University of Nebraska-Lincoln

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The University of Nebraska has had many traditions throughout its history that became yearly highlights in the academic community. Some of these traditions remain unchanged and some of them were transformed over the years by historical and political events, yet are not forgotten. Ivy Days is one of the University of Nebraska's long-standing traditions that still takes place each year.
ivy days photo

Ivy Chain (1920)

Come weave a strand of ivy green,
You slim young girls in white.
Lads, choose a maid and crown her queen,
Come weave a strand of ivy green,
Come raise a throne where birches lean,
And greet her with delight,
Come weave a strand of ivy green,
You slim young girls in white.

--Dorothy Thomas

(Ivy Days,May 30, 1929)

The first Ivy Day at the University of Nebraska grew out of the annual Senior Class Day, which started in 1889 and included ceremonies at the University chapel. The original purpose of the Ivy Day celebration was to celebrate spring and recognize the scholastic achievements of University scholars. In 1901, the senior class decided to beautify the campus by planting ivy on the old grounds around University Hall. The seniors marched in a double line to the south side of the old University Hall where they sang an appropriate song (“Nebraska”) and stood solemnly by while the president of the senior class planted the ivy, which was the main event of the day. After the senior president planted the ivy, he presented the trowel to the junior president as a symbol of passing on the responsibilities to the upcoming senior class. The first Ivy Day orator, later a Master of Ceremonies, appeared in 1901. Two years later, the Ivy Day oration, dancing and reading of the class poem, and the announcement of the class gift were added to the ceremonies.

According to Robert Knoll, professor emeritus of English, Ivy Days were one of the most important of all Univerity traditions and involved a variety of campus activities. “Pictures of Ivy Days celebrations were posted on the front pages of newspapers all over the state. Historically it was a rallying point for the whole state – it was identity and pride”, said Dr. Knoll. (Prairie University, University of Nebraska Press, 1995)

Museum Studies graduate student Natallia Tullis created this website as part of Museum Studies 998, Special Topics.

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This page was last updated February 23, 2012.