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A (top) A Block See, Beno Club and Aggie Traditions
A-Day See, Aggie Traditions
“A” On the Hill, Lighting Of
(Contributed by Cliff Cahoon, class of ‘64)
In 1947, Student Council member Norman Jones (1949), who later became a professor of civil and environmental engineering at USU, and Dean of Students Daryl Chase, who became president in 1954, began talking about having a whitewashed rock block A on the mountainside, similar to those of other colleges and most high schools in Utah. Chase expressed the opinion that such noticeable letters were tacky.
Jones and other students began looking for alternatives and came up with the idea of a block letter that could be lighted for special occasions, but which would be invisible the rest of the year. Jones was an engineering student and a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity (Sigs). He and some of his fraternity brothers, who were also engineering students, including Frank Little(1949) and Rolf Nelson (1950) made arrangements with a property owner and laid out a block A on the mountain south of Logan Canyon, above River Heights. They had support from student body president Desmond Anderson and from the head of ROTC Col. E.W. Timberlake. The A was about 200 feet high and 150 feet wide.
To light the A they filled approximately 200 one gallon tin cans with diesel fuel and used rolled up gunny sacks as wicks. The Sigs would go up early in the day and place the cans and fill them with oil and insert the wicks. That night, when it was time to light the A, a group would start at the top of the A and move down the mountain, turning the soaked wicks upside down so the saturated end of the burlap was sticking up from the top of the can. Another group would follow with railroad fuses or flares and light the protruding end of the burlap. These "candles" would burn for two or three hours. For more than 40 years the Sigs performed the lighting of the A ritual at Homecoming and again in the spring for A Day or Agathon, which replaced A Day for a number of years during the 1950s and 1960s.
The A lighting was a raucous event for the Sigs. The boys only party featured a keg of beer and a huge bonfire, which combined to foster some crazy behavior. Until the late 1970s there were no homes high on the River Heights bench so the loud singing of bawdy songs didn't disturb anyone. During the last few years of the event, the owners of the homes creeping up the hillside began to complain about the noise. The local fire marshal always worried about the event and tried unsuccessfully a few times to shut it down.
In 1992, the year before the event ended, the Sigs declared the event dry as far as alcohol was concerned and that year they even invited dates, making it a coed event the last year. In 1993 Robert Harris bought the property the Sigs were leasing and put an end to the event.2
“A” On the Tower The Tower “A” was first installed on the west face of the tower by the Class of 1909, the first senior class gift, according to University Historian A.J. Simmonds.3 Measuring 12 by 14 feet, the original emblem contained one hundred forty six, 16 candlelight bulbs. It was manufactured in Salt Lake City at a cost $215, and installed by Charles Batt, the long-standing head of buildings and grounds on campus. The “A” was eventually extended to all four sides of the tower.4
The tradition of awarding gold “A” pins for student achievement began during the presidency of J.W. Widtsoe. Student awards were generally given out during the last Chapel Exercise of the school year, prior to commencement. In addition to athletic “letterman sweaters” given to members of the College’s football, basketball and baseball teams, the student newspaper Student Life reported on May 20, 1910 thatnine “gold As” were awarded to College debaters. Members of the student council and student newspaper editorial board received “scholarship letters.” Six student scholars were also recognized with “scholarship As,” although the newspaper did not stipulate if these were the same “gold As” given to the debaters.5
During ceremonies the following year, the scholarship awards are clearly identified as “pins,” provided personally by President Widtsoe. Recipients included J.W. Peters, Canute Petersen, Grant C. Gardner, Veda Hunsaker, Harry Beagley, and Vern C. Wooley. Six “honorable mentions” were also recognized, although not awarded pins. Debaters received “prizes” and “medals,” along with the coveted Thomas medal, provided by Professor George Thomas, and given to the best “inter-class” debater. Gold “A” pins were also awarded to those “students who had rendered faithful service to the College…” Included were L.A. Stevens, D.E. Robinson, I.L. Petersen, V.C. Wooley, David Sharp, T.M. Carmichael, A.J. Knapp, Fred Foerer and Patti Barrett.
In 1918, the College Catalog began detailing the various awards given for scholarship and athletics. They included the Scholarship “A” for academic excellence; the Hendricks Medal, the Casto Medal, and the Sons of the American Revolution Medal, given for excellence in debate and oratory; “special awards” in the form of Student Body “A” pins, given for dramatics, music and student publications; the Cardon Medal for “best all-around athlete;” and the West Medal for inter-class track and field. Athletes who competed inter-collegiately received the letterman’s sweater, as had traditionally been the case. Winners of the Scholarship “A” in 1918 included Gerald Therne, Lucian M. Mecham, Jr., Stella Young, Mable Hendricks, Geneva Wells and George D. Clyde. Clyde later became a professor in, and eventually Dean of the School of Engineering. From 1952 to 1960 he served a Governor of Utah, and signed the proclamation changing the institution from a college to a university in March 1957. The Utah Water Research Laboratory was posthumously named for Clyde in 1982.
The Scholarship “A” was distinguished from the student body “A” pin. The latter was a straight pin, featuring an old-English style “A” and the school motto, Labor is Life. The former was a lapel pin consisting of an old-English style “A” encircled by the word “scholarship.” The word “scholarship” was divided in half, with part being royal blue and part being white. After the College colors changed from royal to navy blue the word “scholarship” surrounding the letter “A” was solid navy blue, tipped in white. More recent examples of the scholarship pin depict the tower of Old Main encircled in navy blue at the bottom with the word “Scholarship” and at the top by USU.
Beginning in 1932, the Student Council implemented a point system to determine award winners. Students could accumulate “A” points through service, activity participation and scholarship. Two-hundred points were required for an award, either a certificate, or a gold medal. The point system endured through 1968, when enrollment simply became too large to give awards at the University level. The awards section was deleted from the ASUSU Constitution, and student achievement became a matter for individual departments and colleges.
Academic Organization Departmental designations developed gradually during the institution’s first decade of operation. Until 1903, students enrolled in courses to prepare them for graduation in one of four areas: Home Economics, Engineering and Mechanical Arts, Agriculture, or Commerce. In 1903, the institution designated five “schools,” including the School of Agriculture, the School of Agricultural Engineering and Mechanical Arts, the School of Home Economics, the School of General Science, and the School of Commerce. For a period of 13 years beginning in 1907, a legislative mandate prohibited the institution from offering courses in teacher training (pedagogy) and in engineering, other than agricultural engineering (see, Consolidation Controversy – 1905). Pedagogy would be reinstated in 1921, and was offered as a companion option to degrees in one of the other disciplines. In 1923 the college offered course work within six schools (the present equivalent to colleges.) These included the Schools of Agriculture, Home Economics, Agricultural Engineering, Commerce and Business Administration, Mechanic Arts, and General Science. In 1924, the institution added a School of Education, and restructured the School of General Science to include a School of Basic Arts and Sciences.
All of the various schools became colleges when the institution moved from being the Utah State Agricultural College to Utah State University in 1957.
Utah State University presently comprises seven academic colleges, including Agriculture; Education and Human Services; Engineering; Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences; Natural Resources; Science; and Business. In December 2007 the College of Business was designated the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.
Forty-three departments are included within the six colleges and Huntsman School of Business. The College of Agriculture includes the departments of Agricultural Systems Technology and Education; Animal, Dairy and Veterinary Sciences; Nutrition and Food Sciences; Plant, Soils and Climate; and Agricultural Economics. In May 2008, Agricultural Economics was split from the School of Business, where it had been combined with general economics and jointly administered by the colleges of Business and Agriculture since 1976, and reestablished as a separate discipline within the College of Agriculture.
Instruction in general economics within the Department of Economics remains part of the School of Business. Other departments in the School of Business include Accountancy; Business Administration; Management Information Systems; and Management and Human Resources. The Huntsman School of Business’s legacy stretches back to the beginning of the institution, when courses in Commerce were initiated to provide training for office workers and bank tellers, making it one of oldest Business Schools west of the Mississippi River.
While the College of Education and Human Services at Utah State University also has a long history, the State Legislature, as mentioned above, prohibited instruction in teacher training, or pedagogy, from 1907 through 1921. With inauguration of the School of Education in 1924, the College of Education and Human Services has distinguished itself as one of the nation’s most productive and progressive teacher training centers (see, Edith Bowen School.) The present College includes the departments of Communicative Disorders and Deaf Education; Elementary Education; Health, Physical Education and Recreation; Instructional Technology; Psychology; Secondary Education; Special Education and Rehabilitation; and Family, Consumer and Human Development. Owing to the philanthropy of Emma Eccles Jones, the College is now known as the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services.
Aspects of the Department of Family, Consumer and Human Development were formerly part of the College of Family Life, which was closed and consolidated within the Colleges of Education; Agriculture; and Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences in 2001. Until its disestablishment and absorption, the College of Family Life included the Departments of Nutrition and Food Sciences; Human Environments; and Family and Human Development. Early Childhood Education had been jointly administered with the College of Education, and moved wholly under the College of Education and Human Services, along with other parts of the former Department of Family and Human Development upon closure of the College of Family Life. Similarly, the Department of Nutrition and Food Sciences had been jointly administered with the College of Agriculture. Instruction in Nutrition and Food sciences was absorbed by the College of Agriculture in 2001. The former Department of Human Environments, which included instruction in interior design moved to the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, where it is affiliated with the Caine School of the Arts.
Family Life, and its predecessors Home Economics or Domestic Science, was among the original disciplines offered when the institution opened in 1890. Agriculture; Commerce; and Engineering and Mechanical Arts were also emphasized under the institution’s initial curriculum. As with teacher training cited above, the legislative mandate also prohibited the College from offering courses in all engineering courses except as it related to agriculture. In 1914, the College established a School of Agricultural Engineering.
In the years leading up to World War II, the College engaged with the federal government to conduct research in radar technology. A Naval Radio School was established at the College during the war, which is credited with the institution’s first effort to build an international reputation in electrical engineering. By 1957, the institution offered courses in all aspects of engineering, except those specific to the mining industry.
Currently, the College of Engineering includes the departments of Biological and Irrigation Engineering; Civil and Environmental Engineering; Electrical and Computer Engineering; Engineering and Technology Education; and Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.
The institution has offered instruction in the Arts and Humanities, such as languages, art, music and literature, since its inception. The institution established a School of Music briefly in 1903, but was forced to abandon the plan after the 1907 legislative restriction took effect. Not until 1924, did the college inaugurate the School of Basic Arts and Sciences. In 1932, the division became known as the School of Arts and Sciences, a derivation persisting through 1957, when the college became a university. As Utah State University, the former schools became colleges, and the humanities fell under the University College. Social sciences remained with the College of Business and Social Science, even as the University created the College of Humanities and Sciences in 1961. A year later the College again reorganized as the College of Humanities and Arts. Physical and Life Sciences were moved to the College of Science. The Social Sciences were added to form the present College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences in 1971. The largest of the University’s colleges, it presently includes the departments of Aerospace Studies (Air Force ROTC); Military Science (Army ROTC); Art; English; History; Intensive English Language Institute; Interior Design (added in 2001 after closure of the College of Family Life); Journalism and Communication; Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning; Languages, Philosophy and Speech Communication; Music; Political Science; Sociology, Social Work and Anthropology; and Theatre Arts. The College also administers the Liberal Studies curriculum, as well as curricula in Women and Gender Studies and in Religious Studies. Of particular significance has been the establishment of the Caine School of the Arts, a collaborative and interdisciplinary program to “foster a culture that values the arts and promotes access…in the University, the community, and the region.”
The present College of Natural Resources has also had an involved history at Utah State University. Perhaps more than any other college, Natural Resources has been subject to infrequent shifts in its mission, as the public perception of natural resources has changed from being primarily economic to being more concerned with conservation.
The institution’s close proximity to the mountains and canyons above Logan made them a natural extension of the classroom. As early as 1891, students were given the opportunity to acquire an understanding of forestry. With creation of the Cache National Forest in 1907, the institution began cooperating with U.S. Forest Service personnel to provide instruction at the college. Not until 1918 with the employment of R.J. Becraft, however, did the institution embark on the discipline of range management, for which it would gain a national reputation. Initially, range and forestry were included within the School of Agriculture under the Botany Department. In 1928, after learning that the University in Salt Lake City was considering establishing a program in forestry, President E.G. Peterson hurriedly secured permission from the Board of Trustees to launch a program in Logan. Under Becraft’s supervision, Peterson established a Department of Range and Forestry within the School of Agriculture. Summer camp near Tony Grove up Logan Canyon was also held for the first time in 1929. Students who enrolled in the courses also inaugurated the Forestry Club on campus. (See also, Forester’s Week)
Gradually during the 1930s, forestry and range took on greater autonomy within the School of Agriculture, until in 1938 it was set aside as a separate entity. The School of Forestry operated through 1945 when its name was changed to reflect other aspects of the curriculum involving range and wildlife management. The School of Forestry, Range and Wildlife Management persisted through 1957, and then as the College of Forestry, Range and Wildlife Management through 1966, when the present designation of College of Natural Resources was adopted.
In 2001, the College underwent a major reorganization. The departments of Fisheries and Wildlife; Forest Resources; Geography and Earth Resources; Rangeland Resources; and the non-departmental program Watershed Science; were merged to become three distinct departments. Currently, the College of Natural Resources includes the departments of Watershed Sciences; Environment and Society; and Wildland Resources.
As with disciplines within the College of Natural Resources, much of the instruction in the sciences began as components within agriculture. Botany, biology, zoology, as well as chemistry, were all studied in relationship to agriculture. As mentioned above, the institution established a School of General Science in 1903, and awarded its first degrees during June commencement the same year. As also mentioned above, the institution combined arts and sciences into a separate school in 1924. The derivation persisted through 1962 when arts and humanities were separated from the college to form two colleges: The College of Humanities and Arts and the College of Science. The present College of Science includes the departments of Biology; Chemistry and Biochemistry; Computer Science; Geology; Mathematics and Statistics; and Physics.
Across the Quad at Even Tide The Alma Mater Hymn was composed by Theodore M. Burton for a campus contest in 1952. Dr. Burton was a faculty member in the Chemistry Department.
Adams Field See, Romney Stadium (Old)
The use of “Farmer” as the symbol for athletics at Utah State University was a natural expression of the institution’s agricultural emphasis. In the very first football game played against the University of Utah on Thanksgiving Day in Logan in 1894, reporters referred to the UAC team as the “Farmers.” By the early 1900s, Student Life used the term “Farmers” interchangeably with “Aggies.” Depictions of the bean-pole farmer, replete with a stalk of hay in his mouth and a pitchfork in his hand, did not appear until the 1930s and 1940s. Also, its use appears not to have been “officially” adopted, but rather, to have enjoyed general acceptance. This was particularly true during the early 1950s when campus artist Everett Thorpe depicted several representations for the covers of football programs. After 1957, when Utah State Agricultural College became Utah State University, the use of the “hay-seed” farmer gradually disappeared.
There was a move during the late 1960s and early 1970s to rid athletic teams entirely of the institution’s “farmer” past that proposed dropping the name “Aggie” in favor of the name “Highlander.” Public outcry was deafening, and the move abandoned.
The term "Big Blue" begins to appear gradually in the 1960s. The term, however, was intended to describe the color of athletic team jerseys rather than a name for the Aggie mascot, the bull. The first visual representation of the "Bull" appears in the November 22, 1975 football program, when the Aggies played the Colorado Rams. A year later on November 20th, the program for the game against Pacific announces that the "USU Mascot has finally come of age!" The program goes on to elaborate how the University had purchased a Brahma Bull and that a naming contest would be held.
Aggie Fight Song See Hail the Utah Aggies
Aggie Ice Cream The Animal Science Building included a modern creamery, and in 1921, the College hired Gustav Wilster to oversee instruction. One of Wilster’s innovations was the introduction of ice cream manufacture. “Wilster is now making lacto ice cream which has never before been produced in Utah,” noted Student Life.6 While instructive, the creamery was also operated on a commercial basis, and students and visitors to campus could purchase cheese, butter, or generous portions of ice cream at the Dairy Products Laboratory in the Animal Science Building, daily. Ice cold butter milk could generally be had for the asking. The first taste of Aggie Ice Cream became a rite-of-passage on campus, and is fondly remembered by many students and alumni.
Campus traditions have only gradually been adopted by the faculty and student body. Over time, an institution either accepts or rejects certain values that distinguish it. These values are obviously tied closely to those of the local culture, as well as those of the nation. There has always been a tradition of honesty, punctuality, friendliness and civility at USU, and these traditions have endured for over a century. This tradition is presently exemplified in the “Hello Walk,” established in 1961, but certainly a strong Aggie tradition from the beginning. “Every Aggie student is traditionally friendly. He always says ‘Hello’ to the other fellow.”7
Punctuality has also been a long a tradition. Students often met “under the clock,” which adorned the entrance to the Old Main Chapel. The college bells in Old Main also tolled promptly at 8am, calling students to mandatory Chapel exercises. Although now electronic, the chimes have remained a campus tradition.8 In response to local values, as well as the Victorianism of the late nineteenth century, Chapel exercises were a required tradition on campus until 1916. These non-denominational, religious gatherings took place each morning in the Old Main Chapel. They were under the direction of the faculty, or local religious leaders, and were representative of all churches in Logan.
In 1916, the Chapel exercises became a weekly event, held each Thursday for an hour at 10am. The strictly religious nature of the Thursday morning tradition gradually gave way to an assortment of Lyceum programs, but the time slot was reserved for such assemblies until 1963, until growth in the student body required the scheduling of regular classes during the Thursday morning time period.9
While the Chapel exercises responded to the religious nature of Cache Valley’s predominant Mormon population, they also corresponded with the beliefs of the institution’s first president, Jeremiah W. Sanborn, a devout Methodist. Sanborn also established the tradition of alcohol and tobacco abstinence on campus. Sanborn demanded adherence from both student and faculty. Professor Orrok, a young man from Massachusetts, who had been " conditionally" employed in 1892 to instruct classes in mechanical drawing, was dismissed from his duties early in 1893. " I received from him a promise," wrote President Sanborn to the President of the Board of Trustees, W.S. McCornick , " that his smoking would be strictly a private .matter.,.; not in public, either in Logan or elsewhere."10 Orrok was outraged over the dismissal; yet, Sanborn felt justified, stating that: “When he is temporarily in charge of students, a father as it were to them, he is bound to carry out the best sentiment of the community whose salary he draws.”11 It was feared by Sanborn that Orrok's propensity for frequenting saloons would also be "used by the students as an excuse for themselves." Several students, who had been " de-merited" and brought before the president, had in fact objected to their treatment, noted Sanborn, on the basis that " two members of our own faculty...visit saloons ... and smoke. "12
The prohibition against smoking persisted until World War II, when the campus was very rapidly converted to train military personnel. Most enrollees came from outside the immediate area and had only the vaguest notion of Mormonism. Many smoked cigarettes, which required the institution to suspend its long standing prohibition against smoking on campus.
The change in traditional decorum prompted one student to complain in the pages of Student Life how “the tradition of the Utah State campus has been that students refrain from smoking in the buildings or on the campus...Today we find students smoking on various parts of the campus...Why does such a situation exists? With the nation at war, all available facilities for education were needed to teach the soon to be soldier...The college was selected as one of many to carry on this training...With these men came a code of ethics which, contrary to the one long established at this college allowed smoking...”13
Following the war the campus again reverted to tradition. The 1948 student handbook informed student smokers that they could indulge their habit only by visiting “our famous Nicotine Point,” located on a cement slab across 400 North Street, to the south of the Library.14 By 1952, however, the prohibition against smoking anywhere on campus had been limited to “a long tradition of [not] smoking in buildings.”15
During the 1960s, students began agitating for the right to smoke in reserved portions of the Student Center and Library. In 1966, a student “smoke-in” was organized and student activists “lit-up” in the Student Center. Some faculty members participated, as well, and wanted the option to smoke in their private offices. By the early 1970s, a special room, designated the Hive, was constructed at the west end of the Student Center for smokers. Other rooms were designated in the Library and in the Business Building. Faculty members were granted the privilege of smoking in their offices. This arrangement persisted until the early 1990s, when the Utah Clean Air Act prohibited smoking in any public building.
Due to circumstances, traditions have often changed. The Old Main Clock, for instance, was removed and placed in storage following the 1984 fire and subsequent renovation.
The Block-A has also spent some of its history in storage. (see, Be-no Club below) It is unclear when the tradition of “True Aggie,” requiring that a person be kissed under a full moon while seated on the Block-A, originated. It is not officially mentioned in any of the extant student handbooks, nor in any of the Buzzers through 1971. An alumni publication mentions the tradition in 1972, noting that “Tradition demands that no girl is an official USU coed until she has been kissed on this monument.”16 The tradition becomes more specific after completion of the Old Main renovation in 1990, and relocation of the Block-A to its present site, north of Old Main and east of Champ Drive.
The annual Snow Carnival, where students constructed snow sculptures and skied or tobogganed down Old Main Hill was a much anticipated traditional event, which advanced or waned from the 1920s through the 1960s depending on whether or not it snowed. Its demise may be associated with the growing popularity of the Beaver Mountain Ski Area up Logan Canyon.
The tradition of A-Day, or Agathon has changed from a work project, where students pruned and planted trees, built sidewalks and generally beatified the campus, to a celebration of games and music. It has traditionally taken place in the spring. The first A-Day was held May 15, 1914, at the encouragement of President Widtsoe. Student Life reported on May 1, how the “custom has been established at the college to have an ‘A’ Day. But as the school does not possess an ‘A’ other than the electric ‘A’ it is the habit to direct the attention of the students to some other activity that will be as effective as fixing up an ‘A’.” The lack of an “A” on campus may have inspired the Be-No Club to erect the Block A in 1917. Students and faculty met at Adams Field in 1914 to erect a wooden fence around the football field. During subsequent years other improvements were made to Adams Field, including installation of a cinder track. Students also made improvements to the campus, painting the tennis courts and laying concrete sidewalks. In 1915, the date of A-Day was changed from May to correspond with the March 8 date of Founder’s Day. Inclement weather, however, usually required suspending the event until later in the spring, sometime between March and commencement in early May.17 Founders Day remains a campus celebration held each year on March 8 in commemoration of the institution’s founding in 1888. The first official program was held in 1925.
Freshman Week gradually disappeared in the 1950s, probably as a result of older students returning to college following World War II and Korea. Underclassmen have traditionally been subject to initiation on college campuses, but from the mid-1930s through the early 1960s, freshman students wore caps or beanies to distinguish their class standing. In 1937, freshmen were expected to wear the green caps until after October’s Homecoming game. Later, the expectation was limited to wearing the caps only during Frosh Week. The color of the caps may have changed, as well. While “green” would certainly have been appropriate to characterize the youthfulness of incoming freshman during the 1930s, blue beanies were used prior to 1929.18 A.J. Simmonds noted that beanies were required of freshman students until 1964 and that men wore blue and women wore white.19