Alumni association prepares for return of in-person meetings

After two years of virtual programming due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the University plans to hold in-person alumni reunions all three weekends from May 26 through June 12.

Collaborating journalist

David Zheng, lead photographer

After a two-year hiatus, the Yale Alumni Association, or YAA, announced in January that class reunions would return to New Haven in 2022.

Each spring when the students leave campus, the alumni return for a weekend of celebration. Since the start of the pandemic, however, the reunion ritual has changed, with alumni forced to celebrate virtually. But this year, meetings will again be held in person for three successive weekends, beginning May 26 and ending June 12, for all class years that are a multiple of five years after graduation. Members of the Class of 2015 and 2016 will also be in attendance, having missed their first reunion in five years due to COVID-19.

Guests will be required to adhere to the University’s COVID-19 protocols, which currently include an indoor mask mandate and vaccination and booster requirement, but are subject to change based on changing local public health conditions. . In keeping with these guidelines, the YAA is planning a host of events for alumni to reconnect on campus, with specific details to be announced in March.

“Meetings are a special time on campus,” YAA executive director Weili Cheng ’77 told The News. “We are bound by a common experience at Yale; being able to share this with others is a remarkable feeling… We look forward to seeing old friends again and making new ones.

But, although meetings are returning to Yale, things will be different from before the pandemic.

In a planning update released in late January, the YAA noted that due to staffing shortages, it would not be able to offer childcare services to returning alumni this spring. The YAA also decided to eliminate the traditional Yale Singing Celebration — in accordance with a University policy limiting “aerosolization activities” — as well as the Welcome Reception on Cross Campus. The YAA has also warned attendees that there will be de-densification requirements for indoor events, which will limit attendance in buildings, tents and other enclosed areas.

But, despite the restrictions, some traditions will endure. EJ Crawford, senior director of marketing and communications for YAA, said “Morning at Yale” — “a program of lectures and tours featuring Yale faculty” — will continue to take place on Saturdays. He further added that the university’s president, Peter Salovey, would speak every weekend at Woolsey Hall. Class-specific rituals should also continue, Crawford said.

The return of in-person meetings will also be a boon for New Haven businesses. Four local hotels –– the Study at Yale, the Graduate New Haven, the New Haven Hotel and the Marriot Courtyard –– are already fully booked for the duration of the reunion weekends. Rooms are still available through the YAA website at the Omni Hotel and the Marcel Hotel at Long Wharf, which is the first net zero emissions hotel in the United States.

Local restaurants are also excited for meetings to return to New Haven. Christina Fitzgerald, co-owner of the Union League Café as well as its director of sales and marketing, said the return of meetings, along with other Yale-sponsored events, has brought her “happiness and relief.”

Fitzgerald noted that before the pandemic, Yale-related events — from meetings to business lunches to catering at President Salovey’s residence — accounted for more than half of the cafe’s business. The loss of that business was “detrimental,” she said.

The Yale Alumni Association was officially founded in 1972.

Andrew B. Reiter