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Alumni march on at NIU homecoming

(Rob Winner – rwinner@shawmedia.com)
Northern Illinois alumni John Joyce uses tongs to select a grilled bratwurst while tailgating outside Huskie Stadium in DeKalb before Saturday's homecoming game.

Every time homecoming rolls around, NIU alumnus Doug Pelt looks forward to marching in the band with his old buddies.

Pelt graduated in 2001 with a degree in music education and now is a band director at a private school. However, there is something special that keeps him coming back to campus for homecoming.

“It’s pretty nice to be able to be on field again,” Pelt said. “It brings back memories.”

Pelt, along with about 74 other Huskie Marching Band alumni, performed on the field of Huskie Stadium on Saturday before NIU’s game against Buffalo. The Huskies defeated the Bulls, 45-3.

“We live our former glory on the marching band field,” Pelt said with a smile on his face. “We feel like we’re young again.”

Joseph Matty, executive director of the NIU Alumni Association, helped coordinate the event. All seven of the university’s colleges, along with five associations, gathered in Alumni Village near the stadium for free food and entertainment before the game.

Matty said there are about 225,000 living alumni, with about 180,000 alumni living in Illinois, and homecoming is a popular place for alumni and their families to come together.

“It’s a good opportunity for people to see the changes, and we hope that they get excited that they’re coming back to campus,” he said.

NIU President John Peters said homecoming is one of his favorite times of the year. Saturday was his last homecoming as NIU’s president; he announced his retirement Thursday.

“I wish it wasn’t raining, but it’s not dampening anyone’s spirits,” Peters said.

Andrea Grasley, a 2002 College of Business graduate, goes to nearly every NIU game. She has season tickets, but homecoming is always a little different.

“We get to come to the College of Business tent and get free stuff,” Grasley said with a koozie sleeve for her drink in her hand. The college also was handing out ponchos because of the rain.

Jeff Valentine, a 1975 graduate, came back to meet with his fraternity brothers. Valentine is an alumnus of Sigma Pi, a fraternity that has been at NIU since 1959.

Homecoming is the focal point of the year to come back to campus, Valentine said.

“You run into people that were your enemies, but you don’t care now,” he said. “You made it out alive… rehashing memories. That’s what it’s all about.”


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