• "And We Were There": Seniors and Alumni Talk Dartmouth Tradition at Alumni Appreciation Week Gathering

    Thursday, May 7, 2009
    News Type

The senior fence on the Green, in the early 1960s.

“Believe it or not,” Christopher Cundey '59 told a group of seniors gathered in Rauner Special Collections Library, “you remember the traditions. They may seem silly sometimes, but they stay with you.”

Members of the Class of 2009 chatted with members of the Class of 1959 and Dartmouth College archivist Peter Carini at a Class Connections event held April 14 during Alumni Appreciation Week, a series of student–alumni events organized annually by the Hill Winds Society student group. Class Connections is a Young Alumni of Dartmouth Activities student program that introduces members of each incoming Dartmouth class to alumni in the class 50 years out in events throughout the students' undergraduate years and beyond.

Carini gave the group an entertaining look at senior class traditions throughout Dartmouth history, including the Sing-Out, the procession of seniors from the senior fence on the Green to Rollins Chapel for student musical performances, and the reading of a poem composed especially for the senior class on Class Day. 

Carini noted that "traditions, which many people think of as unchanging, evolve and go out of style over time." The senior fence, for example, originated in the fence that enclosed the Green in the early 19th century; by the 1890s, much of the fence was gone, but a length of it remained on the east side of the Green and was the exclusive gathering place of seniors. Any newly arrived freshmen who were unfortunate enough to sit on it were carried to a nearby watering trough and tossed in. The fence was later moved to the west side of the Green, and today, a piece of it borders the southwest corner of the Green, helping to keep pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk and prevent tree damage.

Among the traditions fondly recalled by Barry Smith '59 and friends were Winter Carnival and the arrival of their out-of-town dates for the festivities, and the annual tug-of-war between the freshman and senior classes.

“Some of the things you'll remember the most are things you might not think are important now,” Smith told the students.

Diana Punko '09, Class Council secretary and Alumni Relations liaison, said, "It's nice to hear that even 50 years after they graduated, alumni still have good memories from their time at Dartmouth."

"Hearing about these traditions from the '59s makes them all so much more meaningful,” said Rashmi Agarwal '09. “It's one thing to hear, 'Once upon a time an event happened.' It's different to hear, ‘And we were there.'”

Laura Romain '09 is the Alumni Relations Office Web writing intern.