Friday, March 17, 2023
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
Happy Friday, and Happy St. Pat’s day!
Over a century ago, a foresightful leader of our university played an important role in establishing a tradition that has become a generational common thread for this institution. For generations, our student centric St. Patrick celebrations have helped elevate the spirit of our communities for 115 years in times of excitement as well as times of trouble. Our students and alumni have celebrated our storied St. Pat’s tradition in times of peace and war, on campus or in World War II prison camps, throughout the U.S. and all around the world. As a result, on many occasions, they have transformed the mundane into the miraculous through makeshift St. Pat’s celebrations that instilled courage and offered hope.
This year, like years past, I’m looking forward to welcoming the newest Honorary Knights at this evening’s coronation ceremony. This ceremony began in 1908, when a few students hatched plans to celebrate St. Patrick as the patron saint of engineers and the tradition of the “best ever” started. They notified their classmates through posters that declared St. Patrick’s Day a school holiday. The posters included a call for students to meet and some “300 strong” gathered and “marched over the town headed by the college band.” Back on campus, St. Pat, portrayed by student George Menefee, “laid off a square with his much-used transit.” St. Patrick then “dubbed” the senior class “Worthy Guards and Knights of St. Patrick.” He also conferred an “honorary degree of Knight of St. Patrick … upon Director L.E. Young, who, in a short talk proved that St. Patrick was indeed a Mining Engineer, and we did well in acclaiming him an engineer.”
While Director Young may be remembered for his association with St. Pat’s, he also played a significant role in advancing research at S&T. As recorded in a book by longtime geology professor Alfred C. Spreng, titled “History of the Department of Geology and Geophysics,” Young established the Mine Experiment Station in 1909 “to carry out research bearing on application of mining and metallurgical engineering to the mining industry of Missouri.”
Young also advocated for faculty to take a more active role in the life of the school. The minutes of a faculty meeting, coincidentally held on St. Patrick’s Day, 1911, note that Young said instructors’ roles “are not limited to the particular subject they teach but includes the idea that every teacher is in a measure responsible for the weak and strong points of the school. He spoke of the social and civic influence of teachers in the community and showed that it is imperative that every teacher should be an embodiment, at least outwardly, of what is expected from the students.”
As we celebrate this year’s “best ever,” we know next year’s and the following years' will be the best ever and we are grateful for a beautiful tradition that has served as a common thread for generations of our students and alumni. And in that sense, it will always be the “best ever.”
To all our students, faculty, staff and alumni, I say Happy St. Patrick’s Day; please make it the safest ever!
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