Two Johns Hopkins presidents — the "spirit" of
first President Daniel Coit Gilman and outgoing
President William R. Brody — will partner up this
week for a Johns Hopkins-style birthday bash.
To honor the founding of the university 133 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 Hall, which will be
decked out in gold-and-sable banners.
The Commemoration Day tradition was brought back three
years ago to give people an
appreciation for the university's history and foster a
sense of pride in how much it has grown in size
and stature since its inception.
The highlight of the event will be an abridged
reading, at 1 p.m. in the Great Hall, of the
inaugural address by an actor impersonating Gilman, who
will be introduced by Brody in one of his final
appearances as president.
University administrators will be on hand in the Glass
Pavilion to pass out birthday cake and
refreshments, and all who attend are encouraged to wear
Johns Hopkins paraphernalia.
To offer a glimpse into the university's past,
historical images from the photograph collection
of the Ferdinand Hamburger Archives will be on display in
both the Great Hall and the Glass Pavilion.
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 1900s.
The Great Hall will feature The Many Portraits of
Daniel Coit Gilman, a newly assembled
collection of 14 photographs of Gilman at various life
stages. One portrait depicts Gilman as a young
man at Yale, where he was a founder of the school's
now-famous Skull and Bones secret society. Also
on display will be a new photograph — a framed
black-and-white image of the bust that sits atop the
Johns Hopkins Memorial on North Charles Street. Taken
recently by Will Kirk of Homewood Imaging
and Photographic Services, it will hang above the room's
To get everyone in a Blue Jay mood, the Glass Pavilion
speakers will blare out decades-old
recordings of Johns Hopkins Glee Club songs.
Commemoration Day ends — after the men's
lacrosse team's season opener
(see story here) —
with a "For the Kids Sock Hop," to be held from 9 p.m. to 3
a.m. in the Athletic Center back gym. The
entrance fee is $5 cash, and all proceeds go to benefit the
Johns Hopkins Children's Center. The
event will feature food, performances by student a cappella
groups and, of course, dancing through
The first commemoration ceremony was held in 1877 in
Hopkins Hall, located on the 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 Commemoration 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 ceremony was held at
Shriver Hall. The event eventually fell 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
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 the date
on the back, will be distributed to the first 500 students
with valid ID who are dressed in some form
of Johns Hopkins attire and/or colors.
Commemoration Day buttons will also be passed out.
They will bear the Johns Hopkins bust
photograph on display in the Great Hall.