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Alumni Contributions, CDAA Event

Weekend Reunions Unite Alums, Continue to Grow

On November 12, Cavalier Daily members, both past and present, will gather at the CD offices, marking the thirteenth year of the Cavalier Daily Alumni Association November Weekend Reunion. The open house at the offices will evolve into a tailgate, held in prime spots directly in front of Alumni Hall. From there, the group will split: some off to the football game, some to explore old haunts on Grounds, while some remain at the tailgate. They will all regroup later at Charlottesville’s popular Escafe restaurant, where they will share drinks and dinner and catch up on the past year, while regaling each other with stories of past CD events and memories.

Former Cavalier Daily Editor-in-Chief Steve Wells (Col. ’73) began these Weekend Reunions in 2004 as a private event, requesting that his classmates and fellow CD members join him at a tailgate and football game in November. The event started as a group of 15 to 18, and the number in attendance quickly rose through the years. Last year marked the largest crowd yet, with numbers into the 60s.

“As I was getting older, I realized the importance of reconnecting with the people from the past that meant a lot to [me],” Wells says. Inspired by a move from L.A. to the east coast in 2000, Wells states, “I wanted to reconnect to the University and to a lot of the people at the CD.”

Wells’ dedication to connecting with generations of past and current CD members shines through this event, as he has worked steadfastly to find the best possible location for the tailgates and the post-game reunion dinners. Over the years, he searched for a location that could manage the large number of attendees, while having enough flexibility to allow for movement and mingling. Wells finally found what the group needed at Escafe with owner Todd Howard. Wells states, “We have worked together to perfect it over the years – better and better, smoother and smoother,” adding, “We have loved the ambiance.”

Currently, the format at the restaurant allows attendees to come in over a period time, have drinks and hor d’oeuvres, mingle, and then choose their seating arrangements at their own discretion. This allows each individual to “define their own experience,” according to Wells: Seating is not constrained by graduation year, position held at the CD, or time of showing up at the restaurant.

“It totally morphed into an event that was so much more conducive to the enjoyment of the people who came,” Wells says.

In addition to Wells’ work on the event logistics, he has spread word of the reunion far beyond his own peers and colleagues at the CD. As a result,the reunion is now known among nearly all years of CD membership.

Darlene Wood (Col. ’76) is a regular attendee at the Weekend Reunions, having not missed one since 2008. Wood learned about the event via email, after the event morphed from a private gathering into being open to all CD members. Each year, she is heartened to see the event grow. “I look at the email list [for the event] and I am glad to see more and more people on it,” she says.

Wood, who served both as an Assistant Features Editor and a Technical Assistant in her two years with the CD, appreciates the Reunions as a way to catch up with her CD colleagues. “It is such a pleasure to be with these guys,” Wood says. “The Editors-in-Chief that I looked up to [while at the CD] are all there. I did something right in my life to be here!”

Wood sees these events as a way to mark the progress of the paper, to witness how it has evolved through the years until today. “I think it’s hilarious,” she says. “When I first came [to the CD offices] on the first day, it was only the third year of [the University] accepting women, and the first year that it was fifty-fifty men and women. The women that were editors came in to work in dresses, heels, stockings, pearls – the whole work. Even that year, though, things really started changing.”

Kip Coons (Col. ’76) has also not missed a Reunion since 2008. He lauds these events as a unique way to share experiences in a way that cuts across all years. “At a class reunion, you just see your class,” he explains. “With this format, everyone in all years is invited to come back… There is a good turnout from all decades.”

Coons, who served as Sports Editor, believes that these Reunions are a good way to tap into the collective wisdom of years of journalism experience. “A lot of things we did have changed,” he says. “The changes in technology – we were using stone knives and bear skins to put [out the paper] compared to today! But a lot of the issues we faced are the same as now. Access, working with sources, funding, things like that – it’s just part of the industry. But they are lessons worth sharing: how we solved them, and how they should now.”

Having been involved in the journalism field during a period of turbulence, with the Watergate scandal and the Vietnam War, Coons reflects that the “busy time for news” had a significant impact on the number of people joining and remaining in the field. “There was a serious visibility of the craft at that time,” he says. Today, he says, the relationships he formed during this period remain as special as they once were.

Former Editor-in-Chief Jason Ally (Col. ’12), who has attended every Reunion since his attendance as a Managing Board member in 2011, represents the growing number of recent graduates in attendance at these events. In addition to being an event to reconnect with colleagues and peers, Ally views these Reunions as a way to encourage meaningful and substantive aid for The Cavalier Daily.

“[Attendees] are in fields professionally relevant to the current CD staff,” Ally explains. “There are all sorts of alumni in fields like journalism, marketing, finance, digital media – these are all things we can leverage for the CD in an impactful way.” Ally says these events allow current staff members to benefit from the collective knowledge and generosity of past members.

In addition to providing support and experience to the CD, Ally, like Coons, appreciates these events as a way to witness the similarities over the generations of CD members. “It’s funny to reminisce [with other attendees],” he says. “The same storylines that [members] dealt with before are still relevant today… There is commonality even though so many years have passed.”

Wells lauds Ally and former Editor-in-Chief and current CDAA President Matt Cameron (Col. ’13) for helping the Reunions reach a crowd of recently graduated attendees. According to Wells, this has allowed for an increase in outreach for CD alums, both in number and in smoothness of operation. According to Wells, the “mechanics have now become second nature.”

As the scale of the Reunions continues to grow, the heart of the event remains Wells’ desire to ensure the continued interconnectedness of CD members through the generations.

“I have never been happier, work-wise, than when I was with the CD,” he says. “I have never been with an organization that meant as much to me – and still does. It is a really special place.”

Individuals interested in attending the upcoming November Weekend Reunion should reach out to Steve Wells at ( ) to receive information about tickets and scheduling.