Alumni gather in the redwoods

Hundreds of alumni return to UCSC for inaugural Return to the Redwoods celebration

Alumni, friends, and family gather at the Cowell Courtyard for a Friday evening reception kicking off Return to the Redwoods.
Alumni Councilors celebrate Return to the Redwoods.
UC Santa Cruz Chancellor Cynthia Larive speaks with an alumnus and his son at the Friday evening reception.
Barbara Oden-Petree, Associate Director, Volunteer Program & Alumni Recognition, poses for a photo with past alumni councilors.

Breathtaking views, mind-expanding lectures, community building, and outdoor adventures took center stage at UC Santa Cruz this weekend as hundreds of alumni gathered in the redwoods. 

The inaugural alumni celebration, Return to the Redwoods, was a hit as alumni ranging from the classes of 1969 to 2022 returned to campus with friends, family, and loved ones. 

Over 400 alumni registered for events throughout the weekend, while over 300 chose to spend the weekend living in campus dorms and apartments at Cowell & Stevenson College. 

John D. Pine, Assistant Vice Chancellor of Alumni Engagement, says he is proud of the weekend’s turnout and is grateful to the attendees, staff, and volunteers that made it all possible. 

“Return to the Redwoods is a culmination of feedback we’ve heard from alumni about what ties them to this campus,” Pine said. “We’re excited to have been able to offer an experience unlike any other at UC Santa Cruz and are already planning for next year. Save the date and tell your friends!” 

Return to the Redwoods 2024 will take place August 16-18. 

A Day in the Redwoods 

There is nothing quite like returning to Santa Cruz and being greeted by the perfect weather. The weekend saw consecutive sunny, 70-degree summer days. The redwoods quietly rustled in the crisp breeze while the Monterey Bay glistened in clear view. 

For some alumni, the events began on Thursday evening at Woodstock's Pizza in Downtown Santa Cruz, but for most folks, the celebration kicked-off with a Friday evening reception. The majority of events took place on Saturday. 

Alumni began their Saturday morning with sunrise yoga on the East Field, followed by a continental breakfast in the Cowell Courtyard overlooking Monterey Bay. Afterward, alumni chose their own adventures. Whether alumni, friends, and family decided to partake in a sailing excursion, participate in a guided hike, reminisce in a lecture hall, or cruise around town, everyone got a taste of Santa Cruz. 

The weekend’s forest talks consisted of Kathy Foley’s lecture on Puppets and Performing Objects: Animism, Indigeneity, and the Anthropocene Puppets; and Raphe Kudela’s talk on how California’s coastal ecosystems, from marine fisheries impacted by harmful algal blooms to California’s iconic kelp forests, may change in the future.

“This is what I remember about lectures at UCSC,” Past President of the Alumni Association Michael Riepe (Oakes ’91) said after Kathy Foley’s discussion. “You’re not just being talked at and having knowledge poured into your mind; you’re having your mind blown and expanded in new ways.” 

The overarching sentiment across generations of alumni: This campus is precisely how I remember it. 

“It feels very much like it was when I was here,” said alumni Steve Collins (Porter ’85). “It was really nice speaking with many interesting people across generations. I also got to walk over to the west side of campus and went to the places I used to hang out and study.”

For alumna Karen Zumsteg (Rachel Carson ’93), who hadn’t returned to Santa Cruz in over 15 years, the Friday night Smores and Stars event on the East Field and the Saturday morning campus hike were her favorite events. 

“I got to see Saturn’s rings! Oh my gosh, it was so pretty and felt like nothing I’d ever done before,” Zumsteg said. “And then, the campus hike, guided by Dustin, I really appreciated that he had an idea of where we would go, but then he asked people if there were any particular places they wanted to see, and then he modified the route we took accordingly.” 

Zumsteg and her friend–celebrating their 30th reunion—say they thoroughly enjoyed the overall weekend and wish it could have been longer. 

“I feel like the variety of events and the curation of them felt so thoughtful, and I enjoyed everything I attended."


Save the date for next year’s Return to the Redwoods: August 16-18, 2024.