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Traditionally Speaking

Illustration by Wally Neibart Lately there's been a lot of talk around our office about traditions — what defines them, how those of Johns Hopkins measure up to those of other universities, weird college rituals of our own — all inspired by our cover story. First, I want to say what a privilege it is, as interim editor, to carry on the fine traditions of this magazine. Second, I'd like to relate just how much fun we've had putting this story together.

When Jim Paterson pitched a story on Hopkins traditions, we scratched our heads a bit and agreed that we couldn't think of many. Jim is one of those reporters who will ask a thousand questions of a thousand sources, then go back and ask a thousand more. (One source, Neil Grauer, said to me in the hallway that he had exchanged so many e-mails with Jim, he felt like he had written the story himself.) So I knew if anyone could track down obscure rituals in Hopkins history, Jim could. And indeed, within days descriptions of bizarre customs and clubs and beliefs started rolling in. Space didn't allow us to include them all, which is good because some were impossible to confirm, a handful were a little risqué, and a few were likely illegal.

Once we decided to fabricate some traditions of our own, senior writers Maria Blackburn and Dale Keiger eagerly volunteered. (I don't know, maybe they needed a break from all that journalistic integrity.) When they started whispering and giggling and passing stories back and forth, I knew we were on to something.

Art director Shaul Tsemach — who lobbied to have the Commencement streaker included because, well, just think of the artistic possibilities — made the wise decision to have Wally Neibart do the illustrations. He couldn't have done a better job. His cover illustration, especially, captures the spirit of the story perfectly. (The lady shown here, by the way, is not me — I don't smoke cigars. She would be Wally's idea of a Ubiquiteers Club member, circa 1936.)

I hope you have half as much fun reading the story as we had writing it. And if it inspires you to share some remembered traditions of your own, we would love to hear them.

-Catherine Pierre

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