When Nancy Whitten wants to see old friends, she organizes a BYU reunion, and she encourages others to do the same.
There’s nothing like a party to vitalize Nancy Perine Whitten, ’79, a self-described extrovert. As a student, she liked to move every school year so she could meet and make more friends—or, she says, “Maybe it was to look at the new guys.”
Although Whitten left BYU, married, and is raising a family, she found herself missing those friends from a quarter of a century ago—and she decided to do something about it. Now a resident of Estero, Fla., she contacted the BYU Alumni Association for help in pulling together a BYU Homecoming reunion in October 2001 for friends who attended BYU from her home ward in McLean, Va.
Alumni Records gave her extended access to the database, and Alumni Activities assisted with a mailing. Event planner Nancy L. Carson also reserved a room for the gathering and helped with catering. Because the event occurred during Homecoming, the association was able to secure tickets to the football game and Homecoming Spectacular.
“We had the best turnout,” Whitten says, “and we had a great time. This ward had an outstanding group of kids, and most of them were admitted to BYU. Instead of playing a lot of games or mixers, we brought pictures to share and spent the evening talking. It was so fun I wanted to do another one.”
For her second reunion, held during Homecoming 2003, Whitten invited everyone from Helaman Halls who had been in her first branch. She had saved her branch directory and used it to make contacts.
“A lot of my really good friends came,” she says. “We even had people travel from Tennessee and Washington State, and our former bishop and one of his counselors attended.”
Whitten’s focus then turned to her branch from the Riviera apartments, for which she is planning a reunion that will be held later this year. “This was the most social group I ever met, and it still is,” she says. “I sent out my first letter and started getting calls and letters from people whose addresses I didn’t even have. They had heard about the reunion from other people, and I wasn’t too surprised they wanted to come. They had been a tightly knit group back then.”
Again she is planning a Homecoming reunion with a weekend of activities. “I encourage anyone interested in reconnecting with former classmates to get a branch list or gather a group of friends to reminisce about their lives and BYU,” Whitten says.
Assistant event planner Shiloh M. Roan, ’02, also encourages others to create their own reunions. “If any of our alumni are missing their friends from BYU and would like to reconnect, let us help you. We have found that the greatest connections some people have are through the social groups, performance groups, or semester study-abroad groups with whom they affiliated as students.” She and Carson recently assisted a cheer squad, athletes from the 1960–64 basketball team, and a Spain study-abroad program.
“Our class-year reunions are most successful for those classes who attended BYU when it had a smaller student body, such as 1943 and 1953,” adds Roan. “In later years we have found that reunions centered on smaller academic units—an MBA or Communications Department reunion, for example—work well.”
“If the group was directly affiliated with BYU, we can usually work with you,” Carson says. “For wards and branches, someone will need a list or a good memory. The people they seek also need to be BYU students, because our records would not contain information about nonstudents. What I always say is that the more information someone has, the better, but we’re always willing to help.”
“I’ve loved these parties,” Whitten adds. “All it takes for friends to reconnect is for one person to take the initiative.”