“The whole school could fit in one pub,” said Karen Vellenga (BA ’03), reflecting on the 20th anniversary of Laurier’s Brantford campus.
Vellenga arrived early at Harmony Square on Sept. 21 to celebrate Homecoming 2019 in Brantford with fellow alumni, students and community members. Homecoming festivities followed in Waterloo from Sept. 27 to 29.
“I’m not sure where the 20 years went but it went really fast,” said Vellenga. “Even in the first five or six years of Laurier’s Brantford campus, everything just became so big.”
Even with impressive growth that’s occurred since Laurier’s Brantford campus opened in 1999, Vellenga said the feeling on campus continues to reflects its humble beginnings.
“It still seems to be a close-knit, hometown university,” she said. “And they are growing their unique identity.”
Donning a Laurier shirt for Homcoming, the contemporary studies graduate said developing a distinct identity was important to pioneering Brantford campus students.
“It took us a bit to get a Brantford campus shirt,” said Vellenga. “Everyone wanted our own unique shirt, but there weren’t enough of us to get a print run at first.”
As a Brant resident, Vellenga said she has taken pride in watching the campus become engrained in the Brantford community and grow to stretch across the downtown core, including the recently constructed Laurier Brantford YMCA.
Brantford Homecoming included family events in Harmony Square, as well as an exhibition basketball game including an impromptu slam dunk competition by the Golden Hawks. Later, a small group of alumni and faculty gathered at the Brantford Conference Centre to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Criminology program.
In Waterloo, festivities started early with the annual Homecoming pancake breakfast. Soon after, thousands of Golden Hawks gathered at University Stadium to celebrate a Homecoming football victory over the Queen’s Gaels.
Halftime festivities at the football game included a performance by country singer Jade Eagelson, as well as the announcement of an $800,000 donation by the Wilfrid Laurier University Alumni Association.
The gift will be used to enhance student life and is divided between scholarships and bursaries, sexual violence counselling and service programs, the Nadjiwan Kaandossiwin Gamik Indigenous Student Centre and the makerspaces program.
Following the game, alumni celebrated at Wilf’s during a performance by Black Water Trio. Festivities continued into the evening with reunion dinners and celebrations across campus.
“It was a life-changing experience in a lot of ways,” said Vellenga, looking back on her time at Laurier. “I met different people from different walks of life with different perspectives. And you learn from each other.”