Alumni from more than 150 years of Western Maryland College and McDaniel College history returned to the campus Saturday to celebrate the school's 150th anniversary Saturday, bringing new lives and perspectives to their old traditions and friendships.
The school held a 150th birthday celebration throughout the day, commemorating a century and a half of academia with music, activities and tours, culminating in a climactic homecoming game. Throughout the day alumni from the past 60 years of graduates returned to the quad they formerly called home, reminiscing about the buildings, classes and friendships that formed over the decades. Some brought new families along, showing them the school for the first time, while others strolled the grounds with the same friends and significant others they made while attending the college.
Franklin Caplan, of Key Biscayane, Florida, graduated from the school in 1977. He said it had been 25 years since he had last stepped foot on campus.
"It looks beautiful, and I have this feeling of being rooted being back here," Caplan said. "I feel like Scarlett O'Hara going back to Tara."
Caplan studied political science and sociology at the college, and he said he received a great education. Today he is a lawyer and former mayor in Florida. He said it's interesting to return to a place with so many memories after a long absence.
Though he said the campus itself hadn't changed much, Westminster seemed completely different than he remembered. He said while he rode into town in an Uber, he barely recognized the area thanks to the growth of strip malls and suburbanization.
Despite the changes, once on campus, he said everything fell immediately back into a groove.
"I met up with some of my classmates and friends," Caplan said. "We're in a pattern of life where we don't really talk to each other until we see each other at these events. It's amazing how easily you pick up on conversations 40 years apart."
It wasn't only alumni present for the day's activities as parents of current students also came out to celebrate the anniversary and watch the football team compete on the field. Diane Katrakazis, of Philadelphia, said she never misses a football game, since her son, Markos, is on the team.
She said it was an honor to be at the school for its 150th anniversary.
"What an accomplishment, 150 years," Katrakazis said. "It just speaks volumes at the academic resources and the history of everything."
For those interested in the history of the school, they have erected a display in the Rice Gallery in Peterson Hall taking guests through a timeline of Western Maryland College and McDaniel College notable events. In a glass case are some pieces of memorabilia, including decades old football equipment and varsity jackets.
One of McDaniel's most prized and longest-running traditions is that of tailgating before its football games, and through the combination of the 150th birthday celebration and the homecoming game, hundreds came out with grills, tents and friends in tow to party before the game began.
Jeffrey Candrew, a 1992 graduate, said he returns to the campus to tailgate several times a year. Since this was his 25-year reunion, he said he knew they had to pull out all the stops for this year's tailgate. Though he played football himself, and thus didn't get a chance to participate in tailgating while attending the school, he said back then it was an entire culture and way of life.
Though some things have changed, he said it's good to see it still thrive.
"You see the couches out here and the letters on the hill, and it's all the same," Candrew said. "The tents are new though."
Current senior Noel Nunnermacker, who was out hours before the game, began talking with her friend, fellow senior Sarah Rasch, as Rasch grilled hot dogs for their entire group. Rasch said it was exciting to know that so many people were going to be at the school for their senior year homecoming game, but it was still sad knowing that it'd be their last tailgate as students.
Despite their impending graduation, Nunnermacker insisted it wouldn't be their last McDaniel tailgate. When asked what they would be doing for McDaniel's 200th anniversary party, she responded, "We'll be back, and we'll still be tailgating."