Johns Hopkins Gazette | February 16, 2009
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The newspaper of The Johns Hopkins University February 16, 2009 | Vol. 38 No. 22
School Spirit: 'Daniel Coit Gilman' Leads JHU Birthday Bash

The 'spirit' of Daniel Coit Gilman

By Greg Rienzi
The Gazette

Two Johns Hopkins presidents — the "spirit" of first President Daniel Coit Gilman and outgoing President William R. Brody — will partner up this week for a Johns Hopkins-style birthday bash.

To honor the founding of the university 133 years ago — on Feb. 22, 1876 — a Commemoration Day celebration will be held from noon to 2 p.m. on Friday in Homewood's Levering Hall, which will be decked out in gold-and-sable banners.

The Commemoration Day tradition was brought back three years ago to give people an appreciation for the university's history and foster a sense of pride in how much it has grown in size and stature since its inception.

The highlight of the event will be an abridged reading, at 1 p.m. in the Great Hall, of the inaugural address by an actor impersonating Gilman, who will be introduced by Brody in one of his final appearances as president.

University administrators will be on hand in the Glass Pavilion to pass out birthday cake and refreshments, and all who attend are encouraged to wear Johns Hopkins paraphernalia.

To offer a glimpse into the university's past, historical images from the photograph collection of the Ferdinand Hamburger Archives will be on display in both the Great Hall and the Glass Pavilion. The images will document various aspects of the university's history, including photographs of the original campus in downtown Baltimore, the early Homewood campus and student activities from the 1800s and early 1900s.

The Great Hall will feature The Many Portraits of Daniel Coit Gilman, a newly assembled collection of 14 photographs of Gilman at various life stages. One portrait depicts Gilman as a young man at Yale, where he was a founder of the school's now-famous Skull and Bones secret society. Also on display will be a new photograph — a framed black-and-white image of the bust that sits atop the Johns Hopkins Memorial on North Charles Street. Taken recently by Will Kirk of Homewood Imaging and Photographic Services, it will hang above the room's fireplace.

To get everyone in a Blue Jay mood, the Glass Pavilion speakers will blare out decades-old recordings of Johns Hopkins Glee Club songs.

Commemoration Day ends — after the men's lacrosse team's season opener (see story here) — with a "For the Kids Sock Hop," to be held from 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. in the Athletic Center back gym. The entrance fee is $5 cash, and all proceeds go to benefit the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. The event will feature food, performances by student a cappella groups and, of course, dancing through the ages.

The first commemoration ceremony was held in 1877 in Hopkins Hall, located on the original downtown campus. James Joseph Sylvester and Basil L. Gildersleeve, two of the first faculty members, gave addresses, and flowers taken from the greenhouse at Clifton Mansion, which had been the founder's summer residence, were brought in for the occasion.

The location of the Commemoration Day celebration moved several times during the university's history. The ceremony typically included an academic procession, a musical performance, a speech by the president and a keynote address by a distinguished visiting scholar or dignitary.

During the 1980s, the annual ceremony was held at Shriver Hall. The event eventually fell out of favor in the 1990s.

Looking to foster traditions that strengthen students' ties to Homewood and to Johns Hopkins, in 2006 the university resumed the practice of formally recognizing Commemoration Day, with a more modest event.

The event is free and open to all students, faculty and staff.

Long-sleeved T-shirts bearing the likeness of Johns Hopkins on the front pocket and the date on the back, will be distributed to the first 500 students with valid ID who are dressed in some form of Johns Hopkins attire and/or colors.

Commemoration Day buttons will also be passed out. They will bear the Johns Hopkins bust photograph on display in the Great Hall.


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