Illustration of Active students Summer and Fall


Illustration by Daniel Baxter

Looking ahead to fall isn’t easy in the throes of summer­—and can be especially challenging for college-bound 18-year-olds. That’s why Rutgers alumni around the country plan Summer Sendoffs, inviting first-year students to hometown gatherings before they leave for New Jersey. This informal, community-based approach helps the newest members of the Rutgers family begin to think of themselves as scarlet forever.

Just south of San Diego, Edward Racek RC’67 and his wife, Byong, have hosted three sendoff picnics at their home in Chula Vista, California. “I’m proud and honored to do it,” says Racek, a surgeon and Piscataway native with fond memories of Rutgers. Aware that his own move to college was relatively straightforward, he wants students who travel cross-country to feel confident and comfortable as they make the transition.

Conrad Ottey LC’84, vice president of events for the Rutgers Club of San Diego, organizes the group’s sendoffs and feels “joy and satisfaction” at building scarlet pride in the Golden State. He cites a note from a student who attended the Raceks’ 2016 picnic, found it reassuring, and hoped future students would be able to have the same positive experience. Providing that extra ray of warmth, Ottey says,  “is the reason we do our sendoff.”

… and A Welcome Home

As alumni reconnect and reminisce during Homecoming, some use the time to give back.

Like a flurry of scarlet leaves, Rutgers alumni return to campus each autumn for Homecoming. But the celebration doesn’t happen on its own. It requires the work of dedicated volunteers, many of whom are also alumni.

“Their support is vital,” says Yvette Choma Martinez UCNB’03, RBS’03, senior director for volunteer engagement at the Rutgers University Alumni Association (RUAA). “Alumni bring extremely valuable skills and experience, whether they’re volunteering for Homecoming or other programs.”

Although the fall event is an opportunity to give back, it has benefits, too. Mitch Speert RC’90, RBS’93—a tireless contributor of time and energy to Rutgers gatherings—savors the “personal connection” he feels when volunteering at Homecoming. He fondly remembers tailgating with fraternity brothers and the excitement of “watching the game with a few thousand of your fellow students.”

Homecoming serves a dual purpose for Kat Petschauer SAS’13 as well. She enjoys being “in the center of the festivities” when working a registration table. She’s also a proud marching band alumna, and “to play on the field again at halftime brings  a rush of memories that I truly cherish.”

Martinez echoes those sentiments: “To ‘come home’ as an alumni volunteer means you’re contributing in the way that’s most meaningful to you. Empowering you to do that is the RUAA’s goal.”

To learn more about volunteering for Rutgers events and programs, visit