The Alumni Tailgate attracts Lehigh graduates to reconnect with the university and former classmates. This year, nearly 800 alumni have already signed up for the tailgate. (Sam Henry/B&W Staff) 

Return to roots: Alumni reconnect for The Rivalry

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The alumni tailgate attracts hundreds of Lehigh alumni to return to campus, reunite with friends and take part in various activities for the annual Lehigh-Lafayette football game, known as The Rivalry.

Jennifer Cunningham, the vice president of Alumni Relations, said the alumni tailgate is successful and is something many alumni partake in.

“Two years ago, we started an All Alumni tailgate at the game and had no idea how it would be received, since so many people do their own tailgates that are really well done,” Cunningham said. “We ended up having over 600 people the first year.”

This year, nearly 800 alumni have registered for the tailgate, Cunningham said.  

Barry Glickman, a member of the Lehigh University Alumni Association Board of Directors and president of the class of ‘79, said he attends Le-Laf every year. 

“I don’t think I have missed a home Lehigh-Lafayette game in over the past 10 or 15 years,” Glickman said. 

Glickman said, even as a student, the game and the week leading up to the game was something he always looked forward to.

“Going back to when I was a student, when I arrived on campus in the fall of 1975, the big events were the bonfire, the Turkey Trot, there was still a talent show,” he said. “The game was something that nobody would miss. Then, over the years after you graduate, it becomes the highlight of the year for alumni other than in their reunion year.” 

Now, Glickman and many other alumni use this weekend to reconnect with the university.

Glickman said he is able to meet up with former classmates, fraternity brothers and faculty. 

Sarah Thomson, ‘13, the current president of the Young Alumni Council, said she always regarded Lehigh-Lafayette with positive memories. 

“I grew up in Bethlehem, and my parents, grandfather, a cousin and uncle went to Lehigh,” Thomson said. “Lehigh-Lafayette is basically a big family reunion for us every year. I associate Lehigh-Lafayette with Christmas morning.”

Thomson said no matter where the game was held, she and her family would tailgate and share stories about Lehigh in the ‘50s and ‘80s.

“For a number of years, my grandparents used to always host a big party at their house after the game for all of their friends, my parents’ friends and their kids our age,” Thomson said. 

Even alumni who can’t make it to the game participate in the festivities. 

Cunningham said alumni volunteer to make arrangements to watch the game in places around the world.

“We do about 60 to 65 watch parties around the world every year,” she said. “Sometimes the events are done in conjunction with Lafayette, and people seem to really like that because it’s a rivalry in person. We probably get over 1,000 people around the world that participate.” 

Alumni can watch events on campus throughout the week on social media. 

Cunningham said alumni enjoy watching the Bed Races and other events during Spirit Week. She said the events remind alumni of when they were students on campus.

The Rivalry has become an event alumni from across the globe look forward to every year. 

“These are two schools connected by a common DNA,” Glickman said. “It’s a very strong rivalry, but a friendly rivalry. When you get out of college and you go on with your life and have an opportunity to interact with Lafayette graduates, it’s a very special feeling. The Rivalry is unlike any other relationship we have with other Patriot League schools or otherwise.”

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