed. Individual classes still reunite every five years but those reunions have now been incorporated into Gateway Homecoming Weekend, held every October at Notre Dame. Homecoming, after all, is what reunions are all about. Not only are you guaranteed it will be held at NDP… they do all the work for you! Any alum from any graduating class can attend the Blazer Blowout held in the dining room the Saturday evening of Homecoming Weekend. For the price of a ticket you get a delicious catered dinner, an open bar, music, and plenty of “facetime” with old schoolmates and fellow NDP alum. However, if you’re a member of one of the “Every 5 Years” classes, then you also get a private party with your classmates in a separate room. It’s taken the organizers a few years to work out the kinks and produce the event for maximum enjoyment, but this year they nailed it. After some experimentation in previous years, it was determined that alum should attend the spectacular dinner first and then convene to their private room for their individual class party where they can continue to eat, drink, and enjoy each other’s company. It’s the best of both worlds: meeting and networking with young and old alum over dinner, and then catching up with cherished classmates afterwards. In previous years they did the reverse and the problem was, once old classmates got together, they didn’t want to leave each other. Who can blame them? So now, the organizers have saved the best for last! And a good time was had by all.
Of course, all these changes are for the better. Homecoming Weekend is a wonderful way for the current student body and younger alum to meet in person some of the women who came before them and on whose shoulders they stand. What remains unchanged is the spirit and legacy of NDP, brought vibrantly to life with each returning and cherished alum.
What is your single most cherished NDP memory? Funniest? Your best reunion so far? Bluenote wants to hear from you. Send us your thoughts and comments.