Handing Down History

by Erin Landau | 11/1/12 11:00pm

Ranging from trampolines to tutus, bequests are an important Dartmouth tradition that tie students to the past and unite us with the future, more closely connecting us with campus organizations as older members depart and allowing us to cement our own legacies when we are the ones leaving.

Jake Osman '15, a member of this year's Vox Croo on for DOC First-Year Trips, said that the bequests he values most were ones that could be traced back the longest.

"The flair bequests that we have are not so much personal to you as much as they are carrying on the legacy," Osman said. "It's also a nice way of meeting people and a reminder of the community that you like and are a part of."

Dimensions member Ashton Slatev '15 said that for the Dimensions show, an unbelievable amount of flair is necessary, so items including a Brazilian flag cape are passed down from year to year. He said that there are two extremely secretive bequests specially for the Dimensions leaders, which started this year an incentive for joining Dimensions, '16s?

"Dartmouth has a deep sense of tradition you can't really deny that," Slatev said. "Bequests are just a manifestation of that tradition on a more personal level."

Priya Shanmugam '13, a member of the Dog Day Players, said that seniors in her group pass down bequests every spring at its final dinner, in which the younger members say goodbye to the graduating members.

"Every year you get a very interesting mix of people every single person has a weird, unique personality," Shanmugam said. "Before they leave, they turn around and give you a material thing to signal this, which can relate to you as an individual, or how they do improv and how you do improv."

Shanmugam said one of her most memorable bequests was a police hat given to her by a '10 member in Dog Day Players, as it symbolized his goal for her about comedy to play more male characters and not be afraid to wear the pants in a scene. Shanmugam noted that bequests can be unrelated to the group, however. For example, she received a Polaroid camera from a '12 member because of their shared interest in photography.

The group's most important bequest is a trophy that the Dog Day Players won in 2011 at an improv competition in Boston, according to Shanmugam.

"That one gets bequested every year and has a very strong memory attached to it," she said.

Christine Garcia '13, the president of Amarna Undergraduate Society, said that bequests can be both physical and spiritual at Amarna. There is a cheerleader outfit that gets passed down as a symbol of recruitment for the house, but there is also the "enabler" bequest, which is passed alongside a bottle opener to the person who most encourages members to have fun in the house, Garcia said.

"One of my favorite bequests is the glue gun, which is usually given to the president and meant a lot to me," Garcia said. "The person who recruited me into house gave it to me. He pushed me to join, encouraged me the whole way through and gave me his bequest of the glue gun to help me hold the house together."

Garcia said that at Amarna, bequests take place at the last meetings of the year in which all of the seniors bring huge boxes and explain the history of each item. The ceremonious event involves writing down the names of people who receive bequests and elaborate storytelling of the meaning behind each item.

Hill Winds Society member Frances Buren '15 said that her group hosts an end-of-year senior dinner during which the seniors give out titles and other bequests. Last year, the seniors gave out a bequest for the best accent, since many members of Hill Winds have accents.

Buren said that one of her favorite bequests is one that is given to the biggest Hill Winds "bromance," and its goal is to "continue the spirit of brotherly love in the group," she said.

Alex Velaise '15, a member of the Dartmouth Aires, said that one of the group's most prized bequests is the director's jacket a blue suit that the Aires director wears only on audition days, which has been passed down from director to director for about 10 years.

"The bequests tie the group together more than anything else does because its like a direct lineage," Velaise said. "You get to see who wore what you wore and be a part of the history of the group."

Jack-O-Lantern Editor-in-Chief Matt Garczynski '14 said that Jack-O bequests are a way of fostering alumni connections and passing on the fundamental ideas of the publication.

Many of the group's bequests have either been lost or broken over the years, including an owl that was rumored to be stolen by Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority pledges, according to Garcyznski.

One of the Jack-O's most secretive bequests is the "Geisel Trust." Although Garcyznski could not provide details on this allegedly non-physical bequest, he said that it is rumored to have been started by Theodor Geisel '25 himself.

"I can't tell you about it, but I can say that it in no way violates COSO's new hazing policies," he said.

Every term, the Jack-O has an informal get together in which they share the publication's history and stories that have been passed down for generations. They also have a drinking chant called the "Jack-O Jack-O Ha" that has been passed down since the days of Lone Pine Tavern in Collis.

"We have a book called The Guide to Campus Humor from 1955,' with stuff from different Ivy League humor publications," Garcyznski said. "It makes you realize that the more things change, the more they stay the same in that they were doing the same things we're doing with a sensibility that hasn't changed as much as you think."