With our 150th anniversary approaching, we present a look at some uniquely Vassar traditions. From fireworks and flowers to screaming and ringing a bell, the Vassar experience just wouldn’t be the same without them!
Vassar’s oldest tradition, Founder’s Day began in 1866 as a surprise birthday party for Matthew Vassar, a self-made man who made a fortune brewing beer. Today, it’s the main all-out campus springfest, entirely planned and funded by students. Games, rides, live music, fireworks and, yes, lots of beer for members of the Vassar community who’ve passed the 21 mark.
One of Vassar’s newest traditions, the African Violets are first- and second-year students who assist the Council of Black Seniors and lead the procession at the baccalaureate service on the eve of commencement. The tradition began in 1992, and in 2006 the Violets joined the Daisies in the commencement procession.
After loyally assisting the senior class throughout the year, this group of sophomore women leads the procession at commencement, carrying a 150-foot chain of daisies and laurel. In the 1800s, the sophomores actually picked the daisies from nearby fields and wove the chain themselves. Today, it comes already assembled from a florist shop.
All College Day
A catalyst for change, All College Day has invited reflection and action on issues such as racism, town-gown relations, and community. Administrators, students, faculty, and staff participate in discussions, mural making, tabling, and other activities to voice their opinions and recommend next steps toward strengthening a sense of community.
Hundreds of eerie cries, blood-curdling screams…. On the stroke of midnight the night before exam week begins, students gather on the quad for a little rowdy commiseration.
Ringing the Carillon Bell
Legend has it that students in the old days were allowed to hang out on the rooftops of Main Building and even carted furniture up there. Not so today. But Vassar juniors do get one opportunity to admire the view from up top. After spring convocation, they line up on the fifth floor and take turns ascending the stairs to ring the bell, unofficially marking their transition into senior year.
When it was originally built, Main Building sat upon a treeless plain, the site of the former Dutchess County Racetrack. The class of 1868 planted the first tree, a swamp white oak, in front of Main, initiating the tradition of the Class Tree. Since then, generations of Vassar classes have either planted or chosen a tree as their Class Tree, marked with a plaque designating the class year.