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Penn Traditions

NSO 2006 > Life at Penn > Penn Traditions

Read on about many of Penn's traditions! These facts have been provided by the Penn Traditions program.

Penn's sports teams are nicknamed the Quakers after the religion adopted by William Penn, who established Pennsylvania as a Quaker province. Today, we see the Quaker at Penn football and basketball games. In the 1920s, a proposal was made to change the Quaker mascot to the Penguin, but the students found the animal was too weak as a representative.
Franklin Field is the oldest two-tiered stadium in the country with a seating capacity of 52,598. Originally opened in 1895 for the first running of the Penn Relays, the stadium was rebuilt 72 years ago. It has been the site of the nation's first scoreboard, the first football radio broadcast, the first football telecast, and Vince Lombardi's only NFL playoff loss. The field has also been the home of the Philadelphia Eagles.
In 1916, Hey Day was established as a "Moving-Up" celebration to mark the advancement of each class. In recent decades, Hey Day has represented the official passage of the junior class to senior status and is characterized by thousands of marching students parading around campus and wearing red T-shirts, carrying canes, and biting into fake straw hats.
Established in 1895, The Penn Relays represent the largest amateur track meet and oldest organized relay competition in the United States. The event is held every April for three days at Franklin Field. The Relays bring together the best track and field athletes from high schools and colleges worldwide, in addition to races on Saturday with Olympic athletes. An important event to the community, the Relays bring in over 100,000 spectators each year.
Although it's possible to get basketball season tickets without camping out overnight at the Palestra, the best seats go to those who wait in "The Line". Groups spend 24 hours in the nation's oldest basketball arena just to score coveted courtside seats. The tradition started in 1969, and now the date and location where the tickets will be sold is changed every year and kept top secret.
Penn fans throw toast onto Franklin Field after the third quarter of every home football game. The toast-throwing tradition was in response to the line "Here's a toast to dear old Penn" in the school song "Drink a Highball". The act of throwing toast was adopted after alcohol was banned from the stadium in the 1970s. In a good season, 20,000 to 30,000 pieces of toast are thrown per game!
"The Red and the Blue" is sung at the end of many Penn events. It was written in 1896 and places the origins of Penn's colors as a combination of those of the best of her rivals. "Fair Harvard has her crimson, and Yale her colors too / But for dear Pennsylvania, we wear the Red and Blue." Arm motions accompany the song's refrain.
A principal factor that led to the reshaping of Penn's history was the growing rivalry with Princeton, which was played out on the football field, in the design of the campus, and in aspects of campus life from rituals to songs. The rivalry between basketball teams is so intense that a large scoreboard, centered in the Palestra, is dedicated to keeping track of the schools' all-time record against each other.
For two days in the fall, Homecoming provides the opportunity to savor everything Penn and a chance to cheer on the Quakers at Franklin Field. Homecoming enables students and alumni to simply reconnect with Penn and with each other. Penn's football team was the first in the United States to use numbers on its jerseys, and Penn played in the first nationally televised football game.
"The Love Statue" graces the triangular grounds of Blanche Levy Park on 36th and Locust Walk. This painted aluminum sculpture, installed in 1998, is part of the iconic "Love" series by pop artist Robert Indiana. This campus attraction is a larger version of the original, which is located downtown in John F. Kennedy Plaza.
Created by Claes Oldenberg and installed in front of Van Pelt Library in 1981, the Button is 16 feet in diameter, weighs 5,000 pounds, and is cast in reinforced aluminum. Oldenberg once told the Philadelphia Inquirer that "the Split represents the Schuylkill. It divides the button into four parts—for William Penn's original Philadelphia squares."
Penn students are known for their involvement in community service and civic responsibility. The Civic House is the University of Pennsylvania's hub for student-led community service and social advocacy work, promoting connections with the West Philadelphia community and beyond. Through education, community connections, and other resources, Civic House prepares students for responsible and effective civic engagement.
The University of Pennsylvania has the distinction of being the first university in the United States. "University" is defined as an institution of higher education that consists of more than one faculty. In 1779, Penn was official renamed to reflect its status as a university, rather than a college. Harvard, established in 1636, is America's first college, a claim often confused with Penn's.
In 1873, the first graduating class on Penn's West Philadelphia campus established Ivy Day as a new tradition set aside for the senior class. As a vine was planted and an invocation pronounced, ivy became a lasting symbol for each year's graduating class. On the first Ivy Day, a twig of ivy was imported from Kenilworth Castle in Scotland and was planted on the facade of College Hall.
Adopted in 1933, the Penn coat of arms is a combination of the Penn and Franklin families' arms. It combines the school colors, two books to represent academia, three plates from the Penn arms, and a dolphin from the Franklin arms. The coat of arms also includes the University's motto - Leges Sine Moribus Vanae, or, "laws are meaningless without morals," quoted from Horace's "Third Ode."

University Websites About Penn Traditions

Penn Traditions - The Penn Traditions program aims to foster a sense of pride in Penn's history and traditions.

Traditions Archives - The University Archives have put together a number of exhibits of Univeristy traditions, both past and present.

University Archives - The University Archives main page, which has a multitude of exhibits about the history of Penn.


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This page last updated on: June 9, 2006 4:02 PM EDT | Copyright © 2006