Q&A with Melinda Burke, President of the UA Alumni Association and the woman behind the week of Homecoming festivities
For Melinda Burke, Homecoming at the University of Arizona is more than just an event, it is a way of life. Burke is the President of the UA Alumni Association. She received her Bachelor of Science degree from the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences in 1975, followed later by a master’s of science degree in 1981. Burke’s husband Bruce is also a UA alum, with one of their daughters an alumna of the UA College of Medicine as well.
Burke and the Alumni Association are in charge of the organizing of Homecoming events throughout the week. The Daily Wildcat spoke to her about preparing for it, her favorite memories and more.
The interview has been edited slightly for clarity.
Daily Wildcat: In your opinion, why does homecoming matter?
Melinda Burke: Homecoming offers an opportunity for all alumni to come back to campus to connect with their college, renew friendships and reflect on the important role the UA had in their transition to adulthood, and it’s a whole lot of fun! It matters because our goal is to support an active and engaged alumni community committed to advancing the UA. Homecoming is one way we make a connection with alumni.
DW: Preparing for something like Homecoming has to be a year-round event, how much work truly goes into it behind the scenes?
MB: I don't think anyone fully appreciates how much goes into Homecoming. The UAAA spends almost a year planning the week long celebration. In addition there are many tours, lectures and other events hosted by the colleges so many people on campus are busy planning events.
DW: What do you do to prepare for homecoming?
MB: Homecoming is actually a full week, starting October 21 with the Lighting of A Mountain. We have events all week culminating in the Wildcat for Life tailgate on the mall on Oct 27. The UAAA staff spends about nine months preparing for Homecoming and everyone in the office takes great pride in their piece of the celebration.
DW: What is different about homecoming this year than in previous years?
MB: This year we have added a new event for our most recent alumni. Any alum who is one to five years out of the UA is invited to Glow, our alumni party that takes place after the bonfire on Friday night. The full schedule for all Homecoming activities is on our website: arizonaalumni.com
DW: What do homecoming and the UA mean to not only you, but your family, considering you are alumni?
MB: My husband Bruce and I have a combined four degrees from the UA and we’ve been connected in one way or another for over 25 years. The UA helped my husband launch a successful career in law and connected me to my first employer in the retailing industry. We both are very committed to supporting the UA, as volunteers and donors. We are excited to be part of the Wildcat Mentor Society and serve as mentors in the first year of this new program.
For me personally, Homecoming is an opportunity to celebrate everything the UA has done for our family.
DW: What is your favorite homecoming memory?
MB: My favorite part of Homecoming is the hundreds of alumni I meet and the great stories I hear from them about their time at the UA. The 50th Reunion attendees are always full of wonderful stories about the UA. One of my favorite events is the Alumni of the Year ceremony where we honor the incredible achievements of our alumni. It makes me very proud to be a Wildcat.
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