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UNIVERSITY HISTORY

Student Traditions
Hey Day: Introduction

 

Ever since the University moved to West Philadelphia in 1872, Penn students and alumni have been bound together by the continuous observance of a number of student customs and traditions. Today the most notable is the annual Hey Day event which incorporates elements of many other traditions past and present.

 

Photograph of 1911 Class Day festivitiesClass Day

The oldest traditions are Class Day, the award of Senior Honors, and the Bowl Fight, which are first documented in the collections of the University Archives in the year 1865. At that time Penn was still located on Ninth Street, between Market and Chestnut Streets.

In 1865 the senior class decided to supplement the stiff and formal Commencement ceremonies with a day set aside for youthful celebration. In that year, the first Friday in June was declared "Class Day". The seniors held a class meeting and dinner, off-campus, during which they spoofed the faculty and administration, denigrated the lower classes and recognized one another with mock and serious awards. This is when the Spoon was introduced as the symbol of the most popular man in the class.

 

Photograph of planting of the ivy in 1913Ivy Day

While the graduating students frolicked on Class Day, they took a more sentimental view on Ivy Day. In 1873, the first graduating class on the West Philadelphia campus established Ivy Day as a new tradition set aside for the senior class. On the first Ivy Day, a twig of ivy was imported from Kenilworth Castle in Scotland, to be planted on the facade of College Hall. As the vine was planted, an invocation was pronounced, "Having been nurtured this far in its development, it is now able to take roots for itself and grow greater and greater through the years". Thus, ivy became a lasting symbol for each year's graduating class. This tradition soon became elaborate and an Ivy Ball accompanied the planting of the ivy.

 

Photograph of 1935 Cane MarchHey Day

In 1916, Hey Day was established as a "Moving-Up" celebration, modelled after a similar custom recently established at Syracuse University. Its purpose was formal: to mark the advancement of each class. In 1931, Class Day and Hey Day were officially combined into a single celebration, with Ivy Day also being moved to the same date. At the time, the celebration consisted of a traditional ceremony in Irvine Auditorium, followed by the planting of the ivy. Hey Day included the reading of the Class History, Class Prophecy and Class Poem, the presentation of the four Senior Honors Awards and the announcement of those elected into various honorary societies. Through the years, the emphasis of Hey Day shifted from the formal assemblies to student celebration, marked by the introduction of the Parade of Classes in 1937 and the incorporation of the Junior Cane March in 1965. In recent decades Hey Day represents the official passage of the junior class to senior status and is characterized by thousands of marching students parading around campus sporting fake straw hats, red T-shirts and canes.

 

This exhibit was created in January 2005 by Irina Kalashnikova, B.A. and M.A. 2006