Thousands of students and alumni will be celebrating homecoming at Illinois State University this weekend, just as the Illinois Wesleyan University community did recently.
Returning graduates who haven't been to town for awhile will probably be surprised - we think pleasantly surprised - by the many changes on campus and in the Twin Cities, especially uptown Normal.
Amid the new look, they may miss the dormitory where they used to live or bar where they used to hang out. But most undoubtedly will be happy to know their old college home is vibrant and progressive.
The "Rock the Red" homecoming celebration is not just for Redbird alumni and students or others directly connected to the university. All of us should join in the fun.
This is a good time to take notice of the advantages this area enjoys by having a major university here - advantages that are economic, academic, cultural and recreational.
The Coalition of Urban and Metropolitan Universities recently released a list of the 25 "best neighbor" colleges and universities, based on "cooperative efforts with community leaders to rehabilitate the cities around them, to influence community revitalization and cultural renewal, and to encourage economic expansion of the local economy, urban development and community service."
Institutions in traditional "college towns" were not part of the group's rankings, which eliminated ISU and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
However, we think Illinois State has been a good neighbor.
Illinois State University and the town of Normal have a good working relationship, particularly in recent years. The university was involved as Normal developed its uptown redevelopment plan and the town will be involved as ISU revises its Campus Master Plan.
University representatives are on the Economic Development Council of the Bloomington-Normal Area and on the Uptown Normal Business Association.
The community has benefited not only from the university's two laboratory schools - Metcalf and University High - but also by having its student teachers working in Unit 5 and District 87 classrooms.
Many faculty and staff, as well as students, are involved in community volunteer work. That includes the Habitat for Humanity chapter that brings together students from both Illinois State and Illinois Wesleyan.
Sugar Creek Arts Festival takes place both uptown and on ISU's quad.
These are just a few examples of what makes ISU a good "neighbor."
So, welcome back to all the alumni in town this weekend - and welcome to those who continue to make the Twin Cities your home.