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From the 2014 Homecoming Campus Tour

Homecoming: the tradition continues Sept. 28 to Oct. 4

August 25, 2015 — 

It’s not clear when the Homecoming tradition started at the University of Manitoba. Archives from both The Manitoban and the Bulletin show that the papers ran stories, 20 years apart, announcing the U of M’s first Homecoming. Despite the discrepancies, Homecoming remains steeped in tradition – one that honours the U of M’s 132,000 alumni in 131 countries.

As both stories suggest, Homecoming is a time to reflect and catch up. Our modern homecoming allows grads to reconnect with old friends, and reminisce about their years on campus. The week-long celebration features many community events and earns a lot more ink, than those early celebrations.

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On Friday, Oct. 25, 1928, The Manitoban ran a short, easily-overlooked article that invited grads (and non-grads for that matter) to return to campus. In almost a matter-of-fact way it documents the history of our first homecoming. You can view the newspaper page in its entirety here (the advertisements alone are worth checking out), but here is a picture of the critical two paragraphs.

newspaper clipping from the Manitoban, October 1928

So there it is. As UM Archives and Special Collections further inform us, the Alumni Association helped honour the U of M’s 50th anniversary with a Semi-Centennial Celebration from October 6 to 8, 1927 by holding the first homecoming for graduates of the University. This event did a lot for the Association — membership grew to 500 the following year.

But avid Bulletin readers with a sticky memory will recall that on September 26, 1947, the University Bulletin & Alumni Journal ran a front-page story with the headline, “Alumni to back first homecoming”.

As the article begins:

The University Alumni Association is sponsoring its first “Homecoming” for the Alumni on October 25th. This welcome innovation in the alumni calendar of events will provide an unparalleled opportunity for all graduates to renew old acquaintances and get up to date on their University and Alumni happenings.

So that was perhaps the true beginning of our modern homecoming. Incidentally, the first event of that day was a ($2.00) luncheon followed by a rugby match against Moorehead.

During the current alumni celebrations on Homecoming Weekend, rugby has been replaced by the Bison Football team’s annual Homecoming football game where the herd will take on our Saskatchewan rivals, the Regina Rams, with a 7:00 pm kickoff on Friday, October 2. Go Bisons!

Homecoming has so much to offer. For a peek at last year’s celebrations take a look at the video below.

Further historical reading

By 1930, Homecoming events were establishing themselves as “annual” and the three-day program was referred to as “the big event” in The Manitoban. Faculty’s hosted individual dinners and barbecues, there was a golf tournament and even an annual interfaculty track tournament at Sargent Park.

In 1959  The Manitoban implies that some students forgot Homecoming existed and complained that the university did not have something it actually had. The paper concedes that previous Homecomings were “a quiet affair limited to hockey and basketball teams”, which may be true as this 1958 article talks mostly about the sporting events before giving a brief mention to a dance happening after the games. Thus, in 1959, the UMSU Social Committee tried to offer more than sports and asked students to vote on what musical artists they wanted UMSU to try to bring to campus. Sammy Davis Jr. was one possibility on the list.

The classical origins of homecoming (originally filmed in 2011)

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