What to expect at Orange Central 2021

What to expect at Orange Central 2021

SU's alumni weekend, Oct. 28-31, features speakers, ceremonies, family-friendly tailgates, a football game in the dome and more.
Published: October 28, 2021
The Syracuse University Marching Band plays for fans, alumni, students and family members near the Orange Central Tailgate before the SU Oranges vs. Clemson Tigers football game. The event, hosted by the SU Alumni Association, is the first at-home tailgate of the 2019 football season.
The Syracuse University marching band performs on the steps of Hendricks Chapel for football fans prior to the SU-Clemson homecoming game at Orange Central 2019, the last time alumni gathered on-campus for the weekend-long event.

Breaking out their vintage Syracuse University swag, over a thousand SU alumni will return to campus this weekend, reuniting with old friends, engaging with different graduating classes and reminiscing on their college years through various events and activities.

For Cory Miller, executive director of events and affinity programs at SU’s Office of Alumni Engagement, this is the most valuable aspect of putting together Orange Central, the annual alumni celebration on campus.

“This year is special because we haven’t been able to do it the opportunity to gather together [due to the pandemic] and celebrate in person and be on the quad and feel that energy of a crowd of people coming together with orange love and orange spirit,” Miller said.

Among this weekend’s schedule, beginning Thursday, Oct. 28 and continuing through Sunday, Oct. 31, there is something for everyone. Alumni and their families can attend a range of speakers and ceremonies, campus tours and cookouts, as well as their home college’s specific celebration activities and receptions.

“As alumni, we are on a life-long journey alongside our alma mater,” said Andrew Regalado ’20, a legislative aide and operations director at the U.S. House of Representatives, in an email. “With all the highs and lows, Orange Central is a time for all of us to check back in to celebrate that journey and all that we have learned thus far.” Regalado will be hosting a seminar this weekend, sharing professional and career insights at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

Orange Central will be celebrating milestone reunions, including the Classes of 1961, 1971, 1986, 1996, 2011, and 2016 and Generation Orange alumni who’ve graduated within the last decade. Since Orange Central 2020 was held virtually, the Office of Alumni Engagement is inviting back the Classes of 1960, 1970, 1985, 1995, 2010, and 2015 to participate as well.

“While we’ve been forced into that model because of the pandemic, it’s a really fun way to have more people in the room, to have more classes that probably were interacting with each other all the time when they were here on campus,” Miller said.

On Friday evening, Orange Central will be holding the SU Alumni Awards Ceremony at the National Veterans Resource Center. The event will recognize successful and inspiring alumni for their contributions and achievements after graduation.

SU Alumni Awards Ceremony 2021 Winners
SU's Alumni Award Ceremony will take place Friday, Oct. 29 at the National Veterans Resource Center, which will celebrate numerous alumni for their achievements and professional success.

Among the many recipients is Maria Melendez ’89, global chief diversity officer for Sidley Austin LLP, an international law firm, and a member of SU’s Office of Multicultural Advancement Advisory Council. Melendez will be receiving one of the four George Arents Awards as a significant leader in her field. This award is the highest honor given by the university, Miller said, which will also be given to Keith Cartwright ’97, president and chief creative officer of Cartwright, SU trustee Dan Mezzalingua ’60, and Jim Morris ’77, G’78, president of Pixar Animation Studios.

“It’s very humbling,” Melendez said. “When I first got the call, I just, I couldn’t believe it.”

As a first-generation college student, Melendez said she was overwhelmed when she first came to campus – a new, unfamiliar area with unfamiliar people. However, the support she received once here from administrators, professors and her involvement in the marching band helped her grow confidence in asking for help, taking the lead and keeping an open mind. It is something in which she has since carried with her throughout her professional career.

Seeing her college friends individually over the past 30 years, Orange Central will be the first time Melendez and her friends will all be together at once since their time at SU, she said.

On Saturday, the SU football team challenges Boston College in the dome at 3:30 p.m., and leading up to the game, Orange Central is holding a tailgate on Shaw Quad from 1 to 3 p.m. With tents and heaters prepared for any weather, the quad will feature food and music, a photo booth, balloon artists, giveaways, a performance from the marching band and more.

“Even if it might be a little chilly this weekend if anyone knows how to bundle up in the cold weather at Syracuse University alumni. They’ll be prepared,” Miller said.

Throughout the weekend, the university will continue to enforce its COVID-19 mask and vaccine requirements, Miller said. Registrants have the option of showing proof of vaccination or recent negative test result upon arrival, which will give them a wristband to let others know their status and allow them to skip the COVID-19 check-in when entering the stadium on game day.

Orange Central is also offering virtual and on-demand options for alumni who are not comfortable returning to campus due to the pandemic, including pre-recorded videos from individual colleges and groups on campus.

Falling on Halloween weekend, the alumni celebration will include many fall-inspired activities, decorations and food. With a few events falling on Sunday, such as the Race to Remember, the Pan Am 103 Remembrance 3.5-mile run, the schedule gives alumni and their families to return home in time to trick-or-treat for Halloween.

For those who missed pre-registration, the Office of Alumni Engagement will have opportunities for alumni to register for the weekend’s activities Thursday through Saturday at Schine Student Center.