This past weekend, alumni flocked back to campus for their fifth to sixtieth reunions, kicking back and enjoying the perfect Southern spring weather in record numbers.
Lisa Dilts, director of reunions for the Office of Alumni Affairs, said more than 3,734 alumni had registered to attend the University's annual reunion as of April 15. Reunion organizers expected that number to increase significantly by the time of final registration April 16.
"We know from past experience that we typically have 300 to 400 people who show up to the registration tent without any reservations," said Laney Funderburk, associate vice president for alumni affairs and development and director of the alumni affairs office. "Then we always have a number--we don't know how many--that never get around to registering at all. So it's truly a mammoth crowd this year."
Funderburk said this year's attendees represent nearly a third of the graduates from the classes holding reunions. Of these 12 reunion classes this weekend, five had already exceeded previous attendance records by April 15. The previous overall attendance record was 3,458, set in 2001.
"When I began my career at Duke in the '60s, 400 to 500 was the total registration for all returning alumni for all classes," Funderburk said. "Now we have several classes that have that many registered just for themselves."
Funderburk said more people tend to attend their 25th and 50th reunions than any others. He added, however, that the classes of 1989 and 1994 turned out particularly impressive numbers this year.
"The 10th and 15th reunions in the past were not highly attended," he said. "But word of mouth is part of this increase because people have come to reunions in the last few years and talked to their friends about it. It helps attract attendance."
Dilts attributed this year's impressive turnout to the success of the new-and-improved reunions weekend concept rolled out five years ago in which all of the reunions are held together in the spring.
"'This is the first group of repeat alumni, those who have already sampled the new paradigm," she said in a statement. "I think they really enjoyed the new format and experiences they had five years ago and are looking forward to having it again."
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