University Day, 1915

Daily Tar Heel, 14 October 1915. Image via
Daily Tar Heel, 14 October 1915. Image via

As the UNC community gathers today to celebrate the 222nd anniversary of the laying of the cornerstone of Old East, I wanted to take a look at how UNC commemorated number 122.

Faculty and students gathered on October 12, 1915, for a procession to Memorial Hall, speeches, and a day of celebration. The featured speaker was Chancellor J.H. Kirkland of Vanderbilt University, who spoke on “Patriotism, A New Interpretation.”

While the focus of Kirkland’s speech was on the looming threat of “the red flag of anarchy,” he started off speaking directly to the local audience with a stirring tribute to the University:

“[University Day] is not an ordinary celebration of one individual or to perpetuate some one name. It calls to mind the history of more than a century. The story of this small village enlarges to dimensions as large as the state and as wide as human interest.  University Day becomes North Carolina Day and many names and different memories are recalled by the friends who take part in it.”

Following the speech, President Edward Kidder Graham read telegrams from alumni groups around the country, including “thirteen lusty young Tar Heels in banquet assembled” in Boston. Another notable telegram from Walter Murphy of Washington, D.C. proclaimed, “The University of North Carolina — the best asset of the State, and may the State realize it.”

While the procession and speeches sound similar to today’s events, the festivities following reflected a much smaller campus in a different era. President Graham and his wife opened up their house for a reception where “the receiving line was composed of members of the faculty and their wives.” For refreshments, “cream, cakes, and mints were served by young ladies present” and “On the lawn, Mrs. Dey and Mrs. Henderson presided at the punch bowl.”

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