Ask Benny: A tradition forever etched in stone

Dear Benny,
What is the history behind the Ivy Day stones?
—Traditions Rock!

Dear Traditionalist,
Way, way back in the mists of time, Penn students began marking the occasion of their graduation by planting sprigs of ivy shortly before Commencement to signify their enduring ties to the University.

Shortly after Penn moved to its West Philadelphia home, the Class of 1873 added a new element to this observance—the installation of a stone to provide a permanent record of the event. This first Ivy Stone is on the north side of College Hall, where it was unveiled June 7, 1873. Since then, the graduating seniors have used Ivy Day to mark both their passage into the real world and sites they fondly remember. For instance, the 1983 Ivy Stone sits at the 27-yard line of Franklin Field, where Dave Schulman kicked the field goal that gave Penn its first Ivy League title since 1959.

Van Pelt-Dietrich reference librarian David Toccafondi maintains a Web site on the Ivy Stone tradition at

Dear Benny,
Why was only half of the exterior of College Hall restored?

Dear Curious,
I put your question to University Architect Charlie Newman, who told me that it’s a matter of priorities.

Two-thirds of the building—the east and central wings—have been completely rebuilt, and the reconstruction was complex and costly. In addition, there are a number of other major projects in the pipeline to add needed new space and update aging buildings like the Hamilton Village high rise dorms (“Q&A,” Current, Sept. 5), and all of these compete for a limited pool of funds. What this means is that while the restoration of College Hall will be completed some day, we can’t say exactly when that day will be.

Got a question for Benny? You can ask Benny about benefits, worklife issues, University history or trivia, or other matters pertaining to life at Penn. Send your questions via e-mail to or via regular mail to the Current, 200 Sansom Place East, 3600 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6106.

Originally published on October 3, 2002