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Cornell Rocks

  Judy Kidder Browning  

Cornell’s Rock has been a campus icon since it was brought from the Pal in 1889. We are not alone, however. Many other colleges and universities also have rocks and traditions—some more colorful than others. Macalester’s rock was stolen by rival Carleton College and sent back C.O.D. At Kent State, a faculty member cored its rock and discovered that the layers of paint were an inch thick (most people expected it to be much thicker). Whittier College’s magazine, The Rock, was named for its campus icon. A completely unscientific, non-random survey of college communities indicates that where there’s a rock, there’s usually a hardware or art supply store doing a bang-up business in spray paint.

The Rock was moved from Palisades-Kepler State Park by seniors from the Class of 1889 who dragged it by sled to campus and carved “1889” on its granite face. That was the first class to erect a monument in its memory and since then the 5 000-pound Rock has been kidnapped defaced and even burned. The practice of moving the Rock began with the junior-senior rivalries of the 1890s. Moving the cumbersome thing around was a kind of tug of war between groups and began to infect not just juniors and seniors but other rivalries as well. Relocating it required muscle and often money to borrow or rent equipment. The Rock was sometimes buried and hidden, its kidnappers sworn to secrecy. In May of 1948 the Rock went underground, courtesy of that year’s freshman class and was not dug up until April of 1951, their senior year. It has been above ground since 1977.

Whittier College
Whittier, Calif.

Whittier classmates Frank Crites, Nofle Rennecker, and Milton White were aided by A stin Marshburn ’10, who had what it took to bring the small but dense granite boulder to Whittier College from the foothills of Sierra Madre—a flatbed, horsedrawn wagon. According to Chuck Elliott ’67, atthor of Whittier College: The First Century on the Poet Campus, the Rock was buried its first day on campus by jealous members of the junior class. Crites, Renneker, and White later dug up the boulder, using a hand-operated crane to reposition it, and imbedded it in reinforced concrete where it rests today near the walk leading to Founders Hall. Founders Hall was destroyed by fire in 1968, but the Rock remains, albeit a little worse for wear—the boulder now stands waist-high instead of shoulder-high, and it’s been burned at least once. Societies now paint the Rock on a regular schedule, and it stands as a unique message board, celebrating birthdays, graduations, and other special events. It is even the namesake of the college’s magazine, The Rock.

University of Redlands
Redlands, Calif.
Orientation for residents of Fairmont Hall at the University of Redlands includes training in the Rock Attack Defense System. Dorm residents have been fiercely guarding Fairmont Rock ever since the 900-pound boulder was hauled to the front lawn from a nearby stream-bed more than 25 years ago. Rival residence halls or Greek pledges frequently stole the rock until it was cemented down about 10 years ago. Attacks today are made with spray paint as groups attempt to leave their symbols or letters on the rock’s surface. The raids are no longer surprise attacks, however, according to Fairmont resident coordinator Aaron Abrahamsen. “They call us ahead of time now because it’s more fun,” he said. “We prepare our arsenal—water guns, water balloons, hoses—and their challenge is to keep painting while being soaked from our balcony. Some groups bring tarps or other protection. They get pretty creative.”

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