This week students in a Writing 101 class are getting introduced to researching in the archives. They will be creating new entries in the Davidson Encyclopedia on topics related to student leisure. While the in-class exercise centered around ways students celebrated holidays, some other traditions popped up as ones we might want to revive.
One of these is Senior-Faculty Day. Granted there were only 153 members of the senior class and 47 faculty when the first day was held in April 20, 1939, which might have made it a little easier to organize. According the Davidsonian story of April 19th, the impetus for such day came from a desire on both sides “to come to a more complete understanding of the other’s problems whereby more whole-hearted co-operation may be given between the two groups.”
Apparently this meeting of the minds was to happen primarily through athletic contests and barbecue. Students on the planning committee included Shaw Smith (future director of the college union), Ovid Bell, and Oscar Armstrong. Although, the faculty opted to include coaches on their team, the class of 1939 won three out of four contests. The faculty managed to win at golf, while the seniors swept tennis, bowling and softball.
Despite the 1940’s contest headline “Seniors Meet Faculty Foes in Athletics,” goodwill prevailed and a tradition was launched. An editorial in the April 1, 1942 (not a humor issue) encouraging students to get to know faculty noted:
If after careful examination of the individual college records of each of the faculty members, the students are not convinced that they are ‘regular fellows,’ their showing at the Varsity-Faculty basketball game, on Senior-Faculty Day, and in the Stunt Night program should at least arouse curiosity to determine by personal contact outside the classroom the true character of the instructing staff.
The games continued until 1963 with a break during the World War II years. The return of the Senior-Faculty Day in 1946 included not only the athletic contests (now tennis, volleyball, softball, golf and horseshoes), but the picnic, a faculty skit, and a Senior-Faculty smoker (not a traditional we are likely to revive -even if they were according the Davidsonian “very, very interesting.”)
By the early 1950s, student prowess had given way to the faculty’s honed skills. In 1954, Coach Pete Whittle, speaking for the faculty, expressed the wish that “the seniors try make it interesting for us this time.” The Davidsonian suggested that “Somehow –perhaps mindful of the approach of diploma time– the senior classes of the past two years have allowed the old-timers to claim the win.
The 1954 games were spread out over more days included golf on Monday, tennis on Wednesday, followed by volleyball and softball (also on Wednesday). The post-game meal was held at Erwin Lodge. Other years, the teams gathered at Hobart Park for hot dogs and one at least one occasion when the food preparation short, everyone convened at a local restaurant.
The games did not survive the changes of the 1960s and perhaps the senior-faculty ratio no longer works –but take a moment and just imagine today’s seniors pitching a softball today’s faculty