Break out your gold and sable, summon your inner Blue
Jay and get ready for a birthday party,
To honor the founding of the university 132 years ago
— on Feb. 22, 1876 — a Commemoration Day
celebration will be held from noon to 2 p.m. on Friday in
Homewood's Levering Union lobby, which will
be decked out in school colors and banners.
University administrators will be on hand to pass out
birthday cake and refreshments, and all
who attend are encouraged to wear Johns Hopkins
Paula Burger, dean of undergraduate education, said
that when she helped bring back the
tradition two years ago, she wanted to give people an
appreciation for Johns Hopkins' history and
foster a sense of pride in how much the university has
grown in size and stature since its inception.
"We want people here to connect with our past and have
the students, especially, feel part of an
institution that has such a rich history," Burger said.
To offer a glimpse into the past, 23 historical images
from the photograph collection of the
Ferdinand Hamburger Archives will be on display in
Levering's Sherwood Room. The images will
document various aspects of the university's history,
including photographs of the original campus in
downtown Baltimore, the early Homewood campus and student
activities from the 1800s and early
James Stimpert, the university archivist who put the
exhibit together, said that he wanted to
document the early appearance of Johns Hopkins and the
people who worked and studied here.
But could they sing?
Participants will be able to hear that, too, as the
lobby speakers will blare out decades-old
recordings of Johns Hopkins Glee Club songs.
Historically speaking, Commemoration Day, Feb. 22,
used to be a major event. It marks the day
in 1876 that Johns Hopkins inaugurated its first president,
Daniel Coit Gilman.
The first commemoration ceremony was held in 1877 in
Hopkins Hall, located on the university's
original downtown campus. James Joseph Sylvester and Basil
L. Gildersleeve, two of the first faculty
members, gave addresses, and flowers taken from the
greenhouse at Clifton Mansion, which had been
the founder's summer residence, were brought in for the
The location of the Commencement Day celebration moved
several times during the university's
history. The ceremony typically included an academic
procession, a musical performance, a speech by
the president and a keynote address by a distinguished
visiting scholar or dignitary.
During the 1980s, the annual Commemoration Day
ceremony was held at Shriver Hall. The event
would eventually fall out of favor in the 1990s.
Looking to foster traditions that strengthen students'
ties to Homewood and to Johns Hopkins,
in 2006 the university resumed the practice of formally
recognizing Commemoration Day, with a more
modest event. However, Burger said that she hopes the
celebration will build with each passing year
and that she envisions a Commemoration ball or concert in
the not-too-distant future.
"Several years ago, we realized that an important
tradition had been dropped, and we wanted to
revive it and build pride in our history," she said. "It's
also just nice to have some things that happen
on a regular basis and celebrate this wonderful
The event is free and open to all students, faculty
Long-sleeved T-shirts bearing the likeness of Johns
Hopkins on the front pocket, and a marking
of the date on back, will be distributed to the first 500
students in attendance with a valid ID and
who are dressed in some form of Johns Hopkins attire and/or