We’re big on spirit and traditions at Ripon College, and alumni pride runs deep.
During a gentle snowstorm in early 1851, the first Ripon College building, East Hall, was staked out on the hillside overlooking the village of Ripon. Chartered as Brockway College, it was converted from a college preparatory school to a four-year college in 1863, renamed Ripon College in 1864 and graduated its first class, four women, in 1867.
Today, Ripon’s campus encompasses 250 tree-covered acres and includes 25 buildings. The original three limestone buildings which witnessed the commencement of 1867 remain in use: East, Smith and West halls. These, along with seven other campus buildings, were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1995.
A traditional college of the liberal arts and sciences, Ripon looks ahead without forgetting its distinguished past. College Days, which first appeared as a monthly literary magazine in 1868, is the oldest continually published college newspaper in Wisconsin.
The Ripon football team first took the field against Lawrence University in 1893 (Ripon won 24-6) to begin what is believed to be the oldest football rivalry in the state. In 1911, Ripon College’s debate team wrote the constitution for Pi Kappa Delta, now a national honorary society for debaters and orators. Its Hall of Fame now is located in East Hall’s Kresge Little Theatre. The National Forensic League was founded at the College, where the first national speech tournament for high school students was held in 1931.
In recognition of its academic excellence, the College was awarded a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1953, placing it among a select group of the nation’s top colleges. Ripon has had three Rhodes Scholars: Latimer Johns, class of 1911; Thomas Reinecke, class of 1968; and Zachary S. Morris, class of 2002.
Our traditions remain an important element of life on campus. Our Alma Mater, written by Sarah Clyde Mitchell Morse, class of 1900, during her undergraduate years, has been sung at College events throughout the last century and the tune chimes from the Harwood Memorial Union clock tower.
Some traditions were enjoyed for years — remember the freshman beanies or the Homecoming grease pole? — but have given way to newer traditions, such as a commemorative coin presented to new students to welcome them into our academic community and symbolically initiate their march toward graduation.
Our mascot, Rally the Red Hawk, shows up at many College events and brings happy high-fives, photo ops and Ripon College spirit to all who see him.
Other traditions have existed for years: the late-night breakfast during finals week in December; the holiday Yule Ball; sledding on Sadoff Hill; active participation in fraternities and sororities; and acknowledgement of high-achieving alumni with Athletic Hall of Fame, Outstanding Young Alumni, Distinguished Alumni and Medal of Merit honors.
And don’t forget all the good-natured grumbling about Wisconsin weather deep in the middle of winter.
Ripon College’s traditions and shared memories bring smiles to the faces of alumni long after they have left their academic home “far within Wisconsin’s prairies.”
To learn more about the history of Ripon College, please visit our Archives page.