VIMS community celebrates first-ever homecoming weekend
Past and present members of the Virginia Institute of Marine Science community gathered on the Gloucester Point campus October 7-10th in honor of the Institute’s 75th anniversary.
The event marks VIMS’ first-ever homecoming, with more than 300 former faculty, staff, and students traveling from all over the United States to reunite on the shores of the York River.
Spearheaded by Ph.D. student Kelsey Fall (M.S. ‘13), Postdoctoral Research Associate Samuel Lake (Ph.D. ‘13), and Director of Outreach Susan Maples-Luellen, homecoming weekend featured several events for visitors looking to catch up with old friends, reminisce about their days (and nights) in the lab, and check out what’s new on campus. The event concluded with the annual pig roast hosted by the VIMS Graduate Student Association.
The homecoming weekend kicked off Thursday night with a reception in Watermen’s Hall, and continued through Friday with a research symposium and oyster roast. Plenary speakers Paul Sandifer (Ph.D. ’72) and Don Boesch (Ph.D. ’71) recounted how their time at VIMS helped shape their exemplary careers, while VIMS Dean and Director John Wells provided a vision of VIMS’ future.
VIMS Associate Dean of Academic Studies Linda Schaffner highlighted the history and successes of William & Mary’s School of Marine Science, and Associate Dean of Research and Advisory Service Mark Luckenbach presented an overview of VIMS’ research initiatives both past and present. Oral presentations by 20 alumni, together with more than 30 posters by former and current students, gave a rich synopsis of VIMS-inspired work in research, education, and advisory service.
“It was the perfect homecoming, says Schaffner. “It was fascinating to learn how our alums have achieved success in diverse career paths in marine science and beyond, and the events gave the alums a chance to get to know our current students in terms of their research interests and career aspirations. Homecoming provided the opportunity to build strong connections that are important for the continuing success of VIMS.”
Saturday’s festivities began with a campus tour led by VIMS alumnus and Faculty Emeritus Carl (Woody) Hobbs, who steered a group of alumni and their families through many new—and not so new—buildings on the Institute’s 42-acre campus.
VIMS alumna Karen Sheppard Fuss, Graduate Students Services Coordinator at Coastal Carolina University, met her husband Dave while at VIMS, and the couple brought their son Nolan along for the tour. Fuss says she and her husband actually met during one of VIMS’ famous fall pig roasts, and says they were excited to be back for another great celebration at VIMS.
Dr. George Sedberry (Ph.D. ’80), VIMS alumnus and Southeast Region Sanctuary Science Coordinator for the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries in Savannah, also joined the tour to get an idea of how the campus differs since his time as a student in the late 1970s and early 1980s. “I’m amazed by how much the campus has changed,” says Sedberry. “It’s great to see VIMS grow and keep up with emerging technology. I always felt like the Institute was on the leading edge when I was there, and it’s wonderful to see that it still is.”
Members of the VIMS Sail and Paddle Club were on-hand to provide assistance and equipment for attendees wishing to get out on the water via canoe, kayak, or stand-up paddleboard, while others set sail aboard Yorktown Sailing Charter’s Schooner Alliance for a two-hour cruise on the York River.
Fall admits it was intimidating when she first took on the challenge of planning the homecoming event, but that the positive feedback she received throughout the weekend made all of the hard work worth it. “A fellow student approached me and told me how she’s feeling more motivated and enthusiastic about her work at VIMS after meeting so many alumni and seeing where their education at VIMS has taken them,” she says.
Lake also received a lot of praise from alumni who were thrilled to be back at VIMS. “I heard countless students and alumni say how much they enjoyed all of the events, and with more than 300 attendees who traveled from every corner of the nation, we couldn’t have asked for more.”
While the event brought together past and present members of the community, Fall says she really enjoyed getting to work with members of the community that she doesn’t get to interact with on a regular basis. “My favorite part of the event was getting to know all of the great people who are normally behind the scenes of VIMS events,” she says. “The Facilities Department, Communications Department, Office of Finance, and others helped us out so much and I am thankful that I got the opportunity to work with and get to know more members of the community.”
“My favorite part of the homecoming event was sharing stories,” says Lake. “It was inspiring to hear how a relatively small laboratory on the bank of the York River shaped so many lives, significantly contributed to the field of marine science, and positively affects its surrounding communities.”