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A Spirit of ‘Family’ Unites Students, Alumni at Lander Homecoming

Preserving the day in photos was the goal of many Lander University students, including Presidential Ambassadors. Photo by Deb Crenshaw-Nygro

Homecoming is defined as “a return home” or the “return of a group of people on a special occasion to a place formerly regarded as home.”

For Lander University students and alumni who celebrated Homecoming 2024, the day was also about the spirit of “family” found on the campus.

Sophomore Kaitlin Andrews, a nursing major from Barnwell, said she was drawn to Lander because of the “family-like community.” A Fall 2023 pledge in Alpha Kappa Alpha (AKA), Andrews joined her sorority sisters for her first tailgating celebration at Lander.  

“We’re a sisterhood of like-minded women and being around my sisters who have been at Lander gives me inspiration,” Andrews said.

Among her new “sisters” was Akaysha Murray, a chemist in Charlotte, who said, “Lander was like a big family for me.”

Murray posed for photographs with AKA sorority sisters Hannah Whaley, a Charlotte attorney specializing in immigration law, and Ajadae Williams-Nicholson, a U.S. Navy veteran who teaches special education in Newberry.

The alumni, who graduated in 2018, spoke fondly of the professors who had helped them through their classes. “They opened my eyes to what my future could be like,” Whaley said. “The professors at Lander are amazing, and the one-on-one communication with them helped me get where I am today.”

Whaley, who transferred to Lander after a semester at another university, said, “After the first day, people were speaking to me. If I didn’t know something, they took time to help me. It truly was a family.”

When she completed her military service, Williams-Nicholson attended a career fair where she was able to apply to Lander. “It was the best decision. My education prepared me to work with students and to work with other teachers and administrators. I was well-prepared for my career. I tell my students, ‘Lander is a great place.’”

Omega Psi Phi alumni and their friends are among the most dedicated tailgate participants. The celebration for the fraternity members has been going on for more than a decade. Photo by Deb Crenshaw-Nygro

As he watched Lander students, alumni and families participate in the games and tailgating on Lander’s front lawn, Dr. Demario Watts, director of Student Life and Orientation Programs, said, “It has been a great tailgating experience. We are happy to see so many of our students and alumni here.”

Despite the scheduling demands of a full week of activities and programs, Watts said, “This is one of my favorite times of the year.”

With a prime location at Lander’s signature fountain, DJ Sha, of Greenwood, set the vibe for the day with music that extended over the games and tailgate parties on the campus. He said he tailors the music to the audience. “I like to keep it fun and upbeat so that everyone can enjoy the day. I look for a mix of music for the crowd. I try to find something for everyone.”

Freshman Aiden Osborne, a marketing management major from Myrtle Beach, said he decided to “attend every event possible” for his first Homecoming at Lander. A member of Delta Sigma Phi fraternity, Osborne said, “I love seeing everyone coming together, especially today. It’s been my best week at Lander.”

Sierra Harrison, a senior nursing major from Greenwood, enjoyed the day with her friends from the Lander Anime-niacs organization.

“I’ll graduate in May, so today is bittersweet for me,” Harrison said. “I definitely want to come back as an alum and be part of this again.”

In addition to tailgating and spending time with friends, Lander’s Homecoming included sports events, the crowning of Homecoming King, Jermon Franklin, and Homecoming Queen, Mary Kiss, and the presentation of alumni awards.

Student organizations had the chance to compete in events to earn Blue Cup or Gold Cup honors. Points were accrued throughout the week for the different challenges.

The 2024 Blue Cup was won by Lander’s Presidential Ambassadors. Zeta Tau Alpha and Delta Sigma Phi earned the Gold Cup.


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