Last weekend’s Homecoming events were a total success, as always. From John Tucker’s arrival Friday morning in his orange trousers to the last goodbye in the wee hours of Saturday night/Sunday morning, the air was filled with good will and fond memories. To the delight of the large crowd in attendance, the football team rallied from an inconsistent first half to drub the Saints of Nansemond-Suffolk Academy 56 -32. Somewhere around 230 alumni and alumnae, most with a guest, registered for the 5-year reunion parties. Over 100 showed up for Saturday lunch around the Pit. The members of the fifty-year class of 1964 were here in great numbers and seemed to be having a wonderful time. Bulldogs everywhere you look.
What struck me most, however, was the presence of so many members of the class of 2014. These folks have been gone only 4 months from our halls, and, as happens each year, many come to Homecoming from the previous year’s graduating class. It is equally true that almost no one comes who graduated two or three years in the past. I think there’s a message there that is worth exploring.
If you are too young to know Jackson Browne’s 1977 classic live album “Running on Empty,” a) you missed one of rock music’s greatest moments, and b) I’m envious of your youth. Browne was, and is, one of the prime spokesmen for the generation that in the 60’s showed so much idealism about the future and then so much disillusionment about later decades. In the title tune he laments the seemingly endless routine of the travelling troubadour with lyrics such as “I don’t know where I’m running now, I’m just running on” and “I don’t even know what I’m hoping to find.” Eight years later Bono would spin the same lament, this time from the point of view of a Catholic turned agnostic with “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”
As I wandered around prior to the football game and then came to my perch up in the press box, I saw reunion after reunion of young folks who might not have seen each other since June. There was Madison Acra talking to Chris Debo talking to Austin Foster talking to Ian Frazier, etc., etc. Wade Willard even came up to the box to say hello and reminisce for a short time. And while my observations of their meetings, their smiles, and their hugs were fleeting, I didn’t get a whiff of Jackson Browne or even Bono. There was an ease of recognition and a pleasure in conversation that led me to believe that these people are not running from anything. Surely the overwhelming majority of recent graduates do not know with certainty where they will end up or perhaps even where they are headed, but those conditions are different from “running.” And while it may be wishful thinking, in their body language and their facial expressions I saw nothing but optimism.
To the extent that these young people are in any way running, I get the distinct impression that their roads are not aimless and that their tanks are anything but empty. They carry a confidence drawn from many successes in their comings and goings leading up to today, and Norfolk Academy undoubtedly played a significant role in instilling that confidence. I’d like to think that because Chris Debo was named chair of the Honor Council he felt more at ease walking in to class at William & Mary. I would hope that Madison Acra went after the midfielder position on the Washington College women’s lacrosse team with a greater self-assurance gained by her triumphs on our lacrosse field. And while Wade Willard has never much lacked for confidence, I would hope that his career at James Madison University will be boosted, in a strange but lovely way, by his successful “joke of the day” contest with Dave Rezelman.
We will see few, if any, of these young men and women at next year’s Homecoming. It’s not that they become too cool for our school, it’s just that come next year they will have fewer friends from their Academy years to meet. And, truth to tell, as college sophomores most will have other things to do on that October weekend. Give them a few years, maybe on their fifth reunion year, when they are out of college and on to the next phase of their lives, that the tug to come home will feel a little stronger. In the meantime, we will miss you. You know that we love hearing from you even if you don’t get here in person, so stay in touch as best you can, and not just by social media. And to each member of the class of 2014, at the very least I’m counting on seeing all of you in 2019. To quote another rock and roll legend, Jon Bon Jovi . . .
Who says you can’t come home?