WRITTEN BY VALENTINE J. BRKICH
Robert Morris University held its annual Homecoming celebration on Saturday, October 8, and the thousands in attendance couldn’t have ordered a better day. With clear blue skies and temperatures in the upper 70s, it was the perfect setting for an outdoor event — and what an event it was. More than 4,200 cheering fans filled the stands for the game, a record crowd. More than 1,200 students — one out of every three residential students — watched at Joe Walton Stadium, also setting an attendance record.
The festivities actually began the night before at the Alumni Happy Hour, which took place at the Holiday Inn on University Boulevard. Over 150 RMU alumni, faculty, staff, and students gathered to reminisce with old friends and kickoff the weekend at the hotel’s Iron City Grille. The Steelerettes were there in full force. So was men’s basketball Head Coach Andy Toole, who was getting teased by Associate Prof. Jim Vincent, as the two held court with several young alumni and current students. Strength and conditioning Head Coach Todd Hamer regaled people with tales of the Pittsburgh-to-D.C. bike trip. And throughout the evening, people migrated over from the sport management reception held at Sewall.
On Saturday the excitement was palpable as the RMU faithful filed into the campus parking lots to tailgate and get ready for the Colonials first-ever night game under the new lights at Joe Walton Stadium. The upper Sewall Center lot, a.k.a, Tailgate Alley, was the center of the pregame festivities. The grills were fired up, and so were the alums, many of whom were returning to RMU for the first time in years. One of these was Leahrae (Owens) Ringer, a 1994 graduate of RMU’s marketing program.
“This was my first time returning to Robert Morris since I graduated, and it was a pleasant surprise,” she said.”
Ringer was especially taken by how much the campus has transformed since she graduated. “It’s really unrecognizable from the one I attended. It’s simply beautiful.” She was also excited to see one of her favorite performers, Scott Blasey of the Clarks, who played a live, acoustic set in Tailgate Alley.
“I wish that the campus would have been like this when I was a student,” said Mary Melnick, who graduated from Robert Morris in 1999 with a degree in radiologic technology. “It's so nice to see how it has grown from when I was here. I’m actually a little jealous of all the fun the students get to have now!”
As the sun started to descend toward the horizon, the party migrated from the parking lots into Joe Walton Stadium, where a standing-room-only crowd – the largest in the stadium’s history – watched the Colonials throttle conference rivals St. Francis (Pa.), 45-14. After the game, fans were treated to a spectacular fireworks display that lit up the night sky on the bluff overlooking University Boulevard.
This weekend was a blast,” said Gus Mathews, a 1978 graduate of Robert Morris’s marketing program. “It was very well attended, in fact maybe the most I've seen at a Homecoming. This one was by far the most entertaining—and I've attended a lot of them.”