For the Record: Coming home to Penn

Record - story

University Archives and Records Center

Alumni Weekend is an annual rite of spring on campus for Penn graduates, a time for them to renew their connections to the University and meet up with old friends.

The weekend leads up to Commencement, when the University’s newest graduates attain their degrees and officially say farewell to campus life.

Alumni Weekend, coordinated through the Penn Alumni Relations office, is designed to allow graduates of all ages to relive a bit of their lives on campus. Taking the time to step back and remember life at Penn is a tradition that stretches back more than 100 years, and at first, the reminiscing lasted only one day.

After Alumni Day in 1903, one alumnus shared his thoughts on the festivities in an article for the Pennsylvania Gazette: “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. 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 [sic] time disported around the bonfire in shirt sleeves.”

Over the years, the annual alumni celebration evolved from a one-day event to four days of alumni activities. Now, the weekend of festivities runs from the Friday before Commencement through the official graduation ceremony at Franklin Field, with events held at Penn’s most historic buildings—College Hall, Houston Hall, Fisher Fine Arts Library, as well as Penn’s newest facilities, including Penn Park.

Alumni get a chance to experience old and new Penn traditions. In the true spirit of the University, but without the pressure of receiving grades, alumni are invited to attend lectures by faculty and fellow alums on topics such as health, politics, the arts, law, and business.

At Commencement, class representatives can participate in the traditional procession down Locust Walk, with one alumnus receiving the special honor of carrying the class flag.

Hurrah, Hurrah, Pennsylvania!

Originally published on May 10, 2012