Virtual Reunion will unite alumni across the globe

Cornellians will gather June 10-13 to celebrate Virtual Reunion 2021, a weekend of digital events and opportunities to gather online with friends and classmates.

Content from last year’s first Virtual Reunion was viewed by more than 10,000 Cornell households from six continents and 77 countries, and from the Class of 1937 to the Class of 2020. This year, alumni from across the globe, spanning multiple decades, are expected to tune in.

All events, including featured conversations about racial justice, equity and diversity, will be available for Cornellians to participate in digitally, regardless of where they might live – a significant benefit of hosting Reunion virtually.

“I feel that many of us are relieved that we don’t have to travel,” said Dottie Taylor Prey ’46, Class of 1946 75th Reunion co-chair. “We can, with the help of grandchildren and children and friends, connect through the computer – which is an amazing technology. Young people take it for granted, but it is absolutely a miracle of our times.”

"All of the Virtual Reunion programs are accessible, no matter where alumni are in the world,” said Kate Freyer, director of Reunion and Campus Alumni Engagement Events. “People are making space to get together and taking the time to pause and reflect on where we have been and where we’re going.”

On Friday, June 10, a panel discussion featuring President Martha E. Pollack and notable Cornell alumni, including Kate Snow ’91, Anne H. Chow ’88, M.Eng. ’89, MBA ’90, and Sharice Davids, J.D. ’10, will address how women navigate leadership and define success. The conversation will be moderated by current Cornell students.

Saturday’s Mosaic Forum will focus on what meaningful action looks like in the effort to dismantle systemic racism, and what we each can do to take a firm stand against racial injustice. The panel discussion will be moderated by Noliwe Rooks, the W.E.B. Du Bois Professor in the American Studies Program, Africana Studies and Research Center, in the College of Arts and Sciences.

These two events will be rebroadcast at additional times during the weekend to accommodate Cornellians in different time zones. Flexible viewing times are new to Reunion this year, and will make it possible for attendees to tune in from around the world.

“Even with Zoom fatigue, alumni are so excited and ready to connect,” Freyer said. Providing more options for alumni to take part will increase the reach and depth of these important conversations, she said.

In addition to the milestone Reunions for the class years ending in 1 and 6, this year marks important Reunion celebrations for the Cornell Asian Alumni Association (CAAA), Cornell Black Alumni Association (CBAA), Cornell Latino Alumni Association (CLAA), Cornell Military Network (CMN), Cornell Native American Alumni Association (CNAAA), and Cornell University’s LGBT Alumni Association (CUGALA).

The past year has reminded us, especially in the Asian American community, of the importance of community and mutual support, and I hope CAAA can serve as a conduit to forging connections across differences within our community like heritage, language, gender and more, said Janelle Teng 11, vice president of communications for the Cornell Association of Class Officers.

Some of these groups have planned additional events for all alumni to continue educating themselves and learning from one another, and to start conversations they hope will continue long after the weekend is over.

“I am leading a team of dedicated volunteers who are working hard to provide fun and educational events for Cornellians, family, and friends of all ages,” said Rose Tanasugarn ’90, co-chair for this year’s CAAA Reunion. “It’s definitely a challenge planning an event from the other side of the world [Japan], but I hope that alumni from this side of the Pacific will take part in the CAAA and universitywide programming.”

Virtual Reunion 2021 will also include a special celebration of the Class of 2020 on Sunday afternoon. Pollack and college deans will address the class members, and notable alumni will share well wishes. All alumni are encouraged to attend and help acknowledge and celebrate the resilience of this class and its unique journey – a journey that volunteer Taylor Prey says has some similarities with that of her Class of 1946.

“We all try to plan our future step by step,” she said. “When you go through four years of college, you look forward to the finale. The Class of 2020’s future was totally changed, as it was for the war classes. You have to readjust, and this is what I would say they all did. I say, ‘Hurrah for them!’”

Virtual Reunion 2021 will also offer opportunities to connect as a community, with special events to close out Friday and Saturday evening and some fun printables and activities for alumni and children of all ages.

Participants will face off in Friday night’s Clash of the Cornellians, a trivia challenge featuring a mix of questions based on the current student experience and classic Cornelliana. Attendees are encouraged to play along with the contestants and see how many questions they can answer.

On Saturday, Spirit of the Hill will transport viewers on a digital journey across campus, with performances by the Cornell Chorus, Glee Club, Big Red Band, alumni from Baraka Kwa Wimbo and Pamoja-Ni gospel choirs, How Excellent and Chosen Generation gospel choirs, Yamatai, and other Big Red artists.

Colleges, classes, and other groups celebrating Reunion will also host events including game shows and numerous club and class happy hours.

All alumni are invited to attend and celebrate everything that makes Cornell exceptional. Register here for Virtual Reunion events.

Kaitlin Provost is a writer for Alumni Affairs and Development.

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Abby Butler