Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

Serving the Southern Illinois University community since 1916.

The Daily Egyptian

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How past Homecomings might inform the future


Southern Illinois has been hosting Homecoming celebrations since the early 1920s, from football games to the annual parade and bonfire nights. But as the years have passed, the excitement and importance of Homecoming week has begun to fade away for some.

The first time SIU hosted an official Homecoming was in 1921, when the school was still referred to as Southern Illinois Normal University and its mascot was the “Maroons.”

In 1925, the Dunbar Society was organized at Southern and it began holding other events during the week leading up to the Homecoming football game. This included a formal dance that took place in Davies Gymnasium where the king and queen elections were held until the 1940s.


Dorthy Benner, a sophmore in 1928, was voted the “football queen.” This was later turned into the Homecoming court and the elections that take place online today.

In those early years, prior to the Homecoming football game, performers of all sorts (including Bob Dylan in the ‘70s) would take the stage in Shryock Auditorium for events leading up to the game.

As the 1930’s rolled around, all of the Greek houses were located in the same area near Thompson Point. This was when fraternity and sorority life became more prominent among college students. During Homecoming week, Greek organizations would festoon their front yards with elaborate decorations to compete with other organizations to see who had the best spirit to match that year’s theme.

Along with their elaborate decorations, different Greek organizations would also hold a Homecoming bonfire and create floats for the parade.

In the early years of SIU, freshmen were required to wear green ribbons or beanies to signify their status as new students. Once the Homecoming bonfire rolled around, freshmen were allowed to toss their green items into the fire to show that they were now a part of the student body.

The traditions of Homecoming have changed over the years. While the football game tailgate that takes place on the Saturday of Homecoming week is a very popular event for many students, fans and alumni, many of the past traditions that many loved no longer take place.

Ed Buerger, the retired executive director of the SIU Alumni Association and class of 1970, recollected his days as a student and employee of Southern Illinois University.


“I graduated in 1970… then returned as an employee of SIU in 1983. I was the assistant director for the Alumni Association, basically traveling all over the United States, building chapters and meeting with alumni trying to get them reinvolved in the life of the institution,” Buerger said.

Coming from a long line of Salukis, Buerger understood the importance of the alumni of SIU.  He saw Homecoming as an opportunity to get alumni reengaged with their alma mater and allow them to relive some parts of their college life.

During Buerger’s time as a prominent part of the Alumni Association, it would host a massive alumni event where food was provided from brats and chips to beer and salad.

“There would be hot food at all times during the event. Each school in the college would have their own specific table… so the alums would come through and pick up information about their college and talk to old professors and the dean,” Buerger said.

When Buerger was attending SIU and employed by the school, the town of Carbondale and the attendance rate of the school were booming.

“The Greek system was a lot stronger in the 60s and the 70s than it currently is. As you may know, most all of the Greek organizations were on campus, out past Thompson Point, and so there was a fairly strong Greek organization there that really sponsored a lot of Homecoming activities that were very active and kind of gave impetus to Homecoming,” Buerger said.

In the more recent years, including this one, Southern Illinois Homecoming week is made up of the kick-off pep rally, the Homecoming concert, a food drive, the Saluki Block party, various alumni events, a step show and, of course, the Homecoming parade and tailgate, not to mention the football game.

One event Buerger talked about that is still carried on today was the 50-year class reunion. This year’s reunion will be the class of 1973. Some other events that will be hosted for alumni during Homecoming weekend are the veterans gathering, the young alumni social and the band reunion.

The theme for this year’s Homecoming is “Salukis in Paradise: a celebration of Southern Illinois as our home away from home!”

With up-and-coming, top-of-the-charts performer NLE Choppa having made his way to Carbondale for Tuesday’s Homecoming concert, the city is bound to be as lively as years past.

Many believe that more involvement and effort by students to create more events and competitions like those held years ago could bring back the environment that Homecoming used to be.

The future of Homecoming at Southern Illinois engenders high hopes, with enrollment on the rise and alumni wanting to get more involved with their alma mater in many ways. One being bringing their children along for the ride and showing them what Southern is all about with hopes of them following in their parents’ footsteps and becoming a Saluki.

What is the future of Homecoming at SIU? That remains to be seen, but some think it will be best if the old ways factor in.


Staff Reporter Joei Younker can be reached at [email protected].


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