All alumni get together! All Sophians’ Festival

The alumni-school relationship changes over time. As such, Sophia University holds an annual homecoming event called the All Sophians’ Festival (“ASF”) every May. It is the largest event of the Sophia University Alumni Association (founded in December 1937) and is held after careful and meticulous preparation by the Executive Committee, which comprises alumni and students. This article will introduce the then and now of the ASF.

What is the All Sophians’ Festival (ASF)?

Children building Angkor Wat using 30,000 blocks (May 27, 2012, at ASF)*

The “S” in ASF stands for “Sophian,” which is a word that refers to the currently enrolled students and alumni of Sophia University. The festival itself, however, is designed for anyone with a connection to Sophia University, regardless of their age group, to deepen their ties. It is open to the wider public, welcoming not only alumni and the students, who are unofficial Alumni Association members, but also faculty members, the family and friends of Sophians, those studying for Sophia University’s entrance exam, and people in the community surrounding the university.

Former President, William Currie, playing the keyboard and singing! (May 29, 2016, at ASF)

The festival starts with a commemorative mass followed by the Alumni Association member gathering (general meeting), and alumni have a good time joining gatherings of their old faculty, department, extra-curricular activity groups, and so on (*1). The festival has so far also hosted a wide variety of events including lectures, performances on the open-air stage by the students and children from nearby elementary schools, entertainment programs for kids, campus tours, food stands and flea markets along the main street of the campus, and charity events. Now, in 2023, the ASF was streamed on the festival’s YouTube channel, broadcasting the Sophians’ circle around the world.

ASF: beginning and the future

The party venue crowded with all age groups (May 18, 1974, at the first ASF)*

The first ASF was held on Saturday, May 18, 1974, the year after Sophia University’s 60th anniversary (1973). It was based on the plan to add to the existing regular alumni gatherings of the Alumni Association General Gathering and Alumni Association Party an opportunity for members of alumni’s families to get know each other. The day of the first ASF featured events such as a speech by Hisashi Inoue (1934–2010), a writer and a Sophia University graduate, auctions, and a performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C Minor. A day care room was also made available for this day (*2). The tradition of a wide variety of events and children’s voices invigorating the ASF has been continuing since then.

President Giuseppe Pittau (at the time) talking to a child (May 17, 1975, at ASF)

From 1981 onward, the ASF was held on the last Sunday of May every year (with some exceptions). Also in that year, the holding of a celebratory ceremony for the Gold (set up in 1976), Silver (in 1965), and Bronze (in 1981) Anniversary for alumni who graduated 50, 25, and 15 years earlier, respectively, on the day that the ASF became a new tradition. In 2014, the Ruby anniversary celebration ceremony for those who graduated 40 years earlier was added to this list (*3).

The ASF in 2022, where offline booths returned. (May 29, 2022, at ASF)*

Visitors to the ASF increased. In particular, in commemoration of the university’s 100 year anniversary in 2013 (Sunday, May 26), the ASF in particular welcomed well in excess of over 20,000 visitors (*4). In 2020 and 2021, there was no ASF held in the “real” world due to COVID-19. During these years, however, the ASF continued in the form of online streaming. In 2022, offline events came back while online streaming continued. This hybrid system not only brought back the vibrant ASF on campus but also allowed alumni in remote areas to ‘feel’ what is happening on the campus via their monitors. The way that alumni and the school are connected is now entering a new phase.

All Sophians’ Christmas (ASC)

There is another homecoming day event that is very characteristic of Sophia University. It is the All Sophians’ Christmas (“ASC”) that started in 2008 and takes place every December. It was first planned by the Alumni Association as a part of the All Sophians’ Century Anniversary Movement to commemorate the university’s 100th anniversary in 2013 (5), and since then, it has become an annual event. The day of the ASC starts with a commemorative mass. Then, there are the singing of hymns, candle services, and booth exhibitions and live music performances by the students and alumni (6). On campus, illuminations softly shed light on the participants.

A candle procession during the fourth ASC. (December 8, 2011, at ASC)*
100 (for the school's 100th anniversary) lighting displays lit up the campus (December 6, 2013, at ASC)*
Booth set up by the students to support people affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake (December 8, 2011, at ASC)*

The ASC is also a place of support. Part of the sales and donations made at the venue have been used to help children overseas, refugees, international students, hospitals, areas and Sophia University students affected by disasters, and also Sophia University students during the time when COVID-19 was spreading. In 2022, the ASC also became a hybrid offline/online event (online only in 2020 and 2021). With these initiatives, we can now feel closer to the Sophian’s circle regardless of our distance from the Yotsuya Campus. I hope the readers of this article will also feel the atmosphere of Sophia University and its Sophians both online and offline.

On ASF’s official YouTube channel, you can watch ASF online streaming and past highlights of the ASF!

There is also the official ASC YouTube channel! This channel also offers online streaming and highlights of past years’ ASC events.

(1) Alumni from Seibo College, which was merged with Sophia University in 2011, also have membership in the Sophia University Alumni Association. (2) “The Sophia News,” Sophia University Alumni Association Office, No. 40, 1974.
(3) To prevent the spread of COVID-19, ceremonies for the academic years of 2020 and 2021 were postponed to February 2022, and the ceremony for the academic year of 2022 was held in February 2023, separately from the ASF. (4) “Sophian’s Now,” Sophia University Alumni Association, No. 174, 2013, P. 8 and other pages.
(5) “Sophian’s Now,” Sophia University Alumni Association, No. 164, 2008, P. 1 and other pages. (6) Until 2019, parties were held in the Active Commons on the basement floor of Building 9 (Cafeteria on the basement floor of Building 9) for participants to get to know each other.

Photos marked with an asterisk (*) are in the collection of the Sophia Archives.

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