Your guide to Scottie traditions, in the past and present
Every college and university has its own traditions, big and small, and as both an inclusive women’s college and a small, liberal arts institution Agnes Scott has more than most. Some of them are still occurring, some have moved into the books of the past. Either way, they’re a fascinating piece of life on campus, and we would love to introduce you to a year in traditions:
Opening Convocation & Senior Investiture (1908-present)
The fall semester every year opens with opening convocation, celebrating our new first-year classes and inviting them into the Agnes Scott community. We then move into senior investiture, a time to honor our seniors and acknowledge their achievements. Investiture has changed over the years; it began as a “capping” ceremony as the dean of the college placed each student’s graduation cap on their head to begin their final year. That ceremony has now transformed into a parade of all the seniors through campus with fellow Scotties, faculty and staff cheering them on, followed by a speech by a faculty member chosen by the seniors.
The Agnes Scott Honor Code (1906-present)
Starting in 1906, the Honor Code became the cornerstone for all of life at Agnes Scott. The Honor Code holds the student body accountable for honor and respect, but also allows for numerous freedoms because of that deep sense of honor (such as self-scheduled exams). The Honor Code, which all new students sign during the orientation process, states “As a member of the student body of Agnes Scott College, I consider myself bound by honor to develop and uphold high standards of honesty and behavior; to strive for full intellectual and moral stature; to realize my social and academic responsibility in the community. To attain these ideals, I do therefore accept this Honor System as my way of life.”
Black Cat (1915-present)
Agnes Scott’s version of a spirit week, Black Cat began in 1915 as a “battle of wits” to challenge the sophomore and first-year classes, with the winning class receiving a bronze statue of a cat. Students took part in “presentations” or “stunts” that eventually transformed into the week-long event for all classes that it is today. Students begin Black Cat at midnight on Monday with “Rushing the Quad” to decorate in their class color. There are trivia, fundraising, field day and dance competitions. On Thursday, students gather for Bonfire, which is when the first-year class reveals their class mascot, and when all classes sing their developed class song and song for their sister class. On Friday night, the Junior class performs an original play, called “Junior Production,” while on Saturday the Black Cat formal event is held. This event now marks the end of orientation for all new students.
Sophomore Ring Ceremony (1934-present)
Since 1934, Agnes Scott students have all worn the same ring design- a black onyx stone with the graduating year engraved on one side and “B.A.” engraved on the other. Originally, students received the rings in their senior year, but in 1965 the sophomore ring ceremony began. This event allows family and friends to gather with faculty, staff and current Scotties to cheer on the sophomores as they receive their ring.
Founder’s Day (1918-present)
Founder’s Day celebrates the founding of Agnes Scott College and the memory of George Washington Scott, who founded the college in his mother’s memory. Prior to 1950, the event was a costume party and dance with radio addresses Starting in the 1950s, it became a convocation with speakers discussing the history, traditions or mission of the college.
Junior Jaunt (1954-1980)
A now defunct tradition, Junior Jaunt was an event started in the 1950s that included dances, chorus numbers by the juniors and skits performed by the rest of the classes. Whichever class raised the most money for a charity of their choice had a representative crowned the Junior Jaunt Queen. As part of this event, students took part in “Suppressed Desires Day,” a day when students could purchase a badge for charity and then break all of the (1950s-era) rules of the college, including wearing jeans to class, calling faculty members by their first names, screaming in the library, ringing the fire alarms and shutting the doors to the parlors where they met their dates. As those rules came to an end, Junior Jaunt and Suppressed Desires Day came to an end as well.
A celebration of spring on campus, AgnesPalooza began in the 1990s with a week full of events, including a festival, a dance party, movie screenings, arts & crafts, live music, comedy shows and events off-campus. Held each year after spring break, each year has a different theme and related events.
Ringing the Bell (1992-present)
The tradition of “Ringing the Bell” is a newer one but already one of the most beloved. In 1986, Main Hall was renovated and a bell put in place in Main Tower. The bell has an inscription in Latin of the original motto of the college: in fide vestra vertutuem in virtue autem scientiam (Add to your faith, virtue, and to your virtue, knowledge). In 1992, the Career Advisory Board started the tradition of having seniors ring the bell when they receive acceptance to a graduate school or a job offer, and this tradition continues to the present day.
May Day (1892-1960)
Another defunct tradition, May Day was being celebrated by students before Agnes Scott officially became a college. May Day had its roots in older traditions and featured the May Day pole, queen and dance. A scenario (usually drawn from stories about mythological characters) was written by a student and a May Day queen was chosen through an election by the entire student body. The scenario was then acted out and dancing around the May Day pole was encouraged. The event died out in 1960.
The single oldest tradition at Agnes Scott is the commencement addresses for graduates, beginning in 1891 when the college was still “The Agnes Scott Institute.” Commencement has been held in numerous places, including Decatur Presbyterian Church, the old Butcher Scott Gymnasium (no longer in existence), Presser Hall and Gaines Chapel, Presser Quad and the Science Quad. Commencement speakers throughout the years have included US Senator HOke Smith (1914); Jude Florence E. Allen (1936); The Honorable Eugene R. Black, President of the International Bank of Reconstruction & Development (1961); Coretta Scott King (1985); Alice Walker (1997); Kurt Vonnegut (1999); Jehan Sedat, former First Lady of Egypt (2002); Hillary Clinton (2005); Madeleine Albright (2010) and Soledad O’Brien (2013).
This is not a comprehensive list; there are even more traditions, big and small, throughout campus. If you want to know more, you’ll have to visit us on campus to find out!
Special thanks to the McCain Library Special Collections and Archives for research and photos on past traditions. Learn more here.