Tag: Lawrence traditions

Luminaries light up Main Hall entrance to welcome new students to Lawrence

Luminaries line the walkway and steps in front of Main Hall Sunday night. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The light that glowed from the steps and walkway in front of Main Hall on Sunday night sent a welcoming message to the more than 400 first-year and transfer students who will be beginning their studies at Lawrence University today.

In a reimagining of the traditional presidential handshake, the students made their way to the president’s house, where President Mark Burstein greeted each one on the lawn – masks on, from 6 feet apart – welcoming them to Lawrence and presenting them with a luminary. The students then brought the luminary to the front of Main Hall, placing it with those of their classmates.

Welcome Week greets first-year students. Read more here.

“Bring Your Light” was the theme. With safety protocols in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, the presidential handshake ceremony that usually happens the night before classes begin could not take place in its usual way. Thus, it was reimagined in a way that still allowed each first-year student to be personally welcomed by the president.

“It’s an incredibly important moment in the student experience,” Burstein said. “It gave me a chance to talk with every first-year student.”

The process began before the sun went down, but by the time the more than 400 luminaries were in place, the lights were glowing in the dark, lighting the way into a new journey.

Eighty-six luminaries were placed on the Main Hall steps to represent the first-year students who opted to study remotely during Fall Term. The students who are on campus then walked with their luminaries from the president’s house, traversing campus before placing them along the sidewalk leading from the steps.

Perhaps a new tradition was born.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu

13 traditions that keep Lawrentians connected through generations

The Class of 2020 handed off yellow to the Class of 2024, keeping the class colors tradition alive.

Story by Allison Boshell ’21

We have many traditions at Lawrence University that have carried on through the years. As we prepare to begin a new academic year, let’s celebrate 13 of them.

Allow me to be your tour guide as a new Fall Term arrives.

A quick aside: Many student organizations on campus have their own beloved traditions that are worth exploring. We aren’t going to get into all of those here. Rather, these are 13 annual campus-wide staples that are part of the Lawrentian experience. Some began well over a century ago and some were established more recently, but all are now part of what makes Lawrence so special.

The safety protocols in place to restrict the spread of COVID-19 will alter or postpone some of these traditions this year. But all are expected to carry on, even if they have to take a brief hiatus.

President’s handshake 

During Welcome Week (now called New Student Orientation), before returning students move into the residence halls, the University president personally welcomes the incoming class to Lawrence in an event at Memorial Chapel, shaking each new student’s hand. This ceremony is a way to symbolize you joining the Lawrence community, similar to how seniors at commencement shake the president’s hand again to celebrate graduation. As a freshman, this ceremony made me feel like there was a clear beginning, a sign of my transition into college, where I would soon experience and learn more things than I could have ever imagined.

LU Zoo Days 

The dunk tank is part of Zoo Days, a Spring Term tradition.

Organized by our student events organization SOUP during Spring Term when the weather is starting to warm up, Lawrentians from all over campus congregate on Ormsby Green to play games, listen to music, and enjoy an afternoon of fun in the sun. The best part about Zoo Days is that all of the money raised by student clubs and organizations goes toward nonprofit causes. Favorite things to do at Zoo Days include getting soaked by the “dunk tank,” having a hot dog at the barbecue, and making sand art. 

Winter Carnival 

The President’s Ball, the highlight of Winter Carnival, provides a chance to dress up and hit the dance floor.

Winter Carnival is a spark of warm joy in the cold of Winter Term here at Lawrence. Activities for the carnival vary year to year, from ice sculpting to building gingerbread houses to playing grocery BINGO. One of the most exciting events of the year comes at the end of Winter Carnival, when President’s Ball is held. It’s a night of dancing to a live jazz band and eating chocolate fondue. President’s Ball takes the cake because all students and faculty get dressed to the nines. It’s always exciting to see students get out of their winter clothes and study sweatpants and into their best formal wear. It’s the best night of Winter Term.  

LUaroo 

Memorial Day Weekend is all about music and sun on the quad. The annual music festival, arriving just before Spring Term finals, is a favorite for many students.

Lawrentians look forward to Memorial Day weekend. Why? Because LUaroo, the much-anticipated, weekend-long mini music festival on the quad, is the highlight of all the annual events at Lawrence. Coming to enjoy artists from around the Midwest — and even bands from our own Conservatory of Music — students lay out on the quad or dance with friends from morning until night all weekend long. It’s a great stress-breaker right before Spring Term finals. LUaroo is by far my favorite event of the year because the whole campus comes together. One year there was a taco truck that came to campus, and Chicago-based artists Ric Wilson and Kweku Collins were spectacular as they headlined the festival. Great memories.

Cabaret 

International students come together on stage each year to present a spectacular showcase of talents and customs from around the world.

Lawrence’s international students come together each year to put on a show of cultural expressions. Performed in Stansbury Theatre, the spectacle includes original and traditional dance choreography, musical offerings, and fashion. The Cabaret is different every year, with a changing theme to guide the “plot” of the show. This truly is a must-see event every year. My favorite thing about Cabaret is seeing friends and classmates show off amazing talents that I never knew they had.   

Cultural Expressions

Cultural Expressions has grown into an annual tradition that marks the close of People of Color Empowerment Week on campus.

This showcase of on-campus performance talent, ranging from music to dance to spoken-word, has become a tradition over the past half dozen years, a conclusion to the annual People of Color Empowerment Week. Two years ago, the Excellence Ball was added at the front end of the week, providing bookends to a week of films, art, and speakers on issues of equity, opportunity, and inclusion.

The Rock 

The Rock, located just north of Main Hall, is the longest tradition on this list. It dates back to 1895.

The 2-ton granite boulder next to Main Hall is back in its rightful place after having gone missing for about 20 years. The Rock was brought to campus 124 years ago by the Class of 1895 after students found it on a geology trip in New London, Wisconsin. It made its debut next to Main Hall a short time later. The Rock has been painted countless times for all kinds of causes. It’s been the subject of pranks and fraternity feuds, where it has been guarded and dragged across campus, and, yes, stolen. But mostly painted. We are excited to see the different ways students will paint it in the days, weeks, and years to come. 

Ormsby Lake 

The lawn in front of Ormsby Hall, just west of Main Hall (seen here), is transformed into an ice rink each winter. It draws ice skaters and broom ball combatants.

More like Ormsby Ice Rink during the winter. This classic nod to winter is a hot spot for fun on Ormsby Green during January and February. From skating and broomball to frolicking with friends, students come to the “lake” to get a break from studying during the dark days of Winter Term. I personally enjoy seeing my fellow Lawrentians participate in games on Ormsby Lake, some just trying to run or walk across the ice without falling.  

Class Colors 

Each class is assigned one of four colors. They rotate, with the graduating class handing off its color to the incoming class. It’s a tradition that dates back to the days of Milwaukee-Downer College.

Red, yellow, green, and purple: the class colors originate from a Milwaukee-Downer College tradition. Class colors at Milwaukee-Downer were given to each class to provide them a sense of unity, a tradition Lawrence would eventually embrace. The first colors at Lawrence were assigned in 1988, 24 years after the 1964 merger. It is cherished to this day. Each new class inherits the color of the newly graduated class, presented during Welcome Week in Memorial Chapel. Every new first-year class holds the flag in the class photo at the beginning of the year. My class color is purple, and at the beginning of my freshman year each student was given a purple T-shirt decorated with our graduation year.  

Weekends at Björklunden 

A weekend at Bjorklunden has been a cherished tradition for generations of Lawrence students.

Going to Björklunden for a weekend during a rigorous term of studying is a breath of fresh air all Lawrentians enjoy. Located in Door County, on the shoreline of Lake Michigan, Björklunden is a Swedish-inspired lodge long popular among alumni and students. Whether it’s classes, clubs, organizations, or residence halls making the trip, it’s going to be both a learning and relaxing experience. Visiting “Björk,” as students call it, is always an honor because no other college I have heard of has a lodge on a 425-acre estate that students are free to go to on the weekends. When I have gone to Björk, I usually study by the fire, or go for walks by the lake, even in the cold of winter. It’s a treasured tradition.  

The Honor Code 

Lawrence students live by the Honor Code. It’s part of being a Lawrentian.

On each paper or project a Lawrentian submits, you can see “IHRTLUHC” adorning the cover, which stands for “I hereby reaffirm the Lawrence University Honor Code.” Upon their arrival to campus, each student commits themselves to the Honor Code: “No Lawrence student will unfairly advance their own academic performance or in any way limit or impede the academic pursuits of other students of the Lawrence community.” This code is what binds Lawrentians together academically and prompts social responsibility in all aspects of life. At the beginning of freshman year, every student is required to sign the Honor Code, which ties them to the Lawrence community through a fundamental social promise that shows they not only take their own development seriously but the development of their peers as well.  

The Viking Room 

For more than 50 years now, the Viking Room has been an on-campus hangout for students of age. Carving their names into the furniture is part of the tradition.

Founded in 1969 as a bar, the Viking Room (fondly referred to as the VR) is one of the campus’ eclectic, prime hang-out spots for students ages 21+. Located in the basement of Memorial Hall, the VR is managed, tended, and stocked by students who are looking for a fun service experience on campus. Although it first became a bar in 1969, the VR served as a popular lounge on campus for many years prior to that. It has carved out a rich history—literally. Just look for yourself! Climb into the booths or sit at the wooden tables and you can see the surfaces are covered in scratched signatures and carvings from students throughout Lawrence’s history.   

The Great Midwest Trivia Contest 

The Great Midwest Trivia Contest continues to connect current and former Lawrentians.

Established in 1966, this tradition is fully student run, but teams from all around the world participate annually. Broadcast online from Lawrence’s WLFM radio station in the Music-Drama Center, the Great Midwest Trivia Contest is a weekend-long event that is not for the weak of heart. Running around the clock and overseen by a team of dedicated trivia masters, it’s an annual frenzy of bizarre and off-the-beaten-path trivia. It remains a great connector with Lawrence alumni who return to the game year after year. Sleep is optional.  

Allison Boshell ’21 is a student writer in the Communications office.

Signage a nod to strange, complicated history of Lawrence’s favorite rock

New signage has gone up next to the Rock on Lawrence’s Main Hall lawn, noting the big boulder’s ties to campus dating back to 1895.

Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

The Rock, a 2-ton boulder resting peacefully on a stretch of lawn near the northwest corner of Main Hall, has finally had its long, strange history commemorated by Lawrence University.

Newly installed signage provides a nod to the 4,700-pound piece of granite that has been tolerated but rarely celebrated by the university that has been its home — mostly — since members of the Class of 1895 first hauled it to campus 124 years ago.

As campus traditions go, this is one that has had a bit of a love-hate relationship with the school. The Rock — not to be confused with a certain Hollywood celebrity of the same nickname — has been the subject of pranks, fraternity feuds and deep mysteries through the decades. It was returned to campus in the spring of 2018 after having gone missing for 20 years.

Now it’s home, and there’s nothing but love. Thus, the new signage recently placed next to the Rock:

“Members of the Class of 1895 found this boulder on a geology field trip in New London, WI, and brought it to campus to serve as the senior class gift. In the years since, the Rock has been painted, buried, moved around, and even removed from campus. After a 20-year stay on the Nickel family farm (Michael Nickel ’02, Adam Nickel ’03), it was returned to its original placement in front of Main Hall in spring 2018.”

The Rock, now painted green with the white lettering of the Class of 2019, has a history that started out combative, if all in good fun. Consider this dispatch in The Lawrentian in July 1895:

“Tuesday afternoon was Class Day and the big boulder of the Class of ’95 made its debut in college history. Somehow the seniors had an idea that the giddy juniors would not allow it to become a landmark on the campus and they watched all night till the day of its dedication, lest some festive ’96er should come along and carry the pebble off and throw it in the river.”

That would set a tone that would become part of the Rock’s tradition, one of mostly harmless rivalry and midnight escapades stretching across more than 100 years, frequently chronicled by The Lawrentian and sometimes The Post-Crescent.

Among the highlights:

With concerns the pranks had gotten out of hand, the Rock was moved to a mostly out-of-the-way spot near the Fox River in 1939; it would be returned to the Main Hall green by ambitious students three years later.

It would go missing in 1964, finally retrieved in 1983 (it had been buried behind Plantz Hall by members of the Class of 1967, so, technically, it was still on campus).

And it would once again disappear in 1998, discovered 20 years later by students Sarah Axtell ’17 and Jon Hanrahan ’16, who had launched an entertaining, Serial-style podcast in hopes of solving the mystery of the Rock’s whereabouts.

In between all of that, the Rock was at the center of some much-chronicled campus rivalries and shenanigans that included students hiring towing companies to move the rock around campus in the dark of night, tossing it into the Fox River on multiple occasions, placing it in cement, and building a papier-mache replica that would appear one morning in 1957 on the roof of the former Stephenson Hall.

As the location of the Rock became a competition among fraternities, there was an unwritten rule that said wherever the rock was located on the morning of homecoming, that is where it would stay for the rest of the school year.

The 1998 disappearance came not long after the Phi Delta Theta and Delta Tau Delta fraternities had a bit of a public showdown, one that involved a front-end loader and required the dean of students to negotiate a compromise as local media looked on.

The engraving of Class of '95 can clearly be seen on the Rock, which sits on the Main Hall lawn. The rock is painted green with Class of 2019 in white.
A paint job by the Class of 2019 does not obscure the engraving from the Class of ’95 (that’s 1895) on the Rock, which sits on the Main Hall lawn with newly installed signage commemorating its history.

A search and a podcast

The Rock was then mostly forgotten for nearly two decades until Axtell and Hanrahan launched their No Stone Unturned podcast in 2016.

“Sarah and I were real dorks about Lawrence history,” Hanrahan said.

Their sleuthing eventually took them to a farm in Calumet County where the rock was found behind an old barn, the carved Class of ’95 in plain sight. It turns out there were a lot of complicated emotions tied to the Rock and how it ended up on that farm.

Lawrence and the Nickel family would eventually reach agreement that the Rock should return to the Main Hall green. It came home in 2018.

The ongoing fascination with the big boulder speaks to college students’ need to feel connected to their school’s history, said Hanrahan, who now works as an associate producer for New York Public Radio. He points to other schools with similar objects that have served as traditions that tie together generations of students — Rutgers’ cannon, Carnegie Mellon’s fence painting, and Northwestern’s own version of an oft-painted rock.

“There’s definitely that element of college students wanting and needing that quirky sense of identity,” Hanrahan said.

The podcast not only gave Hanrahan and Axtell the chance to fixate on Lawrence history — “This project was one of the first real moments when I fell in love with archives,” Hanrahan said — it also provided an opportunity to connect with alumni in a meaningful way.

“We got a sense of what life was like at Lawrence, especially in the ’90s, which was when the disappearance occurred,” Hanrahan said. “… We got a taste of life in the ’60s when the Rock disappeared then. That was very, very different from what life was like in the ’90s, which was also very different from what life is like in the 2010s.”   

An uneasy history

Erin Dix ’08, the university’s archivist over the past nine years, said the many Rock-related pranks left some past university administrators uneasy. That’s why the new signage is notable.

“The administration at Lawrence has not always embraced the disruptive elements of the Rock’s tradition,” she said. “In 1939, college officials moved the Rock to the tennis courts at the bottom of the Drew Street hill to try to discourage the constant pranks. But students managed to hoist it back up the hill three years later. During the Rock’s most recent absence, I often heard the theory that the administration had purposefully removed it from campus.” (It had not.)

“My favorite anecdote about the Rock comes from a Post-Crescent article published when it was being exhumed from the parking lot behind Plantz Hall in 1983,” Dix said. “‘Richard Warch, president of the university, was there, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich from his sack lunch during the noon-hour event. “What a great day for Lawrence University,” he said with mock enthusiasm as a big P.G. Miron crane lifted the rock from the ground.’”

Hanrahan believes that kind of history should be celebrated. Students today should be aware of the school’s deep history and the student experiences that preceded them, even if it’s just a goofy old rock. That it has Class of ’95 carved into it is reason enough to acknowledge that connection, he said.

“That’s not 1995, that’s 1895, this unimaginably distant group of people,” Hanrahan said. “And it has these classes from the 1930s carved on the side as well. So, it’s a rock and it’s obviously this old geological artifact, but it broadcasts its oldness and it’s Lawrenceness right there on the side. It’s hard to look at it and not think of a Lawrence from 100 years ago.”

New signage now accompanies the Rock on the Main Hall lawn.

Axtell, now working in New York City for Accomplice the Show, an immersive theater company, applauds the university for formally recognizing the history of the Rock, calling it an important connection between generations of students.

“I don’t think the university can always take an official stance on some of the goofy things that have happened in the past, but I think the university should be proud of the ingenuity and creativity of its students,” she said.

“It gives people a reason to connect back to the history of the place. People need to pay more attention to the history of the areas around them, for better or worse.”

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu