Ivy stones commemorate each Penn undergraduate class since 1873, the first year the University moved from its original Center City campus to West Philadelphia.
On Ivy Day, celebrated a few days before Commencement, members of the senior class place a marble slab, adorned with a symbolic image (usually of ivy) and the class’ graduation year, someplace on campus.
The approximately one-foot-by-two-feet plaque is set at a location selected by the class. The image displayed on the plaque, and the location where the ivy stone will reside permanently, usually has some significance to the class.
The Class of 1881’s ivy stone (pictured), located just to the right of the entrance to College Hall on Locust Walk, has an image of a viper, the emblem of the class, punching through an ivy leaf. In the 1881 undergraduate yearbook, “The Record,” Penn Provost Charles Stille is quoted as saying of the class, “I have treated them most kindly; but I find I have been nursing a nest of vipers in my bosom!”
Some classes have chosen to place the stones in unconventional locations. For example, the Class of 1983’s stone can be found on the 27-yard line of Franklin Field, where Dave Schulman kicked the field goal that gave Penn its first Ivy League title since 1959.
The role of women at Penn is also reflected in the history of Ivy Day. From 1926 until 1961, male and female graduating classes had similar, but separate, ivy stones. The women’s plaques were located in spots such as Bennett Hall that were at the heart of female college life. Bennett Hall was where the women’s college was located. Ivy stones were also located at Hill House, which was a female dorm at that time.
The men’s ivy stones, however, were spread out all over campus, in prominent spots such as College Hall, Houston Hall, and the chemistry building. The first year an ivy stone was placed jointly by male and female students was in 1962, at the newly completed Van Pelt Library.
To see photos of other ivy stones, go to: www.library.upenn.edu/exhibits/pennhistory/ivystones/ivystones.html.
For more information about this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives at www.archives.upenn.edu.
Originally published on September 13, 2012