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Spectacular Emporia State University 2022 Homecoming

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Emporia State University was abuzz with activity, alumni, friends and positive vibes during the nearly weeklong celebration of Homecoming 2022. Watch these highlights!

  • Late Night at White – Kicked off ESU Basketball! Coaches poll ranked men fifth and Lady Hornets sixth
  • Hayes Lecture, Highest Attendance Ever — featuring Terry Crawford (BSB 1979),
    Senior Vice President + Treasurer, AMC Theatres
  • Homecoming Musical, “Curtains” – Entertained audiences with four performances
  • 100 Years of Sigma Tau Gamma – 250 alumni celebrated a century of Sig Tau at ESU
  • Harry Stephens Patio Dedication – Honoring ESU Icon Dr. Harry Stephens
  • Homecoming Traditions – Tricycle Races, Bonfire, Hornet Walk, Royalty and More!
  • Black + Gold Gala — 200 celebrated and honored ESU Distinguished Alumni + Outstanding Recent Grads
  • No. 9 Hornet Football Homecoming WIN! 42-14 over Fort Hays kittens in front of 5,700 ESU Fans. Next Up Saturday, Nov. 12 against Northwest Missouri at Welch Stadium – #KeepTheGreenOut
  • ESU Soccer Defeated Northeastern State 2-0. Next up, Friday, Nov. 11, NCAA post-season play v. Fort Hays

Alumni + Friends were excited to come back together for the first time since 2019. Here’s a look back at memories from the 2022 celebration:

Late Night at White launched Homecoming activities on Tuesday, Oct. 25, with a special event to showcase the upcoming ESU basketball seasons for both the men and the Lady Hornets. The Emporia State men have been picked fifth by both the coaches and media in the MIAA Basketball Preseason Polls. Their season opens on the road with games Nov. 11 and 12. The Lady Hornets are picked sixth by the coaches and seventh by the media in the MIAA Preseason Basketball Polls. They opened with an exhibition game at the University of Oklahoma on Nov. 3 and start their season with road games Nov. 11 and 12.

A total of 466 ESU students attended the Sam E. and Jeannene Hayes Lecture on Thursday of Homecoming week. With the addition of faculty, staff and community members, the crowd topped 550 to hear Terry Crawford (BSB 1979) share his leadership journey through a 26-year career with AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc., including to understand their personal “why” and let everything they do as a leader prove that “why.”

“It was so much fun getting to know the Blue Key members and talk with a large group of students,” Crawford said after the event. “I was not sure what to expect. This far exceeded my expectations. The energy from the students was tremendous.”

Much of that energy came through during questions and answers.

“‘What is your favorite movie?’ That was the first question, and it really broke the ice,” he said.

Other questions asked how to find a balance between being involved outside the classroom and being successful in the classroom, which stemmed from the work-life balance Crawford discussed.

Four performances of the Homecoming Musical “Curtains” brought the joy of live musical theatre to an enthusiastic audience. Described as “a murder mystery, inside a musical, wrapped up in a savvy comedy,” the 2022 Homecoming Musical saw attendance return to pre-pandemic levels, said Dr. Pete Rydberg, ESU associate professor and director of theatre.

Reunions, both informal and formal, are a traditional piece of Homecoming activities and 2022 was no exception. Members of the Sigma Tau Gamma fraternity came home to celebrate the group’s centennial. The weekend included a new name for the patio north of the Memorial Union by Wooster Lake. The new Harry Stephens Patio honors the man who served ESU in a variety of roles leadership roles including Vice President Student Affairs as well as served decades as Sig Tau advisor before his death in 2020. More than 200 people attended the event.

“This was such a diverse group,” said Jason Fanning, chair of the ESU Foundation, an alumnus of Sig Tau and emcee for the patio dedication. “People came from Sigma Tau Gamma and other ESU organizations, university staff and faculty plus the Emporia community.”

The dedication, Fanning said, was a natural extension of the overall Sig Tau reunion weekend.

“The packed weekend was celebrated by over 250 Sig Tau alums who came back to celebrate the chapter’s 100th anniversary of being a part of ESU,” said Fanning.

Friday night saw the return of the Black + Gold Gala, an upscale event that honors the university’s Distinguished Alumni and Outstanding Recent Graduates and recognizes donors to the ESU Foundation. Each of the award recipients share their personal stories of how their time at Emporia State University set them on successful paths through life.

Ron Frierson (BS 1996, Social Sciences), director of economic development for U.S. West at Amazon and a current Distinguished Alumnus, explained how he shares Emporia State far and wide.

“I firmly believe that we, as Emporia State alumni, must carry our alma mater with pride to every corner of the globe where we have visibility and influence,” he said. “As for me, in a workplace where colleagues boast their Ivy League affiliation by wearing hats and T-shirts and giving constant ‘shout-outs,’ I do the same — usually from a higher-ranking position."

A special treat during the gala was entertainment from jazz musicians, Eric Martin and Matt Cowan, a live painting exhibit by Deon Morrow and the Hispanics of Today and Tomorrow (HOTT) dancers.

The integration of HOTT into Homecoming activities came after ESU’s Associated Student Government collaborated with the group for the 2022 T-shirt design. The university’s Homecoming weekend fell the same weekend that the Emporia community recognized Dia de Los Muertos, a traditional Hispanic holiday that originated in Mexico and is a celebration of life and death, honoring family and friends who are no longer with us.

The weekend included numerous events for alumni of the ESU Accounting Program, including a social on Friday night and a reunion dinner on Saturday that recognized retiring faculty members John Rich, Larry Falcetto and George Durler.

Saturday’s activities surrounding the Homecoming football victory against Fort Hays State University was a celebration from start to finish. Beginning with Live at the Hive and tailgating, alumni and current students came together with the Emporia community to enjoy the efforts of the many students in the ESU Marching Hornets with dance and color guard, the cheer squad, athletic trainers, Game Day workers, the 11 Homecoming Royalty candidates and the many, many fans.

Fanning, chair of the ESU Foundation Board of Trustees, has seen the changes in the game day experience this year firsthand.

“It is neat to see the focus of the game day experience be on the students and fans — and alums get to share in the updated, upbeat experience,” he said. “As a season ticket football holder, we enjoy the new Live at the Hive experience and positive vibe.”

This year was extra special, he said.

“It was great to see the excitement again at Homecoming on campus. You could feel the energy in all that was going on!”

And the excitement continues, thanks to key wins by the ESU football and soccer teams.

During Homecoming, Hornet Football defeated the Tigers 42-14 with great efforts by quarterback Braden Gleason, who went 30 of 37 for 297 yards with four touchdowns and added 17 yards on six carries. Freshman running back Kingsley Bennett led the Hornets in rushing with 65 yards on nine carries while junior running back Billy Ross Jr., had 128 all-purpose yards and three touchdowns with 46 rushing, 58 receiving and 24 yards on punt returns. Red shirt sophomore wide receiver Jaylen Varner had seven catches for 96 yards and two touchdowns.

That win, followed by a win the next week at Lincoln, sets up this weekend’s final regular season game against Northwest Missouri State at home in Welch Stadium. After the win at Lincoln, Emporia State went to 8-2, the best record after 10 games since 2016. The Hornets remained the same in the NCAA Division II Super Region 3 rankings (No. 9) while moving up one spot in the AFCA National Poll (No. 22). The Northwest Missouri Bearcats are ranked No. 10 in the Super Region 3 rankings. The Hornets and Bearcats face off at 1 p.m. Saturday with postseason plans on the line for both teams. It’s the first Top 25 matchup on Jones Field at Welch Stadium since the 2017 season. Winner is likely to get a national playoff berth.

Homecoming Week concluded with another victory. The ESU soccer team opened postseason play with a 2-0 victory on Sunday, Oct. 30, against Northeastern State in the first round of the MIAA Championships hosted by ESU on the Pitch.

This week, the soccer team learned it will be in Warrensburg, Missouri, for the first round of the NCAA Division II Central Regional Tournament. The Hornets will play Fort Hays State University at 10 a.m. Friday. This is the third time in school history and the third time in the last four seasons that Emporia State has qualified for the NCAA Tournament.