Hey Day: A Uniquely Penn Tradition

Following a tradition that reaches back to 1916, Penn juniors celebrated Hey Day 2012 on April 25, by donning red shirts, strutting along Locust Walk carrying canes, and biting into straw hats.

A celebration unique to Penn, Hey Day marks the “moving up” of juniors to the senior class. This year’s event began with a class picnic, followed by the traditional procession to College Hall.

As in years past, Penn President Amy Gutmann met the students at the steps of College Hall, where, before officially declaring the Class of 2013 seniors, she gave them “one final test.” The questions went like this: “Question No. 1: Who is the founder of the University of Pennsylvania? Question No. 2: Who is your class president? Question No. 3: What is the name of your class?”

After the students roared out their answers, Gutmann said, “You’ve passed. Now, by the power vested in me by the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania, I hereby declare you, seniors! Congratulations.”

The University Archives and Records Center provides two possible explanations for the odd name of the annual event. An article in the 1916 The Pennsylvanian reported that the name "Hey Day" was chosen by a committee formed especially for the purpose of coming up with an appropriate title for the newly established Moving-Up Day.

An alternative claim, however, is that the name is a pun suggested by Eugene H. Southall, Class of 1916 and editor-in-chief of The Pennsylvanian. Well acquainted with the phrase, “the heyday of someone's career,” Southall half-facetiously suggested that “Straw Hat Day be known henceforth as Heyday and that the then scattered events of importance be concentrated in one day, which would represent a sort of apogee or heyday of college life and activities.”

In 1931, Class Day activities were folded into Hey Day, including the reading of the Class History, Class Prophecy and Class Poem; the presentation of the Senior Honors Awards; and the announcement of those elected into various honorary societies.

In the decades since, however, Hey Day has become far less formal and much more of an exuberant outdoor affair.

Text by Julie McWilliams
Photos by Steve Minicola, Scott Spitzer & Vivek Bharathan