Homecoming's story chronicled

by Licyau Wong | 10/24/03 5:00am

Since the first origins of Homecoming in 1895, the tradition has evolved in response to College needs, coeducation and world events.

The event that students have come to know as Homecoming was formally known as Dartmouth Night, a tradition started in 1891 by then-College President William Jewett Tucker. Tucker observed that some of the most important moments of a student's Dartmouth career -- matriculation and commencement -- only involve a particular class. Tucker wanted to create an event that the entire student body could enjoy, and Dartmouth Night began as he welcomed the class of 1895 into a tradition of Dartmouth scholars.

This Friday, Oct. 24, the class of 2007 will be the 108th class honored with such an event.

The first Dartmouth Night was a plain affair, during which Tucker addressed the incoming class. At the second Dartmouth Night, "Men of Dartmouth," written by Richard Hovey of the class of 1885, was adopted as the College's alma mater.

During the early 1980s, Dartmouth Night came to be known as Homecoming. The name change was encouraged by the then-Vice President of the College Addison Winship, who was quoted as saying Homecoming was a phenomenon at state universities, which was rarely seen at private colleges. In a fit of confusion, someone began calling Dartmouth Night Homecoming.

Formally, Homecoming came to refer to the entire weekend of festivities, while Dartmouth Night refers only to tonight's festivities.

The first few years of Dartmouth Night were times of reflection on the tradition of the College. Students and alumni crowded into Dartmouth Hall to hear speeches and to read telegrams from alumni.

The first major Dartmouth Night celebration occurred in 1901, when alumni came together with students to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Daniel Webster's graduation. The festivities took to the street, and that evening, participants paraded throughout the town dressed in eighteenth century attire.

The celebration, though, has been adjusted many times since 1901 in response to world events.

The reading of alumni telegrams ceased in response to the country's participation in World War II.

Before Dartmouth became a coeducational institution, Homecoming was a time when hundreds of women were imported to Hanover from surrounding areas to provide the all-male student body with dates.

The old Sigma Phi Epsilon house served as a temporary hotel for female guests. During the weekend, the College granted special housing privileges to students, allowing guests to remain in the dorms until 7 p.m. Friday night and until midnight Sunday morning.

In 1987, a group of about 10 women under the name "Womyn to Overthrow Dartmyth" and the "Wimmin's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell," protested during Dartmouth Night. The group claimed that they were objecting to sexism at the College, "the administration's patriarchal structure and the bonfire's phallic symbolism," said an article from The Dartmouth on October 31, 1997. The group dressed themselves as witches, painted skulls on their faces and threw red, hard-boiled eggs at the podium during the speeches.

Despite incidents like these, Dartmouth Night has been held every year since Tucker first began the tradition except a period from 1967 to 1972, when the event was stopped due to lack of interest.