Weekend namesake has served for 80 yrs.

by Lizzie Wise | 5/17/02 5:00am

Who would have guessed that the raucous weekend immortalized in "Animal House" -- Green Key Weekend -- gained its moniker from a junior honorary society?

For over 80 years, the Green Key Society has devoted its service to the College.

Founded in 1921, the Green Key Society was established to provide hospitality to other college students during their visits to Hanover. In 1920, the Dartmouth football team traveled to the University of Washington, where students provided the players with transportation, refreshments and other hospitable gestures. Upon their return to the College, members of the sophomore class decided to create a service organization dedicated to the same goal.

Expanding upon the original purpose of the organization, Green Key members now serve as ambassadors for the College, often called upon as liaisons between the College and alumni and Trustee functions, collegiate conferences and other student organizations. The society is probably best known for its assistance and service during Freshman Orientation and Commencement.

Although the society has always been dedicated to service, it has experienced changes in its function throughout the years.


Green Key originally had three roles -- as stated in the May 16, 1921 issue of The Dartmouth -- to provide entertainment to guests of other institutions, to act as a "vigilance committee" in controlling freshmen and to choose men to act as cheerleaders and ushers for sporting events.

The society chose its symbol as the green key to symbolize Dartmouth's hospitality. In addition, green hats, green sweaters and white trousers distinguished members of the society.

An editorial published the day after Green Key's creation lauded the society as "a rather striking innovation, the worth of which must wait upon time to tell."

The society abandoned its function as a vigilance committee two years later, instead focusing solely on welcoming student athletes. Furthermore, the society altered its membership criteria to admit only juniors.

In 1929, Green Key sponsored the first Green Key spring prom, a tradition that occurred annually for 30 years until Green Key weekend superseded it.

As the number of varsity sports teams grew, the Dartmouth College Athletic Council assumed the society's role of hosting visiting sports teams, and Green Key members shifted their focus to community service. More stringent standards for membership soon followed.


Today, 66 members of the junior class serve on the Green Key society. During Spring term, sophomores can either petition to be placed on a class-wide ballot for election to the society or they can apply to join the society. Students elect approximately one-third of the Society's members, while the remaining two-thirds apply as delegates from various college organizations.

This year, students elected 21 sophomores of their class during the Student Assembly's election week, while a Green Key committee selected an additional 45 members. The new members officially begin their occupation of office during Sophomore summer, and they will continue to serve throughout the 2002-2003 academic year.

These members represent a wide array of campus organizations including religious groups, the Tucker Foundation, ethnic organizations, and varsity and club sports.

Members serve on various committees, based on their interests and their schedules. Typical committees include public programs, bonfire committee and Dick's House visitation.

"There are billions of little subcommittees," Green Key Society President Jason Ortiz '03 said. "It's like a little network."

Ortiz leads brief weekly society meetings -- sometimes only lasting 15 minutes -- during which members get to know each other and report subcommittee news. Meetings often have a theme that incorporates free food into the society's weekly business.

For instance, while the members planned out the Day-by-Day calendars they annually create, they breakfasted on pancakes and eggs that Ortiz cooked.

"Eight of the new '04 members came to the meeting, so we got to meet each other on an intimate basis," Ortiz said.

According to Ortiz, members encourage each other to strive to serve the College community. When a member does something "above and beyond" the call of duty, Ortiz said that the member is given kudos -- literally. "We give out Kudos bars or a box of Cheerios," meaning "Cheerios for you!" Ortiz added.

Today's Green Key Society

Led by Associate Dean of Student Life Joe Cassidy and Ortiz, Green Key assists in student elections, publishes the Day-by-Day calendar, runs the Dick's House visitation programs, and plays a crucial role in Commencement week activities, serving as assistants to senior marshals, according to Ortiz. In fact, Class of 2002 President Jen Tutak '02, and last year's Green Key Society president will serve as the head marshal for Commencement this year.

Freshmen most likely remember the Green Key Society from the experience of Freshmen Orientation.