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EMU Celebrates Milestone Centennial Homecoming With A Mix Of Virtual & In-Person Activities

Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Michigan University

Although founded in 1849, Homecoming celebrations did not begin at Eastern Michigan University for many years after that. This year, Eastern is celebrating "100 Years of Homecoming."

WEMU's Lisa Barry talks with EMU president Dr. James Smith about the many activities taking place and the meaning of this annual event.


Lisa Barry: From forensics to fencing to field hockey, Eastern Michigan University has a rich history, both academically and culturally in our community. I'm Lisa Barry, and that's been celebrated every year at Homecoming. And this year marks a very special homecoming at Eastern Michigan University. And joining us to talk more about that is Eastern President Dr. Jim Smith. Happy Homecoming! 

James Smith
Credit Eastern Michigan University / emich.edu
Eastern Michigan University President Dr. James Smith

Dr. James Smith: Well, thank you, Lisa. It's always a fun week, and we're excited about everything that's going to transpire in the next few days. 

Lisa Barry: And it's a very special homecoming for Eastern this year. 

Dr. James Smith: It is. 100 years. Some will look back to our founding date and say, "Well, it should have been in 1949-50-51 range." But, remember, we didn't do homecomings when the university was first established. So, this is our official one hundredth EMU homecoming. 

Lisa Barry: And what special events do we have to look forward to? 

Dr. James Smith: Well, there's there's just a lot of fun things that students will be engaged with. We're going to have activities really throughout the week that I think people will certainly enjoy. One that caught my eye is Good Night EMU, which is Wednesday and, from seven to 7:45, we have four different readers who are going to read bedtime stories to children, and I guess those of us who are adults, if we would like to, can listen to a bedtime story. But Ryan Griffin, who we've highlighted in the past, is a barber, and he does a lot of work with young children reading, and Ryan's a grad alarm from 2004, and he's going to be one of our readers. So, there are four different readers, and I think that's really an exciting one. And then, on Thursday, we have the movie premiere, and we're going to do the Pixar movie "Soul." And that will be in the Normal Street parking lot right across from my office and seven o'clock start time there. And I think that will be fun, and that's for anyone that would like to come and see the Pixar piece and be outdoors for a little movie entertainment. 

Lisa Barry: A lot of the events are outdoors, because we're still in a pandemic, and I understand there will be a mix of virtual and in-person events, most of them being outside, so it will be OK for everyone to attend? 

Dr. James Smith: Correct. And then, of course, the outside activities that go on in athletics will have the Homecoming football game. It will be on Saturday of this week, and not everyone likes American-style football. So, I would remind people that our women play very competitive collegiate soccer, and that's going to be on Thursday afternoon. Our women will be playing Buffalo. That gives a little bit of athletic flair to the week as well. 

Lisa Barry: As I mentioned at the start of this conversation, Eastern has such a rich history, and I did my research and found that football was established at Eastern in 1892. And, as you mentioned, you'll be playing Miami University this Saturday, and I have to throw in there that WEMU has broadcast every homecoming game since 1966, so we are part of that history as well. 

Dr. James Smith: Absolutely. And I've had the opportunity to be in the the broadcast booth when various different broadcasters have been doing the game, and they do it wonderfully. And my job is always to keep an eye on Rob Rubick, and I'm going to keep doing that to the best of my ability, Lisa. It's fun to have a gentleman like Rob who played in the NFL and really knows the sport and Tom Helmer is now doing play-by-play. And I hope folks know that Tom used to do Red Sox games. So, it's really a high-end broadcast, and I think all the experiences that go along with Homecoming are really high-end and dedicated to celebrating faculty, students, staff, alumni, community members. It's a big tent, and, hopefully, it has that big party feel. But as you said, we still need to be safe and we'll do a lot of these outdoors. 

Lisa Barry: Hundred years of homecoming at Eastern Michigan University, I feel like we need something to celebrate more than ever during this pandemic. 

Dr. James Smith: Absolutely. And it's a favorite time of the year. I think all presidents would say it's absolutely a favorite time of the year. Not quite as favorite for me as commencement is, but it's right up there with a real great celebration of our university from yesterday, from today, and for tomorrow. 

Lisa Barry: And we'll put a link to the event and all the activities on our website with this interview. But someone created an amazing timeline of Eastern's history. I don't know if you've had a chance to scroll through it, but it was just so cool to go back to the late 1800s and see what was happening to the 70s where Steve Martin and Earth, Wind, and Fire performed on campus. And then that's featuring all the past presidents of Eastern Michigan University. And since we're talking to the current president, Jim Smith, I'm wondering how do you want to fit into that timeline moving forward? 

Dr. James Smith: Well, I hope that my period of time here and the work that we've done is reflected in the success of our students, and I think all presidents would say that. It's the joy for a president is to see someone who came back and said, "You know, I graduated with my undergraduate degree three years ago, and I'm doing this, or I did my masters two years ago, and you may have handed me to my diploma," or something like that. And then they tell the story of where they are in their life cycle. And that's the exciting part--to see some of our alumni who come back who've been away for many, many years and tell you that the success of their life and the impact of Eastern. And that's, um, that's the gratification of seeing our alums and hearing their stories and, in some cases, meeting their children and their grandchildren. That's a lot of fun as well. 

Lisa Barry: It's the centennial homecoming celebration for Eastern Michigan University. President Dr. Jim Smith. Thanks so much for talking to us here on WEMU. 

Dr. James Smith: Lisa, it's my pleasure. We're going to have a lot of fun. 

Lisa Barry: Thanks so much for talking to us. 

Dr. James Smith: Thank you.

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— Lisa Barry is the host of All Things Considered on WEMU. You can contact Lisa at 734.487.3363, on Twitter @LisaWEMU, or email her at lbarryma@emich.edu

Lisa Barry was a reporter, and host of All Things Considered on 89.1 WEMU.
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