By Peter Makey `19
Having grown up near Minneapolis, Minnesota, my journey to William & Mary was far less predictable (and much longer) than my relatively shorter, well-traveled path up to Washington, DC after graduation. As many before and alongside me can articulate, there’s a certain allure to moving to a major market, the center of American politics, and to a place where you’re bound to bump into a fellow William & Mary grad if you just happen to overhear the right conversation.
During my time as a student, the epicenter of my experience was in Kaplan Arena, where I participated as a member of the Men’s gymnastics team. Tribe Athletics – and Men’s Gymnastics specifically – was my entrée into William & Mary, and it remains one of my strongest ties. Where I live in Washington, DC, Metro buses adorned in green and gold dotted the streets during the fall of 2019. In 2020, I became more deeply engaged as a young alum than I could have predicted, as I joined with students, families, staff, and community members in urging Tribe Athletics to find its way back to the mission it anchors on. Now, in 2021, I felt the reach of William & Mary as I cheered on my younger teammates competing at the NCAA Championships at the University of Minnesota, just miles from where I grew up.
If athletics has proven itself a special venue for building and sustaining community, so too has my identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. While not officially a part of any LGBTQ+ student group on campus, shortly after graduation I leaned into my identity as another way to meet and engage with other alum I could relate to. Having been on campus during William & Mary’s inaugural Lavender Graduation ceremony and taking part in its second, I knew there was an under-told history of LGBTQ+ student life that was resurging in front of me. Through the Alumni Association, I have been able to support the newly renamed Crim Dell Association, birthed out of GALA, the College’s LGBTQ+ affinity group, which celebrated its 35th anniversary at William & Mary this year. I was also pleased to attend William & Mary’s first formally partnered Pride event in DC, where I’ve been able to connect with alum from years, sometimes decades past, who knew an entirely different experience than the inclusive one I so appreciated.
In each of these ways and more, the College’s active engagement with DC alumni has provided an enriching layer of opportunities, personal, professional, and social. From networking events at alum-founded solar energy startups, to sailing excursions on the Potomac, to William & Mary Night at National’s Park and W&M at D.C. United, the ways in which the William & Mary Washington Center and DC Alumni Board have made intentional efforts to engage students and young alumni sustains connection and community in a remarkable way. In the virtual environment too, the breadth of William & Mary’s alumni network is clear. As Zoom became my new normal, I found myself able to stay connected as I virtually celebrated Pride, watched gymnastics competitions, commemorated Charter Day, and continued to pursue research with the support of professors who I admired during undergrad.
Although I’ve been able to forge strong connections that span both time and distance in the virtual environment, I’m reminded now about the importance of place. With October’s Homecoming and Commencement celebrations around the corner, I’m eager to make the familiar trek down to Williamsburg once again, to return to the sights and people that have made W&M home.
Until then, here’s to hoping you all stay safe and well. Go Tribe!