By: Jake Carver ’21
From April 13th to 15th, alumni and former faculty returned to Davidson for the Union Board Reunion. This event marked the third Union Board Reunion, with the others occurring in 1987 and 1997. The first coincided with the retirement of C. Shaw Smith, the first College Union director, and the second occurred during the planning and fundraising for the Alvarez College Union.
This year’s celebration occurred the year after the retirement of William Brown ‘70 as College Union director. Brown passed the baton to Mike Goode ‘83, who has held the position for the entirety of this academic year and has been busy helping plan and organize the reunion.
The weekend-long event attempted to gather as many people as possible associated with the student-run organization since its inception in 1957. Approximately 1,600 people were invited and around 120 attended. Participants included alumni who attended Davidson as far back as the early 1970s.
Goode understands that those outside the Union Board may not understand the purpose of the organization or the reason for the reunion in general. “The Union Board is involved with pretty much everything on campus,” explained Goode, who served on the Union Board himself during his time as a student. “[Union Board alumni] generally have a very strong connection to Davidson and a unique perspective of how this school operates.”
While the Union Board is now intrinsically tied to the Alvarez College Union, the Union Board has historically operated out of various other facilities. This includes what is now the Sloan Music Center, which was initially a library. During this time, Smith focused his efforts on making the Union a place of community and inclusivity. He once said: “you come to the Union to find a partner for bridge, and you end up finding a partner for life.”
This sense of community applies to Union Board alumni just as much as Davidson alumni in general. While the amenities available to the Union Board fifty years ago pale in comparison to Davidson’s facilities today, there was a shared sense of purpose in all who attended the reunion. This is especially true for this year’s outgoing Union Board President, Meredith Hess ‘18, who admits that her role has changed relatively little over the years.
“It’s great for me…It’s really easy and useful to translate my experiences to other people who have been [Union Board president],” reflected Hess. “As someone who has held multiple positions in Union Board, I can say that even though the way we go about things may be different from in the past, the goal of the organization has remained the same.”
A main focus of the event was the sharing of knowledge and experience between generations. Besides meals that brought different generations of Union Board members to the same table, multiple events were held to open up communication between the attendees. One was storytelling-focused meetings where participants were divided into groups by age. While nostalgic for many reminiscing on their college days, older alumni were reaffirmed of the Union Board’s continuing excellence; they were also useful resources for current Union Board members to learn from the successes and mistakes of the past.
“We are really trying to connect [current Union Board members] to the history of the Union Board,” remarked Goode. “A lot of major organizations on campus began as committees on the Union Board, a clear example being Davidson Outdoors… The Union Board has always been a force to make space for stuff to happen, and it’s nice to remind [current Union Board members] of that.”
The night of the 14th featured speeches by Goode and Hess about the state of the College Union and the state of the Union Board, respectively. This was followed by an honoring of Brown. The night was a memorable end to Hess’s time at Davidson, who will be graduating and passing on her presidential position to Anna Ferdinand ‘19 next year.
“[The Union Board Reunion] was tough to plan and Union Board can be stressful,” reflected Hess. “But if we have fifteen people [on the Union Board] who are willing to put in a significant amount of their personal time, I want to make sure that time was being spent wisely. I want to make sure everyone involved feels valued by us and each other.”