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Cornell Rocks

  Judy Kidder Browning  

University of Akron
Akron, Ohio

The Rock at UA is a 70-ton boulder brought to the Ohio campus as a gift from the Class of 1880. It sits in the center of campus. At first, the Rock simply bore the number “1880” etched in one side. But it wasn’t long before pranksters began sneaking up at night to adorn the Rock with bright paint. The tradition continues today, with students painting the Rock to show school spirit or welcome pledges to fraternities and sororities.

Kent State
Kent, Ohio

Painting the campus rock has been a Kent State tradition for more than 50 years—one fraternity, Kappa Mu Kappa, used to hold May Day ceremonies at the rock. The rock was moved to its current location in 1972. Kent State legend has it that the rock is really tiny and has grown to its cu rrent size because of the hundreds of layers of paint applied by fraternities, sororities, campus groups, and even local citizens through the years. However, several years ago a faculty member cored the boulder as part of an experiment and discovered that the layers of paint were only about an inch thick, and the first colors applied were blue and gold—Kent State’s school colors.

Northwestern University
Evanston, Ill.

Brought to campus by members of the class of 1902 and initially installed as a drinking fountain, the Rock at Northwestern is a 6-foot-high quartzite bou lder from Wisconsin. Fraternities and sororities began whitewashing the monument in the 1940s, and by the 1950s, painting the Rock was an accepted tradition—and the drinking fountain long gone. In the 1960s, it became a rallying point for student protests as well as paint brushes. Northwestern Magazine reported that the Rock was cracked in 1989 when it was moved to keep students from tracking wet paint into nearby buildings—embarrassing the administration and angering the students. With help from the materials science and engineering departments at Northwestern, the Rock was mortared back together and still stands as a “mystical sort of abstract presence on campus,” according to Patrick M. Quinn, University archivist.

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