Friday, March 18, 2022
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
Happy Friday, and here’s to the 114th annual Best Ever St. Pat’s!
The campus is buzzing with excitement and for good reason. It’s S&T’s 114th annual, week-long celebration of a terrific tradition that started in 1908. St. Patrick – the patron saint of engineers, according to our engineering majors – is looking out for all of us Miners here at S&T and around the world. For 114 years, generations of S&T students have endeavored to make our St. Pat’s celebration the “Best Ever.”
This year, we have tried to elevate our game and have created or enhanced activities to truly represent the spirit of Best Ever. We invite you to participate in these celebrations, wherever you may be, and to share your stories with us. It was remarkable for me to learn that our students and alumni celebrate our St. Pat’s tradition all around the world. Even under the most difficult circumstances, Miners have kept the celebration going. Two of them, Gene Boyt and Robert Silhavy, served in the U.S. Army during World War II and survived the harrowing Bataan Death March but, while held in captivity managed to celebrate St. Pat’s in 1943 by making homemade, or I should say prison-made, raisin champagne and an “engineer’s cake” from their meager food rations.
I have asked Professor Larry Gragg, Curators’ Distinguished Teaching Professor emeritus of history and political science, to provide a brief historical perspective of our St. Pat’s events. What follows is Professor Gragg’s account.
After two years of a global pandemic, St. Pat’s is back.
As we prepare for this weekend’s culmination of St. Pat’s Week events on the S&T campus and in the Rolla community, you may notice a bit more formality mixed with the traditional fun and frivolity of this annual event. For instance, tonight’s Honorary Knights Banquet will be more formal than it has been for many years – and will be in person for the first time since 2019. The Honorary Knights of 2020 and 2021will be formally recognized tonight, as will the Class of 2022. Chancellor Dehghani was among those awarded the distinction of Honorary Knight in 2021.
The Honorary Knights will still bow before St. Patrick and kiss the Blarney Stone, as tradition dictates. But more of them will be in tuxedos and evening gowns, along with the more traditional green blazers. Our student knights were honored in a less formal ceremony last Friday during the final “Green Friday” of the season at the Havener Center.
The event was not always as casual as it has been in more modern times. Beginning in 1913 – five years after the first-ever St. Pat’s celebration on our campus – the festivities included a masked ball in Jackling Gymnasium, which was on the site of the Curtis Laws Wilson Library. Each year the junior class, which was responsible for planning the early St. Pat’s events, tried to top the previous year’s decorations. They filled the gym with crepe paper streamers, balloons and shamrocks. In 1923 they included “a rustic water fountain in the center of the floor, with its shimmering goldfish.”
Even in 1933, the worst year of the Great Depression, “the gym was tastefully decorated with a green canopy,” reported the Missouri Miner, and “the balcony was draped in green cloth covered by semi triumphant silver cloth.”
Over time, formal dances and even afternoon teas became part of the celebration. Fraternities and independents alike held dances on Thursday evenings, followed by the masked ball on Friday nights, Sigma Nu’s popular “tea dance” on Saturday afternoons, and the culmination of it all, a formal dance on Saturday nights in Jackling Gymnasium.
By 1939, big-time performers became part of the celebration. That year, the St. Pat’s Board brought in Lou Breese and his Chez Paree Orchestra from Chicago, and others like Ted Weems and Lawrence Welk followed. In 1958, famed trumpeter Louis Armstrong and his band performed.
Tonight’s formal dinner and ceremony will be followed on Saturday by our renowned parade down Pine Street – which will be painted green, of course, by our St. Pat’s alumni. Each year, the parade provides great fun for the entire family and remains one of the great St. Pat’s traditions.
In his research, Professor Gragg has discovered wonderful memories of past St. Pat’s events. And now it’s your turn. I ask our faculty, students, staff and especially alumni to share your St. Pat’s experiences from your years at S&T by clicking the “Share your thoughts” link below.
Check out the latest news from S&T:
206 Parker Hall, 300 West 13th Street, Rolla, MO 65409-0910