A flood of green T-shirts, shamrocks everywhere, and most importantly, University students and alumni gathered together— this can only mean one thing, Shamrockin’ Eve.
This evening celebration in the spirit of St. Patrick’s Day always stands as the event of the year for University seniors and recent graduates. Everyone knows it is an evening full of friends and dancing, but what seems to be forgotten is Shamrockin’ Eve’s roots in welcoming the senior class to the alumni community and giving back to The University.
Shamrockin’ Eve began at the 2008 Presidential Alumni Retreat with president of The University at the time, The Rev. Scott Pilarz, S.J. and a group of alumni. Pilarz’s goal was to create an event that brought alumni back to their alma mater before their five-year reunion. He wanted the event to bring a larger group of alumni together to connect with current senior students at The University.
John Gownley, ’06, a Scranton native who serves on the Alumni Society Board of Governors, was among this group of alumni at Chapman Lake. Gownley and the other alumni saw the convenience of Parade Day weekend as the perfect time for such a reunion.
“Naturally alumni come up anyway; it’s a natural homecoming for Scranton,” Gownley said.
The original board decided to bring together not only graduates by class, but by five-year groupings, which later expanded to 10-year groupings.
“You’re more than just your class. We saw a benefit because you’re not just with your peer classmates during your time at Scranton. I was involved with many campus activities involving students both older and younger than me— I wanted to see everyone,” Gownley said.
Envious of the Class of 2009, Gownley wishes Shamrockin’ Eve was established while he was a student.
“I definitely would have appreciated the event. Networking with alumni was big for the business students, but not so much for the rest of us,” Gownley said. “The University has come leaps and bounds with alumni interaction.”
As a member of the Alumni Society Board of Governors, Gownley hopes to interact with many young alumni and seniors.
“Sharing stories naturally happens on this evening, no matter what stage of life you’re in,” Gownley said.
Michael Ritterbeck, ’09, assistant director of Center for Student Engagement, played another important role in the first Shamrockin’ Eve. A senior at the time, Ritterbeck served on the original Shamrockin’ Eve committee.
In addition to dedicating many hours to planning, selling tickets sales and raising awareness for the event, Ritterbeck and the committee focused on establishing the event as the official welcoming to the alumni community for the senior class. Ritterbeck said the reason seniors were invited was to introduce them to “a whole community of people that have an affinity for Scranton.”
“It’s a chance to gather and really celebrate the Scranton community. This is what keeps people coming back,” Ritterbeck said.
Ritterbeck smiled as he recalled memories from the first Shamrockin’ Eve.
“The Irish band was my favorite part,” said Ritterbeck, “I wasn’t sure if I was going to like the band, but it was incredibly fun and they brought traditional Irish culture to the event.”
Having attended the event as a student and returning as an alumnus, Ritterbeck said the gathering still remains “just as special as the original one.”
Shamrockin’ Eve 2015 expects to deliver the same tradition alumni remember and uphold its excellent reputation with the Scranton community. Stressing The University’s pay-it-forward mission, this year’s donations will support The University’s Textbook Scholarship Fund.
In honor of the seventh Shamrockin’ Eve, the goal is to raise enough money for seven scholarships. These scholarships will relieve the financial burden of paying for textbooks for seven first-year students in need.
“Our motto this year is that we are ‘Shamrockin’ for a Reason,’” Alex Maier, coordinator for recent graduate and student engagement, said. “Everyone can relate to the financial inconvenience of paying for textbooks, so this should give some incentive to help out future students.”
Adding a hint of competition to the event, this year Shamrockin’ Eve is having its second Class Cup Challenge. All classes from 2005 to 2015 will compete against each other, and the class with the highest number of donors from Feb. 1 to the night of the event, March 13, at 10 p.m. will win the challenge.
The winning class year will be engraved on the class cup trophy, which will be displayed on campus and recognized in the Scranton Journal and Royal News. Not to mention the biggest perk of all— the winning class will have bragging rights as the class with the most Scranton pride.
Feb. 27, 2015