A lot of colleges celebrate homecoming; we celebrate Founders Day.
Founders Day is a campus-wide celebration of Macalester’s history held on the anniversary of the college’s founding. It connects the Macalester community to a larger history and set of traditions. A great deal of planning and orchestration goes into making Founders Day a success and preparation for Founders Day begins nearly a year in advance.
Andrew Wells, Associate Dean of Students, sees Founders Day as a way to connect different communities at Macalester. “Success looks like good attendance [and] people feeling like they are part of the campus community,” Wells said.
Laurie Adamson, the Director of Activities, believes that Founders Day is an important community event, particularly given that Macalester is a small college that does not have many events designed for everyone. “We do a big ‘happy birthday to Macalester’ and we bring out a big cake and we sing as a community. A lot of schools have a homecoming; we don’t, but I think this is a cool way that alumni can engage in Founders Day because it’s an open event,” Adamson said.
Some events, such as pushball, have been traditions for over a century; the first game of pushball at Macalester was in 1914. Wells thinks that the continuity is important to a campus identity and can inspire reflection about what it means to be a part of Macalester.
“What’s fun about traditions is the continuity of connecting with previous classes and previous generations,” Wells said. “I think it’s really fun to look at the pushball that we do today and compare it to past years events. If you look back to pictures from the 1940s and 50s, it’s all white men. It’s fun to look at that and think about how far we’ve come and how far we have to go in order to match our mission and our values with who we are and what we do.
“For me, part of the success of the event is connecting with our history in an aware and conscientious way,” Wells continued.
Some traditions are more recent. The annual gala was introduced by President Brian Rosenberg early in his tenure. Adamson said that she hopes students come away from the gala and other Founders Day activities with a feeling of connection to a longer history.
“[We hope] for students to not just think of Founders Day as the dance in Café Mac,” Adamson said. “It’s not just the first five people who founded the college; it’s folks throughout the last century who have had an impact on the formation of Macalester college as it currently exists. If students can walk away knowing one more thing about one of our founders or knowing one more thing about the history of Macalester, that’s important to us. It’s fun to connect our history with what we do today.”
Ultimately, the hope for Founders Day is that people feel a sense of belonging and pride at Macalester. Ideally it will have high levels of “community engagement and a celebration of what Macalester is about with people from all over campus engaging to celebrate what we all have in common which is a Macalester experience,” Adamson said.
Founders Day events include the decathlon, which runs from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and pushball, which is held on Old Main lawn at 4 p.m. The celebration will conclude with the gala in the Campus Center at 8:30 p.m. where Macalester acapella groups will perform on the Mary Gwen Owen Stage on the south side of Café Mac from 9:40 p.m. to 10 p.m.