Classmates Gather for Virtual Reunion

Reunion-online.jpgAlumni from Wayland classes of the early 1990s didn't let a little quarantine get in the way of their gathering Saturday for some reminiscing and catching up. Thanks to the technology of Zoom, a group of around 18 spent more than two hours on Saturday sharing their life updates, remembering classmates gone too soon and going back in time for favorite memories while on campus.

The event was organized originally by Tracy Arthur, who was senior class president in 1995 when she graduated from Wayland. Now the owner of a mediation company in Colorado Springs, Tracy said she realized a few weeks ago that it was the 25th anniversary of her graduating class and she wanted to get the group together. With many cities still under shelter-in-place orders, she decided to host a virtual reunion that would make it easier for classmates who are stuck at home already.

"WBU has always been the best time in my life. I made so many friends, many of whom I still speak with today. WBU became my family and a place where I recreated my future," says Tracy. "Due to COVID, people living out of state or several hours away from Plainview, I literally thought that since it is almost impossible to have an in-person reunion why not take this opportunity COVID has given us to reconnect.

"I have never again experienced the type of fun and camaraderie that we all experienced at Wayland… it was truly an amazing experience and one that I wanted others to remember and relive because I imagined they feel the same way."

Including the university's alumni office gave Tracy added resources and connections.

"Tracy reached out to me as a 1994 graduate after she decided to expand the group to invite those who would have shared years at Wayland together. In the end, we had people who spanned from about 1992 to 1996 or so," said Teresa Young, director of alumni relations at Wayland. "I offered to throw in some WBU swag for door prizes and Tracy loved that idea. I also provided her with photos and obits of classmates who had passed away, and she was able to compile a nice remembrance video that she played during the event. That made it really special as well."

Attendees stretched across Texas from the Dallas-Fort Worth area to the Texas panhandle-plains area to Houston and included those from Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Louisiana and Pennsylvania. While the reunion included only a portion of the 140-plus members of the private Facebook group, plans were already being made to host another virtual meetup so that more can attend.

Tracy started promoting the event a few weeks out by posting photos and polls about life in the 1990s, then other members started adding their own photos and memories, tagging friends and inviting others to join the fun.

"A lot of the favorite memories revolved around Academy Awards, this event where everyone would dress up and we'd present awards from our Star Stage videos done earlier in the year," Young added. "Folks also shared about beloved professors and about how their Wayland experience shaped them all these years later."

One of those was Victoria Sanchez Sherrard, a 1992 grad who now lives in Scottsdale, Ariz.

"I am not a joiner, but because WBU was so small, I was involved in a lot of things I would not have otherwise been involved in. I was able to be part of organizations and meet people who I'm friends with to this day," she said. "I did things I would NEVER have done at any other school...Phi Chi, SGA, Miss Wayland, Homecoming...anywhere else and I would have just gone to class!"

Chris Cobb, who attended only a few years with twin sister Candice, a 1995 graduate, was moved by the event and excited to catch up with friends.

"If I could use a word to describe the time we spent on Zoom today, I would say that it was incredibly NOURISHING. I can't wait for the next one," says Cobb, who now lives in Katy. "We're all adults and there was no sense of division or pretentiousness. It didn't matter what dorm you lived in, classes you took, grades gotten, how many times you skipped chapel, who you might have sat with in the cafeteria, how amazing (or horrible) you might have been on the athletic playing field or intramural arena, who dated (and broke up with) who, if you were in IXE, Phi Chi, SGA, graduated or just spent a semester on campus.

"We all have similar frames of reference and memories. It was great to share them and different parts of our lives and where our respective journeys have taken us."

Young encouraged other classes and Wayland groups to follow the lead and plan their own virtual gatherings, and she offered to provide resources to those wanting to plan similar events. She can be contacted by email at Teresa.young@wbu.edu.

"I'm happy to provide some door prizes, photos from yearbooks, guidance on setting up a Zoom meeting or even hosting it through Wayland if that would help people. And if remembrances are important to your group too, we can help with that," Young said. "The main thing is to connect with Wayland friends and let those fun memories bring some positivity into this quarantine time."

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