The History of Homecoming at American University

AU held its first Homecoming in 1931. This annual event occurred at different times of the year and was scaled back in the 1970s before being updated and improved in 1986. AU’s last Homecoming was in 2003.

Homecoming was organized by the student body. The Social Activities Board and its successor, the Campus Center Board, coordinated the event for many years. When Homecoming was brought back in the 1980s, the Residence Hall Association and the Student Government provided funding.

The featured game at Homecoming changed over the years. From 1931 until 1941, the main event was a football game. Except for brief periods where club football (1970-1976) and soccer games (1966-1968, 1986-1987, 2001-2003) were showcased, a basketball game was the signature event.

The student body crowned its first Homecoming Queen in 1939. AU didn’t elect a Homecoming King until the late 1970s.

In addition to the parade, game, dinner and dance, Homecoming at AU typically featured a pep rally and fraternity and sorority open houses. Starting in 1955, AU students got permission to build a bonfire on campus five times.

In the early years, the dance was held in Clendenen gymnasium. As Homecoming got bigger, the dance was moved off campus to locations such as the Indian Spring Country Club, the Willard Hotel, and the Columbus Room at Union Station. By the 1990s when Homecoming was regularly held in February, it combined with Founders Day and organizers began calling the dance, the Founders Day Ball, a tradition that continues today.

Here are some of the significant milestones in the history of AU’s homecoming parades:

AU’s first homecoming parade was held in 1947. The floats were hand pulled.

Kappa Delta’s “Sittin’ on Top of the World” (1954)

Kappa Delta’s “Sittin’ on Top of the World” (1954)











The first parade on the quad with floats pulled by cars was in 1955.

Phi Mu’s Don Quixote and Alice (1955)

Phi Mu’s Don Quixote and Alice (1955)











Star Jones was the Grand Marshal at Homecoming in 1994.


Star Jones riding in antique car with color guard walking behind her (1994)










The parade extended to Tenley Campus in 1996.

Bagpipers leading parade down Nebraska Avenue from the Tenley Campus (1996)

Bagpipers leading parade down Nebraska Avenue from the Tenley Campus (1996)










For more information on and images of Homecoming, visit the exhibit on the first floor of Bender Library.