NCCU Homecoming parade draws hundreds
Bill Evans loves a parade, especially when it happens at his alma mater – N.C. Central University.
That’s why Evans, who has attended every Homecoming but one since he graduated in 1962, had a sunny demeanor Saturday morning as it rained lightly on the school’s parade.
“I love seeing people that you haven’t seen in a long time,” Evans, who earned his 50-year NCCU Eagles pin last year, said. “I love the parade – and sometimes the football game,” he said with a laugh.
Evans was one of dozens of NCCU alumni who gathered for coffee and pastries at the university’s alumni house on Fayetteville Street as they waited for the parade to begin.
The procession, which included eight floats and more than 600 participants, began at W.G. Pearson Elementary School on Fayetteville Street and ended at Lawson Street at the university campus.
Marching band members transformed a dreary morning into a feast for the ears – with drums, clarinets, trombones and flutes bringing a crowd of hundreds to its feet. One woman in a wheelchair pulled past the curb to get a good look.
The smell of grilled turkey legs and hot dogs filled the air as the band played on.
NCCU alumna Pecolia Josey Grove, Class of 1961, said she loves Homecoming.
“The campus has expanded so much from the time I was here,” she said. “I like to see old friends and make new ones, and to see the changes and improvements.”
Grove, from Hartsville, S.C., retired after working in Fayetteville with the N.C. Department of Correction and as a school social worker. She made it through NCCU (known then as N.C. College at Durham), in 2½ years by attending classes year-round.
“I was a very serious student,” she said. “Most people come to college, and they’re into partying, but I came from a family of 11 and was the oldest, so I had a lot of responsibility from the beginning.”
Louise Wilkins Weeks, who graduated in 1971, has lived in Durham most her life. She said Homecoming is one event she tries not to miss.
“Watching the parade is a big part of why I come – getting up early and waving as it goes by,” she said. “And I go to the football game. I always end with that.”
For Tania Butler Davis, president of the NCCU Alumni Association, Homecoming is “a time when the campus just livens up.”
“When I was a student, it was always interesting to see what the alumni looked like, because you could almost see their success,” she said. “They come back sharply dressed, looking good and bright-eyed. They hug, talk and cry. It’s a great, very family-oriented time.”
Davis graduated in 1994, and works in Washington for NASA as a senior procurement analyst. She was furloughed during the recent federal government shutdown, which ended Thursday.
That gave her more time to prepare for Homecoming, which drew an estimated 70 people to the alumni house Saturday.
“As a student, you think: ‘One day that’s going to be me,’ she said of alumni. “And now that it is me, I’m yelling out people’s names and hugging them. It’s just a great time to be on campus.”