Campus traditions are prevalent across the nation, from Dartmouth College’s annual “Polar Bear Swim” to reinvigorate students for the winter, to Keene State College’s very own “Clap-In” to welcome first-year students.
What can be seen across all traditions is a promotion of unity on campus and strengthening of ties between members of the college community.
KSC has had many traditions through the years since it was founded in 1909. Some, like the Clap-In, the college still practices. Others may remember more recent traditions of which we have let go, such as the annual Pumpkin Lobotomy, where students gathered on the quad to carve pumpkins together. KSC senior Olivia Miller participated in the Pumpkin Lobotomy during her first year and still remembers the experience.
Miller said, “I remember walking down Appian Way and seeing Fiske quad filled with pumpkins.” She said that the event was so important to her because the communal act of carving pumpkins with her peers made for a memorable ordeal. “I think a lot of us have childhood memories of carving pumpkins with our families… and that day, all carving together, made me feel like Keene was my family.”
According to Assistant Archivist and Lecturer Zachary Giroux, our college history is filled with lost traditions dating all the way back to the early years of the college. “A great place to start looking at past traditions would be looking at our collection of yearbooks.”
When flipping through pages of The Kronicle from the early days of the college, one could find the school pledge from when KSC was the Teacher’s College and see that as the college grew, there would be songs, poems and short stories created by members of each class about their time at the school. Around the 1940s and ‘50s, as fraternities, sororities and other student groups started forming, they would host dances and celebrations throughout the year to bring the campus together.
Elements of the Winter Carnival, an event where students came together to play in the snow and have sculpture-building contests, can still be seen today in the Keene Ice & Snow Festival.
There were numerous traditions surrounding graduation at KSC. One such tradition was called “Rose Night,” which involved the gathering of students, parents, friends and townspeople. The students sang songs together, usually ones written by the students of each class, and then the graduating seniors would march through campus and receive roses from those in attendance. There was also a graduation tradition called the “Planting of the Ivy.” The graduating seniors planted an ivy and present it to the underclassmen. The underclassmen then accepted the ivy, usually in the form of a song or pledge, to preserve the effect the graduating class has left on the campus.
Senior Victoria Sansevero will be graduating this spring and is excited for the convocation ceremony. When she learned about Rose Night and the Planting of the Ivy, she said, “Those sound beautiful. That would be a wonderful experience to take part in.”
Graduating seniors from the 1950s also got to leave one extra impression on the school: a Class Will. The Will appeared on the last few pages of the yearbook and was filled with one-line remarks from each graduate, such as, “Barbara Roy leaves her baton to future parades,” and “Joe Hanrahan leaves his acting to Parker Hall.” Others were more comical, like, “Betty Raymond leaves by the skin of her teeth,” and “Jean Mosely leaves her birds to Bob Wing,” immediately followed by, “Bob Wing leaves with the birds.”
What really made an impression on Sansevero, she said, were “the lasting thoughts of those people. They got an opportunity to say their last words.”
Abbygail Vasas can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org