100 Years of Homecoming: Walk Through the Decades

Welcome to Walk Through the Decades

 An exhibit featuring 100 items reflecting Eastern’s history since its first Homecoming celebration in 1924! 

Curated and Written by Steve Bingo, Eastern Washington University Archivist

While the school has changed much over the past 100 years, traditions like Homecoming keep us connected to past and future generations. We hope that you find your experience reflected in these items and enjoy where other classes have taken the idea of Homecoming.

100 years of homecoming logo
1925 black and white photo of a bonfire
Photograph of bonfire as printed in the 1925 Kinnikinick

1924-1929: Homecoming Begins

Eastern’s 1924 homecoming festivities began with a Friday evening pep rally highlighted by a bonfire and a series of brief speeches given by alumni, prominent community members, faculty, and each member of the football team. According to the school newspaper, 300 – 400 visitors joined the campus community for the festivities. After the rally, celebrants filled Showalter Auditorium to view a silent Western titled When a Man’s a Man.

The following day, Eastern squared off against Ellensburg Normal (now CWU) on the gridiron. On field fireworks and a pep band consisting of saxophones, coronets, and drums fired up that crowd. Eastern romped to a 33-0 victory on the strength of fullback Ted Sheppard’s two rushing and one passing touchdown. The game also marked the first initiation of Eastern’s first lettermen club, the W club. The two-day event was reportedly “the greatest thing of its kind ever attempted here.”

football team
1924 Team Portrait
Couple on the porch
President and Mrs. Tieje on steps of President’s Mansion

By 1929, the homecoming rivalries grew to the point where the student body posted guards near the bonfire to prevent supporters of opposing teams from lighting the fire before the pep rally. 1929 also saw the completion of the President’s Mansion (now the University House). During Homecoming President Hargreaves hosted alumni to tour his new home. While the 1920s laid a solid foundation for homecoming, the 1930s would usher in many more important changes to Eastern’s traditions.

Did You Know?

When Homecoming began, college cheerleaders were typically men, often known as yell leaders. For the 1924-1925 school year, the leaders were Robert Osborne and Lawrence White. Tryouts were held before the student body. According to the school newspaper, Osborne garnered the most votes putting “pep into the crowd” with the simple cheer

“Cheney Normal, Cheney Normal! Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight!”

Two male cheerleaders
Yell Leaders Osborne and White from the 1924-1925 school year


During the 1930s, Eastern continued to grow with the construction of a new campus elementary school, Martin Hall, and the 1937 bill officially renaming the school Eastern Washington College of Education. In 1930, Eastern hired a faculty member who would shape the school’s growing athletics program for decades to come, William “Red” Reese. Previously a coach at Spokane’s North Central High School, William “Red” Reese coached the football team to 66 wins from 1930-1941. In subsequent years, Reese would continue to coach the basketball and track teams.


Coach Reese during football practice
Football game photo

Eastern’s Homecoming celebrations in the 1930s ended on a high note. Before the game, Washington state governor and Cheney native Clarence Martin provided opening remarks to the homecoming crowd. The game ended in a 13-0 Eastern victory over Western, with Ralph Brown and Dick Maurstad scoring touchdowns with quarterback and future coach Abe Poffenroth completing 7 of 13 passes.

Did You Know?

In 1932, the homecoming game marked the dedication of Woodward Field, which stood at the current site of JFK Library. At the dedication, A.C. Woodward provided the following sentiment, “It has been said that a college is a stadium with a few classrooms, and I hope that everyone will consider the field a classroom of health.”

Coaches on the football field
Portrait of A.C. Woodward and Red Reese
Victory Bell Tower

In 1938, Eastern students established a drill team, which kicked up Homecoming pageantry a notch with a halftime performance. The choreographed flair on display in the late 1930s would soon be a staple of the Eastern pregame and halftime shows, particularly when a full marching band joined the fray by 1940. To add to the festivities, a bell tower was constructed next to Showalter Hall in 1933 to ring in each Eastern victory.


Hargreaves Hall was completed in 1940, ushering in the final phase of Eastern’s growth as a fully-fledged college. During this decade, Eastern’s homecoming traditions developed as well with the establishment of two quintessential elements, homecoming floats and the selection of a homecoming court.

On October 31, 1941, Eastern crowned Queen Connie I as its first homecoming queen. Student president Doug Eustace presided over the coronation of Connie Frank, from Spokane. That year, Frank held sway over the parade and other homecoming events. A men’s trio sung “I Know Why” in her honor during the Homecoming Ball in Frank’s honor.

Portrait of Connie Frank on her float outside
Parade float with queen sitting on top
1947 Sitzmark Club float

Homecoming floats were introduced to the annual parade in 1940. That year, several student groups created floats with the award for outstanding float going to Senior Hall. In subsequent years, homecoming floats have provided students an opportunity to express the trends and issues relevant to their time.

At Eastern, as with the rest of the nation, World War II had a tremendous impact on campus life. During the war years, male enrollment dwindled as able bodied men were called into service. From 1943-1945, Eastern suspended its football program, as the service stars and War Bond drives replaced pigskins and parades. Following the War, Eastern saw a large increase in male enrollment due to the veterans attending on the GI Bill, as football and Homecoming resumed.

man kneeling down with a toddler in front of old trailers
A student with his daughter in Trailerville, a temporary housing area for married students set up to help with the influx of veterans attending Eastern on the GI Bill.
man running with basketball
EWCE cager Jack “Rabbit” Roffler from 1945 Kinnikinick

Did You Know?

While Eastern paused football during the war years, its basketball team continued to play against teams fielded by local military bases, as well as other Inland Northwest colleges.  During World War II, they played games against teams from Galena Depot (now Fairchild), Larsen Air Base in Moses Lake, Fort Wright Hospital.


During the 1950s, homecoming themes like Eastern 2000 and New Horizons through Education signaled a forward-looking perspective. Over the decade, KEWC, the new campus radio station, was founded, departments were shifted to support education in chemistry and physics and a new student union was built (Isle Hall) with such modern amenities as a soda fountain and bowling alley.

Soda fountain
parade float of the ifle tower
Best float from 1952 by the French Club with a replica of the Eiffel Tower

Elaborate floats marked a step up for homecoming celebrations. With most clubs and halls creating floats, as classes on Homecoming Friday of 1952 ended early to allow students time to prepare. In addition to an expansion of the Homecoming parade, activities such as the beard-growing contest draws its roots to the 1950s. As the student population grew, so too did military programs as the ROTC and the number of veterans attending Eastern, who populated Trailerville, Hudson Hall, and Garry Hall.

In the years following World War II, several African-American college football stars emerged. While Eastern’s teams did not feature the likes of Jim Brown or Johnnie Bright, the fleet-footed George Foster started as Eastern’s quarterback in 1955, while Willie Jones gained 103 yards on 12 carries against Whitworth in his second-to-last game and was stymied by penalties on his final game at Eastern.

Football players
George Foster photograph
Portrait of Doc Pearce
Doc Pearce Portrait

Did You Know?

The 1951 Homecoming celebration included a play titled “Let’s Do It Again” about the life of beloved custodian and honorary faculty member George H. “Doc” Pearce. Doc kicked off that year’s celebration with an inspiration given to the Freshman class. In 1964, Pearce Hall one of few buildings on an American university named after a janitor.


During the 1960s, several changes came to Eastern: a modern bronze statue of Sacajewea replaced the plaster statue installed in 1916, the Hall of Sciences was built in 1962, and several new dorms were constructed to accommodate a growing student population. As the campus changed, so too did Homecoming.

Students pushing carts
Souped up beds from a 1960s race - tricycle racer
Pajama party
Pajama parties were all the rage in the 1960s as evidenced by this 1965 pajama party at Dryden Hall

The traditional bonfire for the 1960 Homecoming was kicked off with a pajama parade, reflecting the growing popularity of pajama parties at campus dorms throughout the decade. While pj parades and tricycle races did not become a homecoming staple, bed races, which also started at Eastern in the 1960s did.

On the gridiron, Eastern featured many notable players including quarterback and future coach Dick Zornes, running back and NAIA All-American Mel Stanton, and Bill Diedrick, who led Eastern to the NAIA championship in 1967. The 1967 team went on to win the Homecoming game 27-0 over College of Idaho.

As the 1960s came to a close, Homecoming was held against the backdrop of protest. On October 15, which happened to be the week of Eastern’s Homecoming, a nationwide “day of moratorium” occurred at Eastern and other college campuses. At Eastern, impromptu discussions were held about U.S. involvement in Vietnam. Days later, a much different procession occurred in Cheney with the Homecoming parade based on the theme “Those Were the Days.”

1967 starting quarterback Bill Diedrick
African American student talking in the microphone
Easterner photograph of Carl Jones

Did you know?

Following the 1968 Olympics, a number of Black athletes across the country held a raised fist during the National Anthem. By the spring of 1969, the athletics programs enforced a policy against on-field political statements, which sparked student protest.


While the 1960s Homecoming occurred on the heels of protest, the 1970s began with a spirit of irreverence as the men on the 7th floor of Dressler Hall broke the world record for keg rolling, while a mud pit provided an opportunity for students to blow off steam. While important social changes impacted the campus with the start of programs concerning gender, race, and environmental concerns, the decade also saw streakers dash through the campus mall and the growing popularity of Mayfest, popularly known as “Outdoor Intercourse Day.”

Woman covered in mud
Eastern student having good clean fun in the Homecoming mud pit in 1970
Beer can float
Parade float of a “beer can” dorm with Rainier beer cans on the roof

In 1973, Eastern celebrated its first Homecoming after changing its nickname to the Eagles. The change, which was initiated with the backing of the Board of Trustees in 1972, responded to concerns raised by many in the broader community as well as local, sovereign indigenous nations. While some wanted to keep the name, the Spokane Tribe of Indians wrote a letter in opposition. After two votes to select a new nickname, the Eagle era of Eastern athletics began.

A different era started in 1977 when Eastern was officially renamed Eastern Washington University. That year’s Homecoming featured a helicopter entrance by Homecoming Queen Debbie Scholz and a 31-2 victory over Oregon Tech. The following year’s festivities included the dedication of the Jim Thorpe Fieldhouse, which included participation by Thorpe’s grandchildren Gail, Grace, and Jack, and Native American runner and Olympian gold medalist Billy Mills.

Gail, Grace, and Jack Thorpe in the 1978 Homecoming parade
Two football players drinking seven-up
Eastern stars Bob Picard and Mel Collins posing with a bottle of 7-Up

Did You Know?

Homecoming was renamed the Fall Festival in 1971. That year’s events included the dedication of the PUB. The celebration also included Volkswagen stuffing and pie-eating contests. In the Homecoming game, Eastern defeated Eastern Oregon 48-45 with Eastern standout and future NFL wideout Bob Picard catching 7 passes for 81 yards.


The 1980s began with a tough economic environment as the nation was mired in a recession. Despite a 10% budget cut, Eastern kicked off a year-long centennial celebration during the 1981 Homecoming celebration. A visit by Washington Gov. John Spellman highlighted the event. When cutting the cake baked in honor of the 100th year anniversary, Board of Trustees chairman Bruce McPhadden cut the governor 10% of the cake to represent Eastern’s budget cut.

Governor Spellman Signing a shovel at a tree planting ceremony during Homecoming in 1981
Rick Worman throwing a football

As Eastern expanded its footprint in Spokane with the 1984 conversion of the Farm Credit Bank Building to EWU’s Spokane Center, some Homecoming games were moved to Spokane’s Joe Albi Stadium. In 1985, the Homecoming game was played in sub-freezing temperatures as Eastern prevailed in a 52-19 win over the University of Montana behind a strong performances by quarterback Rick Worman and tailback Jamie Townsend.

The 1987 Homecoming ushered in a new era in two respects. In athletics, it marked Eastern’s first Homecoming as a full-fledged member of the Big Sky Conference. It also marked the end of the Frederickson era. President George Frederickson, known as King George by his detractors, presided over much of Eastern’s growth into Spokane.

1989 Homecoming court sporting bitchin’ hairdos
Ed Simmons stretching during practice
Ed Simmons Stretching During Practice

Did You Know?

In 1985, Eastern made it to the quarterfinals of the I-AA playoffs. Led by coach Dick Zornes, the season proved particularly meaningful as the school’s application to the Big Sky Conference was rejected earlier that year. The performance of the 1985 team, featuring stars like future NFL stalwart Ed Simmons, and its decisive victories such as the Homecoming shellacking of the University of Montana, helped bolster EWU’s bid for a spot in the Big Sky.


In a decade that saw the reunification of Germany, the birth of reality television and major advances in computer sciences and biotechnology, the 1990s reflected a reinvestment in the Cheney campus. After the construction of the PUB and Patterson Hall in the early 1970s, the campus remained largely unchanged over the next 25 years. With the renovation of the Pence Union Building, JFK Library, and the campus mall in the mid-to-late-1990s, students and alumni had the opportunity to see renovations that would continue into the new millennium.

Cheerleaders and the band “raising the roof” at the newly renovated JFK Library.
Gold medalist Heidi Meili at the dedication of the ROTC rifle range

The 1990 Homecoming festivities promised to be the biggest yet, as an eager Easterner reporter used superlatives like “gigantic” and “outrageous” to describe the festivities. As the Eastern student population continued to grow in the early 1990s, Eastern students and alums were making waves. Eastern safety and future NFL starter Kurt Schulz broke the team record in interception-return yards, while 1990 graduate Heidi Meili brought home Olympic gold in 1992.

In 1994, Meili attended the dedication of the ROTC rifle range during Homecoming weekend.

With sagging enrollment and a narrowly averted merger between EWU and WSU programs in Spokane, Eastern selected Stephen Jordan as president in 1998. Foreshadowing a reinvigoration of the university, Eastern set its 1998 homecoming theme as “Cleared for Takeoff.” Performances in the newly renovated campus mall, extravagant parade floats, and a 42-19 victory over WWU highlighted that year’s event. Safety Julian Williams had a standout game with an interception and 1.5 sacks. By the end of the century, the foundation was set for a period of growth into the online era.

float with a swoop head
Eagle Homecoming float "Ready for take off."
inside the presidents house with a the Jordans posing
Stephen and Ruth Jordan in the President’s House.

Did You Know?

President Alex Schilt lived in Spokane during his brief tenure as president in the late-1980s. Shortly after, the building was renamed the Alumni House, a name it retained for 11 years. When Stephen Jordan was hired in the spring of 1998, he made the house his permanent residence, reviving a tradition dating back to the building’s completion in 1929.


Eastern kicked off the new millennium flying high, with record enrollments and an expanding presence on the World Wide Web. Even as the university stepped forward into the internet age, the one-room Jore Schoolhouse, installed in the summer of 2000, reminded homecoming attendees of Eastern’s history as a teacher’s college. During Homecoming weekend, the Eagles lost a nail-biter in Woodward Stadium but witnessed a convincing victory on the volleyball court. The game was a preview of a football team that would win the Big Sky Conference title the following year.

Students dressed like computers in the parade
Parade of PCs Marching in Homecoming 2000
Michael Roos standing on the centerfield holding a framed jersey
Michael Roos Honored During the 2009 Homecoming Game

In the wake of September 11, Eastern held a homecoming celebration with the theme “Pathways Home,” during which the university ROTC program observed its 50th anniversary. That year’s weekend also saw Jesse Chatman rush for 279 yards against Cal State Northridge. Chatman, quarterback Erik Meyer and Michael Roos were three standouts during the decade. Each left their mark
in the record books and, in Roos’ case, on the field…literally.

Over the course of the 2000s, Homecoming festivities grew amongst students and the community. The 00s saw a range of new Homecoming activities, such as the community scavenger hunt to encourage students to explore downtown, snowboarding exhibitions and beer tastings. The expansion of activities was bolstered by an increase in the student population. New facilities like Brewster Hall and the University Rec Center were built to accommodate the growth.

King and queen posing
2009 Homecoming King and Queen, Chris Lopez Miclat and Laura Schlect
Four volleyball players
2000 volleyball seniors: Angie Hall, JoEne Heimbigner, Jennifer Gabel, Tamara Van Engelen

Did You Know?

Volleyball games became an occasional feature at Homecoming by 1986, when a game against Portland State was described in the alumni magazine as a “demonstration.” More recently, basketball and soccer have also been added to the Homecoming menu.

2010s – Present

The 2010s began with a splash of color as the red turf was installed for the 2010 football season. Whether by luck or fate, the inaugural season on Roos Field ended in Eastern’s first football national championship. In the Homecoming game, the Eagles defeated Sacramento State 28-24, with wide receiver Brandon Kaufman scoring the winning touchdown.

Cooper Kupp catching the football on the red turf
Cooper Kupp extends for a reception
homecoming royalty
2015 Homecoming Court

Over the course of the past decade, the Homecoming Court has reflected the growing diversity of the student body. In 2014, Sapna Basy, Eastern’s first South Asian Homecoming Queen, dazzled audiences with a Bollywood dance number. A year later, the Homecoming Court did away with the titles of Mr. and Ms. Eastern, as Nahiely Heredia was named the “Regal Eagle” with Seth Cook and Velvet Newell named runner-ups.

In 2020, the COVID pandemic put a halt to what would have been a robust Homecoming weekend. Fortunately, old habits die hard as Homecoming was revived in 2021 and 2022 with some new twists. In addition to the traditional bonfire and bed races, comedian and EWU alum Nate Jackson hosted a campus-wide game of Clue, while new President Sheri McMahan led one of her trademark Zumba classes. After 100 years of Homecoming, we can predict the next 100 years will bring its own flavor while reminding us that we are all a part of a community with deep roots. Go Eags!

eagle stature with cloth mask on
Photo of masked Eagle statue in Hargreaves Hall taken by Pat Spanjer

Mascots and Homecoming

Homecoming and mascots go hand-in-hand. Both are intended to unite a campus community toward a common purpose. Like many other universities across America, Eastern was faced with its original choice of mascot and how that choice impacted its American Indian/Alaska Native student population. Eastern first chose to be called the “Savages” leading to grotesque representations of a Native American man as its mascot.

The Homecoming Committee wishes to acknowledge Eastern Washington University’s role in choosing the “Savage,” as its first mascot, and also speak to EWU’s decision to respect this region’s sovereign nations and their peoples by directing the mascot be changed. This decision helped to heal a divide that had been created between Eastern and this region’s tribal nations.

very old photo of a woman dressed as a native american
Sacajawea, 1960
old photo of homecoming tradition
Student as Savage crowning 1968 Homecoming Queen

The Savage, 1923-1973

By the time the student body selected its nickname, the school already had in place a number of practices based on a misrepresentation of American Indians. The most obvious involves performances where students attempted to enact Native American figures or customs. In 1919, a European-American student was selected to embody the spirit of Sacajawea as a model for younger students. In her speech, she describes European settlers as inheritors of Indigenous territories suggesting a willing transfer of land and resources. This tradition of untruth would continue for nearly 50 years. Against this backdrop, the Savage was selected to blend into already existing customs.

Over the years, the mascot has been represented as egregiously as a clownish mouthpiece for student humor. The mascot made a mockery of Native American peoples and culture. As Native American students began attending Eastern in larger numbers, this began to change.

From Savages to Eagles

Eastern changed its nickname from Savages to Eagles in 1973. This change was influenced by numerous factors. The American Indian students at Eastern contacted a newly elected tribal council member for the Colville Confederated Tribes, Mel Tonasket and expressed their anger at Eastern’s use of the Savage mascot. Tonasket connected with regional tribal leaders such as Alex Sherwood (Spokane Tribe of Indians) to assist the students in their advocacy. At the time, Mr. Tonasket was also serving as President of the National Congress of American Indians. Concerns among tribal leaders were compounded by a controversy over a brick walkway in front of the new physical education complex featuring caricatures of the Savage. Mr. Tonasket met with Eastern’s president at the time and informed him that if the mascot was not changed, he would ensure the removal of every single American Indian/Alaska Native student from Eastern. In 1972, the Board of Trustees announced the change effective in Fall 1973.

Responses to this decision varied, from those in support to those wishing to do away with offensive representations associated with the mascot to those wanting no change at all. After an initial student body vote in favor of retaining the mascot, the Board ordered a second vote among three choices: Badgers, Eagles, and Lakers. In the Fall 1973, the Eagle era began.

Native American dressed in traditional clothes
Coeur d’Alene student Al Nomee as himself (not the mascot) at a 1970 halftime performance providing a more positive and realistic representation of Native Americans.

50 Years as Eagles

When Eastern changed its nickname, it was only one of a handful of colleges to make a similar decision. By 1974, men’s basketball coach Jerry Krause designed the first Eagle logo. Over the next several years, several variations of the logo emerged before Eastern designed an official version initially named “Spirit” in 1999.

Swoop 1.0In 2006, Ryan Gaard redesigned the mascot, which by then was named Swoop.

Over the past 50 years, the Eagle has served to rally and inspire Eastern’s students, staff, alumni, and supporters.

eagle drawing
An early Eagle logo
Swoop 2018
Swoop 90s
First swoop


Walk through the Decades would not be possible without the generous donations from:

Academic Affairs, Susan Ballinger, Curt Brennan, John Buchanan, Sharon L. Clark, Seth Dryden, EWU Archives, EWU Athletics, EWU Housing and Residential Life, George Lotzenhiser, Scotty Reed, Hal Sautter, Tawankas, University Police, Jamie Wolff

The EWU Homecoming committee would also like to thank:

Kevin Bruaw, Todd McGann, Augie Hernandez, Hailey Tangen, Jenna Wells, Erin Ross, and Evanlene Melting Tallow