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For a century the Gazette has been reporting on the
annual rite of spring —Alumni Weekend and Commencement —in which alumni renew their ties with Penn and each other and the latest set of graduates says goodbye to their student days.

 

 

 

 

“The greatest class had
their greatest
reunion,
now you can
close up the University.”

So concluded Samuel Horton Brown M’1899, reporting in the June 28, 1929 issue of the Gazette on the 30th Reunion of his Medical School class.

Needless to say, his advice was unheeded. The University went right on producing new crops of graduates, and those graduates kept coming back for reunions, through the Depression that would hit later that year, the Second World War, the turmoil of the 1960s, and up to the present—just as they had back when Dr. Brown himself was a freshly minted graduate at the turning of the last century.

The Gazette wasn’t around to record the festivities in 1899, but ever since its founding in 1902 the magazine has provided annual coverage of alumni reunions and commencement ceremonies. This year’s versions appear on page 38 and page 14, respectively. Here are some words and pictures through the decades.

 

A Night of Folly
Alumni Day ended with a celebration in the Triangle that surpassed all previous events in the abandon of its enjoyments. Doctors forgot their patients, lawyers their cases, and dignified brokers and business men threw aside restraint and returned both in spirit and action to college days. They will work better for the memory of it. It was a night of folly in which fireworks, fun, and foolishness ran riot; ’99 had coarse straw sun hats and beards from the agricultural district; ’02 Law wore barrels on their bodies, signifying the manuscripts they have issued, and the number of fees they have acquired; ’75 in pajamas; ’01 with tin dish pans, and one old class of the civil war time disported around the bonfire in shirt sleeves. The absence of the usual supper was compensated for by a surplus of refreshments of a varied and composite description, dispensed with lavish hospitality by the classes, from their rooms in the dormitories. The good of former alumni nights was perpetuated; the bad largely left out.—“Alumni Night,” June 13, 1903

The Morning After
By order of the Dormitory Parietal Committee and the University Trustees, alcoholic liquors, of all kinds, are barred from the dormitories on Alumni night.—“Alumni Day Announcement to Classmen,” June 12, 1909

A Long Black Line Appears
The weather man is always in a genial mood on Class Day. He knows that Class Day is, after all, the high point of Commencement Week. There is a draped barricade cutting off the upper end of the Triangle. In front of the arches dividing the Triangle from the Little Quad a platform has been erected, draped with the Red and Blue and with flags, banked with flowers, with gladioli that are not quite red enough and larkspur that are not quite blue enough, but that make a beautiful bit of color and perfume.

Outside, the Seniors in cap and gown hurry to the meeting place. The pointed green cupolas of the Tower look down on the fathers, the mothers, the sweethearts, and the sisters who form the audience.

A long black line appears at the farther end. It winds over the grass, led by the Senior President and the new President who will take his place. The boys fill the side benches. A little mother, with nearsighted glasses, on the front row, points out her boy among the black-coated figures.

The President salutes the Class—the historic and unusual class that four years ago entered, as do all Freshmen, with no appreciation of the solemn responsibilities that would fall upon it—in a speech full of ideals, of loyalty to Pennsylvania, and of fraternal love. The audience rises and sings with the Class the greeting to all loyal classmen to pay homage to the Red and Blue. The boys wave their mortar-boards, “Hurrah, Hurrah, Pennsylvania.”—“Class Day and Commencement,” by Beulah B. Amram, June 27, 1919

 

 

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