The Chapman Family Homecoming Celebration today brings Chapman alumni, students, parents, friends, community members, faculty and staff together for an array of events including the Chili Cook-Off, Panther Pub, master classes with faculty and of course, the Homecoming football came. Up through Dr. Jim Doti’s beginning years in the 1990s as the University’s president, however, there was an additional signature event: the election and announcement of Chapman University’s Homecoming queen and king!
The last Homecoming king and queen election—completed in its now-nostalgic fashion with a full court of princes and princesses elected by the student body—was held in 1997, making Rhonda Wofford ’98 Chapman University’s reigning Homecoming queen.
Rhonda was humbly surprised when we connected with her to tell her the news of her reigning title. She was crowned Homecoming queen her senior year—a memorable year unlike any other for her, packed to the brim with coursework and accolades, such as “Advertising Student of the Year.”
The year was also a whirlwind for her because she was a returning Chapman student. She had taken a break from her studies after originally enrolling at Chapman in 1990 to decide what she wanted to major in. After modeling for several years, she decided to pursue a degree in communications. Post-Chapman, she attended Mississippi State University and earned a B.S., M.S. in geosciences and her Meteorological Seal to become a meteorologist.
Below Rhonda reflects on her Chapman Experience being crowned Homecoming queen 20 years ago.
My Homecoming queen story begins when I returned to Chapman University on the advice of my then-boyfriend, now-husband, Eric Scott ’89. I was very focused as a returning student because I had only one year to complete 52 units to earn my B.A. in communications before I would leave to the San Francisco Bay Area for Eric’s medical residency at Stanford University. I spent three hours each weekday commuting to-and-from Redlands to Chapman University. I was at Chapman during the week from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.
With the help and advice of my student advisors and department heads, like history professor James Miller, communications professor Alan Levy, and chair and professor of media arts Janell Shearer, I created a class schedule that would be the most productive year of my young life. Needless to say, with that sort of academic undertaking, I had to spend nearly every waking moment on the Chapman campus. When I wasn’t in class, I could always be found in the Argyros building with a book open, trying to keep up with all of my homework.
I made a lot of study friends with all of the homework in the 16 courses that I took that year. A couple of those friends were on the Chapman football team and they suggested that I run for Homecoming queen. Running for queen was the furthest thing from my mind because even though I was former Miss Orange County, in high school I had lost my bid for Homecoming queen (I was a Homecoming princess in high school instead). Following my disappointment in high school, I had a disastrous senior year and wanted to put the whole experience behind me.
Furthermore, I was an off-campus student who hadn’t had the chance to meet most of the Chapman student body—who are the ones who vote in the election. But my football friends persisted and I eventually agreed. Much to my surprise, I made the final four candidates and was asked to come to the football game during Chapman Family Homecoming Celebration—when the results of the run-off election would be announced.
At the Homecoming Celebration before the winner was announced, my doubts and fears were running through my head: Would this be a repeat of high school? Would my classmates really elect an African-American Homecoming queen? After all, who gets a second chance like this?
And then, the winner was announced! I heard my name being called—I could hardly believe it! My dream was coming true some 10 years later. The moment was even more special because then-President Jim Doti was in attendance that night.
This honor would not have been possible if it had not been for the friendly, kind and supportive atmosphere that Chapman creates for its students.
That year, I went on to be awarded Chapman’s “Advertising Student of the Year” along with a 3.957 GPA.
Following my time at Chapman I studied at Mississippi State University and earned a B.S. and my Meteorological Seal as a meteorologist, and an M.S. in geosciences.
After receiving my graduate degree, I began training in television and radio in the Bay Area at KRON, KGO, KBLX, KNBR and BayTV in news reporting, producing, and weather anchoring.
For me, Chapman University was the school of second chances where dreams really do come true.