Highlights of alumni weekend

Photo of Howard Heevner in Sammy the Slug costume.

Photo of UCSC student Helen Porter.

Photo of Leon Panetta.

Top: Sammy joined me on Saturday. Photo by Ken Feingold. Middle: Helen Porter at Launch!. Leon Panetta drew a big crowd Friday night. Photos by Steve Kurtz.

What does it mean when campus leaders show up to meetings as Sammy the Slug? Only one thing: It must be Alumni Weekend at UC Santa Cruz.

Howard Heevner, our assistant vice chancellor of constitutent engagement, set the tone for the weekend at our Saturday morning Alumni Council meeting, and the rest of the day did not disappoint. From three outstanding faculty teach-in's ("classes without quizzes") to Mission Hill Creamery's ice cream, the lineup on Saturday had something for everyone.

The three-day celebration kicked off Friday night, when hundreds of alumni and guests attended Launch!, a celebration of the UCSC student experience and a keynote speech by Leon Panetta. The strolling dinner was a great success as guests had a chance to meet current students and heard about their work. One student participant, Helen Porter, described her four years at UCSC to the group gathered for Panetta's keynote address, and she brought down the house when she talked about everything she has done here and the depth of gratitude she feels toward those who support financial aid programs. It was a proud moment.

I was honored to introduce Panetta, a longtime friend of the campus, and I unabashedly soaked up his message of the importance of education to democracy. I loved it when he said an informed public is the key to breaking the gridlock that has paralyzed Washington, D.C., and couldn't agree more that education isn't a luxury; it's indispensable to our democracy.

The Saturday teach-in's were popular, with Alison Galloway describing her work as a forensic anthropologist (A Day in the Life of the Dead—what a great title!), biomolecular engineer Ed Green tracing the family tree of Homo Sapiens and Neandertals, and Bruce Thompson telling tales of spying and espionage during World War I and World War II.

For the third year in a row, Carolyn Lagattuta and Rob Knight staffed a photo booth, snapping souvenir 5" x 7" photos for all who posed—with or without optional Slug regalia that included feather boas, a slug mustache, fleece antennae, and bright yellow sunglasses. They even snapped a shot of proud parents with their grinning member of the Class of 2035!

Most importantly, alumni had a chance to reconnect with a special place and time in their lives. That's what Alumni Weekend is all about.

Comments or questions? Write to chancellor@ucsc.edu and put "Alumni" in the subject line