Month: March 2014

THE LADY

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The Lady

“The Lady” was a trophy given to the school by its trustees, and presented each year to the society that won the Trophy Contest. In the early years of the college, there were only two literary societies that would compete: Diokosophian and Peithosophian. These were both sororities (societies for women). Diokosophian, or Diok, as it was called, was organized by the female students in 1874-5. Diokosophian stands for “those who live according to the custom of wisdom”. In 1880 the girls organized another society, which they first called the Evergreens, but then later changed to Peithosophian, or Peith. Peithosophian stands for “persuaders to wisdom.”   There were also two literary societies for men, the Whitney Lyceum and Alpha Phi, but it doesn’t seem like they took part in the trophy contest. The college also boasted several dormitory societies, such as “Spook and Spectre” and “Knife, Fork and Spoon”. The college introduced a third literary society the next year, Callilogian. It was founded in 1861 at Pennington Seminary, but moved to Centenary Collegiate Institute at the start of the 1910-1911 school year, when Pennington became an all boys’ school.

The first mention of “The Lady”, as the statue was called, was in the July 1910 issue of The Hackettstonian, the college’s first student newspaper. It stated that the award was presented during commencement exercises that year. In this publication they don’t mention the prize’s name, but describe it in great detail; “The trophy is a handsome piece of gold bronze statuary by a French artist and imported by Tiffany. It rests on a tall mahogany stand…” The trophy resided for a year in the winning society’s hall. In 1910, the award was presented to the Diokosophian Society.

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The winners of the Trophy Contest of 1910

“Through Golden Years”, a history of Centenary Collegiate Institute from 1867 – 1943, explains the rules of the trophy contest. According to “Through Golden Years”, the trophy contest consisted of submissions of the best masterpieces of literature – prose or poetry – that members of the sororities could produce. A large panel of judges comprised of sorority members and faculty then read these submissions and chose the best ones to move forward. The essays finally selected had to be memorized. Final judgment was made on the basis of both literary merit and presentation.

The Lady was presented to the winning sorority for decades until she disappeared. We have no knowledge of where the statue is now, although there is the possibility that she is still on campus. She may be housed somewhere within a building/department that is unaware of her rich history, or she may have been placed in some kind of storage during a move. The other possibility is that she was stolen or sold, although with any luck this is not the case. We all hope that she’ll turn up someday!

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1943 BANNER HUNT

The dedication of the Senior Class banner and the banner hunt were old traditions at Centenary College. The traditions were popular in the early days of the college but had apparently disappeared by 1943, when the students brought it back.

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This illustration by Alice Wolfson, class of 1943, shows the banner used in the hunt that year.

The senior class is given a banner emblazoned with their year of graduation. The freshman class has three days in which to steal and hide the banner, and if they succeed, the senior class has three weeks in which to find it.

According to the 1943 yearbook, the banner arrived on April 14th, and the girls had a dedication ceremony that day. All the seniors wore their class jackets and sang their class song as they marched into the dining room.

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Pictures are scarce for 1943, so unfortunately we have no picture of the senior class in their jackets. Here is a picture of the 1943 freshman girls in their class jackets to give you an idea of what they looked like: clean, white blazers embroidered with a college logo and the class year.

The class officers carried the banner “for all to see and admire”. After dinner they tacked it on the wall in North Hall (now Reeves Hall) where it remained undisturbed for five days.

On Monday the seniors began posting guards for one hour shifts after classes and overnight. Classes were out of hours, so students were not allowed to steal the flag during those times. The yearbook recalls a “contrite thief” that stole the banner during class on Tuesday but returned it after learning that classtime was off limits. Fair play was one of the big three tenets of the college at that time so it’s no wonder that the thief returned the banner. If the freshman were going to steal the banner, they were going to do it fair and square. On Tuesday night, some ‘friendly warm words were exchanged [and] challenges were issued and accepted.” That is a really nice way of saying the students were trash-talking. Apparently it became something of a mob, more and more freshman coming to attempt to steal the banner while more seniors were called to barricade them from it. All of a sudden, the banner was gone! The freshman, “promising to take good care of it,” victoriously carried off the banner to hide it. Later in the evening they gloated by singing the freshman class song up and down North Hall. Senior banner-hunting parties were formed and the girls set out to find the banner. Wednesday, April 28th proved to be the lucky night for one fortunate hunting party when they found the banner buried in the dirt in the cellar of South Hall (now Smith Hall), and they marched the halls “singing in triumph”. Sometimes I wonder why traditions like these don’t continue into modern years. They create great memories.

Some candids of students from the 1943 yearbook.